Located about five hours by train from Luxembourg City, Bruges is an ideal weekend getaway spot for several reasons. It’s close enough that travel won’t take up an entire day, but far away enough that you actually feel like you’re getting away from home. It’s either 3.5 hours by car, or hop on a train and relax (tickets are only around €9 each way)! You’ll have to change trains once or twice, but don’t worry, it’s super easy. There are also a lot of different sleeping accommodations, so whether you’re looking to treat yourself or save some money, Bruges has a place for you!
Here are some of our favourite things to do in Bruges:
Hang out in the Markt!
The main square of Bruges—the Markt, if you will—is a great spot to snap some beautiful pictures, meet some locals, and have a bite to eat. The square gets its name from the fact that it holds a weekly market; unfortunately, it’s open on Wednesdays, and we were there on a weekend. But there’s still plenty of things to do here! The square is surrounded by restaurants with terraces, so grab a seat at one of them for lunch with a view! We always recommend ordering fries when in Belgium!
The square has some history as well. In its middle you’ll find two statues—Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, two leaders of the fight against the French in the 1300s. Another key landmark is Belfry Tower, a medieval belltower that has also been used as a lookout point in times of war.
Which brings us to our second recommendation…
Visit Belfry Tower!
It’s really hard to miss Belfry, as it stands at 272 feet (or 83 meters) tall. A beautiful example of Flemish architecture, Belfry is one of Bruges’s most famous attractions. You can also climb it—there are only 366 stairs between you and some beautiful views of the city! If you do decide to climb Belfry, make sure to reserve your spots in advance and/or prepare for a semi-long wait, as it can get very busy during tourist season.
We tried to get a picture of Belfry from the Markt; however, when I was backing up to get as much of the tower in the picture as possible, I accidentally ran into a horse. That’s how I learned that Bruges also offers tours in horse-drawn carriages which are a lot of fun and a great way to see the city! The price is 60 EUR for a ride of up to 5 people. In our opinion, it’s definitely worth it as we saw streets and sections of the city we would have never found on our own. Our driver was particularly friendly and gave us a lot of tips on where to eat, shop and enjoy Bruges in general.
Take a boat tour!
Bruges’s historic center is criss-crossed by several canals. While simply strolling along the walkways is worth it just for the beautiful sights, we also recommend taking a boat tour! Not only is it a nice way to get off your feet for a bit, but you can also get some amazing views of the city from below and learn a bit more about its history. On a tour you’ll learn about the many statues and paintings of the Madonna and Child Bruges has, as well as what the “Kissy Kissy Bridge” is. We won’t spoil it for you!
We found a 20-minute boat tour for €10. It was offered in French, Dutch, and English, but translations to other languages were available upon request. While you can track down a specific company and give them a call to book a reservation, you can also walk along the water until you find a booth and buy a ticket. Depending on the time you go you may have to wait in line for a bit, but most likely you will be able to get right on a boat!
Check out the windmills!
The Bruges Windmills provide a nice break from Bruges’s lively city life. They’re within a walkable distance from the city center and are a great way to get some fresh air! The windmills were originally built into the city wall in the 1200s and some of the windmills are still in operation today!
Visit the Chocolate Museum!
We initially got roped into this by our eldest son. He had visited on a school trip and absolutely loved it. Now this is coming from a kid who hates chocolate, so needless to say we were intrigued, even while thinking that it was likely a tourist trap. We were so wrong! This museum is incredibly interesting. The museum takes you through the 4000 year history of chocolate from the spicy version the Maya and Aztec civilisations enjoyed to the popular sweet chocolate we know in Europe. The visit took a couple of hours, we learned a lot and it was great fun!
Eat lots of food!
Of course, you can’t visit Belgium without trying some chocolate and waffles! We have two recommendations for both. And we’re not getting paid for this—we just want to share some places we love!
For chocolate, our first tip is Chocolates & Happiness! Located just down the street from the main square, C&H is a family-owned business that hand-makes all their chocolates. Their pralines are to die for, and they have some absolutely adorable chocolate animals as well. They also have some hilarious (albeit slightly inappropriate for the kids) gag gifts, and they produce ruby chocolate, which you can read about here
Our second tip is Chocolat de Julie, located just around the corner from our first stop! Chocolate de Julie is another family-owned business that produces handmade chocolates. Their signature chocolate is an extremely thin piece of milk, dark, or white chocolate covering a wafer-like inside. It tastes a bit like a chocolate-covered Pringle without the salt! Chocolat de Julie also has amazing pralines and truffles!
We also have two recommendations for waffles: Chez Albert and House of Waffles! One thing that many waffle-makers frequently get wrong is the consistency of the batter—it should be more doughy than batter-y. Think bread dough as opposed to cake batter! This results in a waffle that’s thick yet fluffy as well as sugary without being too sweet. Both Chez Albert and House of Waffles make waffles this way and offer a lot of toppings to choose from: chocolate, whipped cream, caramel, or even ice cream!
While both these waffle places offer grab-and-go options for all you busy travelers, House of Waffles also has a restaurant side! You can order larger, more complex waffles (or even savory ones!) and enjoy them at a table.
If you’re looking for a more traditional Belgian brasserie, we can definitely recommend Cambrinus. The positive sign is that it’s always full of a mix of locals and tourists. You’ll find an extensive menu including traditional dishes like Carbonnades and meatballs, served with fries of course, but it also includes a nice kids menu, vegetarian options, pastas and burgers. There is something for everyone. Plus as its in Belgium, you’re sure to enjoy the huge list of Belgian beers. You can even try a beer flight in order to sample as many as possible.
Bruges has so much to offer in terms of beautiful sights, fascinating history, and delicious food. Let us know if we missed anything in the comments!