Julie Belgium 59 Comments

Bruges and Ghent are two charming, small towns in Belgium, each just a short train ride away from Brussels. In a perfect world, Bruges and Ghent each deserve their own day for exploring. However, if you are short on time, you can visit Bruges and Ghent in one day.

We visited Bruges and Ghent in one day from Brussels. It’s a long, busy day, but we loved it. For the best experience, you need to get an early start. Bruges, the more popular of these two towns, tends to get very crowded midday. To avoid spending your valuable time in line, get to Bruges in the morning.

On this day trip, you can stroll fairytale streets, dine on waffles and chocolate, take in the view from two belfries, go on a canal cruise, and visit an ancient castle. Here is our exact itinerary through Bruges and Ghent. Enjoy!

One Day in Bruges and Ghent

7:30 am: Train from Brussels to Bruges

I told you that we started early! But we also skipped breakfast since we had a really good breakfast spot to try in Bruges.

It takes about one hour by train to travel from Brussels to Bruges.

8:30 am: Arrive in Bruges

From the train station, we walked into Bruges. It only takes about 15 minutes to walk from the train station into town.

To get to our breakfast spot, That’s Toast, we walked up Oostmeers into town.

8:45 am: Breakfast at That’s Toast

This breakfast spot lived up to its reputation. For breakfast, we ate granola, fruit, and several different kinds of French toast. It was delicious.

Thats Toast


When we got here, which was right after opening time, the place was mostly empty. Forty-five minutes later, when we left, there was a line out the door.

10:00 am: The Belfry of Bruges (the Belfort)

From That’s Toast, we spent 30 minutes walking to the center of Bruges, taking lots of photographs, and walking around Market Place, the main square in Bruges.

Bruges Street

Bruges Cafe

Horses in Bruges

Market Square Bruges


The Belfry of Bruges is the tallest tower that dominates the center of town. If you want a nice view over the city, it is worth climbing the 366 steps to the top.

Bruges Belfry

The Belfry opens at 9:30 am. We got in line at 10 am, and yes, there was already a line, but it wasn’t too bad. Only a limited number of people are allowed on the top of the Belfry at a time, so the line tends to move slowly.

It’s a nice view from the top but there is a mesh fence that makes photography difficult. I had to use my iPhone to get photos without the black mesh in the way.

Bruges Belfry View

iPhone Photography

iPhone View

10:45 am: Basilica of the Holy Blood

After climbing the Belfry, we walked over to Burg Square and made a quick visit to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. It is gorgeous inside and free to visit.

Basilica of the Holy Blood

Basilica of Holy Blood

11:10 am: Canal Tour of Bruges

From the Basilica of the Holy Blood, we strolled through town, towards Rozenhoedkaai, a very popular photo spot in Bruges. In early April, without the trees green and leafy, it’s not quite as pretty. The giant crane doesn’t help, either, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

Bruges in April

Right from this spot you can board a boat to cruise through the canals of Bruges. Apparently, 11 am is still “early” in the day because we were able to get right on without a wait. In fact, we actually had to wait for more people to arrive to fill our boat. Later in the day this was a much different story. The lines grew to over a hundred people long, and that’s not the way you want to spend a day in Bruges!

For roughly 30 minutes you cruise through the canals, getting a history lesson from your driver. It’s a gorgeous way to see the city.

In Bruges

Bruges tour by boat

Bruges Canal Photo

Bruges Canal Tour

Bruges Cathedral

On the Canal

Bruges Canal

Bruges by Boat

Travel Tip: For the best photos, try to get a seat near the front of the boat.

Cost: 12€
Hours: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

11:45 am: Chocolate and Waffles

We walked back through Market Place to two spots we wanted to try to satisfy our sweet tooth.

Dumon Chocolatier is one of the best places to go in Bruges for chocolate. Even if you don’t buy anything here, it’s still worth a quick visit just to see it. I think it must be the cutest building in Bruges.

Dumon Chocolatier

Chocolate in Bruges


Nearby is Lizzie’s Waffles, one of the best spots, so we were told, for waffles in Bruges. Since we just did a huge chocolate tour of Brussels the day before (is a chocolate hangover possible?), we chose to get a plain waffle. It might look boring in the photo but it was tasty. Lizzie’s Waffles is a sit-down restaurant so plan on spending about 30 minutes here.

Belgian Waffle

Another great spot for waffles in Bruges is Chez Albert. This is a street food waffle stand that always had a line we walked by. It’s located near Market Place.

Here are more photos walking through Bruges. 

Brugge Street

Bruges Market Square

Walking through Brugge

Walking through Bruges

1:00 pm: Lunch

We ate lunch at Brasserie Brugge Die Scone, a decent restaurant located near that famous photo spot, Rozenhoedkaai. We picked this restaurant simply because we wanted to sit outside and have a nice view of Bruges. The food is a little overpriced, but I would expect that almost anywhere in the center of Bruges.

1:45 pm: Scenic Walk through Bruges

After lunch, we started to work our way towards the train station.

We walked along the canal towards the Church of Our Lady. What another beautiful spot in Bruges! The Bonifacius Bridge is another place to take one of those iconic photos of Bruges. Just expect to share this spot with a lot of people.

Tim Tyler Kara Bruges

Cute Houses Bruges

Bonifacius Bridge Bruges


We continued along the streets and canal to Minnewater Park. In early April, it is mating season for the swans, and they were all gathered in the park along the water’s edge.

Bruges Belgium Street

Swans in Bruges

Bruges in Spring


We took one last look of Bruges from the park and then finished the walk to the train station.

Lago Minnewater

2:30 pm: Train to Ghent

It takes 30 minutes to travel from Bruges to Ghent. The Gent-Sint-Pieters train station is a 30-minute walk from downtown Ghent, so to get into town it is quicker to take a taxi or the tram.

Trams pull up in front of the train station. You can buy a round-trip tram ticket from the automated machines at the tram stop.

To take the tram into town, take line 1 towards Eindhalte. Get off at Korenmarket, the center of Ghent. Later in the day, to get back to the train station, take line 1 towards Flanders Expo. It takes about 15 minutes by tram to travel between the train station and Korenmarket.

3:45 pm: Rain in Ghent

When we arrived in Ghent, large, dark clouds were fast approaching. We rushed to St. Michaels’ Bridge and the Lys River, one of the prettiest spots in Ghent, hoping to see it before the rain arrived. We were just a little too late. The skies opened up and we ended up waiting out the worst of the rain under the awning of a souvenir shop.

Walking through Ghent
St Michaels Bridge

Graslei in the rain

Stuck in the rain

Boat Tour in the Rain

4:15 pm: Gravensteen

Once the rain slowed down, we half walked, half rain to Gravensteen. This ancient castle has been standing here since 1180. It has been used as a prison and even as a filming location for the BBC series The White Queen.

You can tour the rooms of the castle, visit the armory, and learn about torture in medieval times. But the best part of the visit is the view from the top of the castle. Miraculously, the skies cleared up and we had awesome views over Ghent.

Gravesteen Entrance

Gravensteen View

Ghent and Bruges

Gravensteen Walls

Gravensteen Ghent

5 pm: Graslei and Korenlei

Now that the skies were clear, we walked back towards St. Michael’s Bridge. I really wanted to get a nice photograph of Graslei and Korenlei, a photogenic spot on the River Lys. On warm, sunny days, this is a popular spot to hang out, have a drink at a café, and enjoy these beautiful views.

Graslei and Korenlei

5:10 pm: Wandering through Patershol

Before arriving in Ghent, I had read that the Patershol neighborhood is a very scenic spot to visit in town. Well, maybe we were missing something, but this was not worth the little bit of time we spent here. After the pretty streets in Bruges, this neighborhood, while pretty, was nothing spectacular.

St. Nicholas Church, on our way to the Ghent Belfry

St Nicholas Church

5:30 pm: The Ghent Belfry

For a beautiful view of Ghent, climb the Ghent Belfry. From here, you can see St. Nicholas’ Church, St. Bavo’s Cathedral, and the beautiful buildings of Ghent. Plus, there is no black mesh fencing to get in the way of photos.

Ghent Belfry View

Saint Bavos Cathedral

The Belfry is open until 6 pm and the last admission is at 5:30 pm. We just made it! Get updated hours and pricing before you go on the official website.

6 pm: Dinner in Ghent

We ended our day with dinner in Ghent. We picked a spot on Korenmarket called Vaudeville, a mistake, since the food was mediocre and expensive.

Better spots to try are Passion (Belgian and Dutch food, located near the Belfry) or Du Progres (French and Belgian food, located on Korenmarket).

7:00 Travel Back to Brussels

From Korenmarket we took the tram back to the Gent-Sint-Pieters train station and then took the 7:23 pm train back to Brussels, arriving at 7:53.

It’s a long day and we didn’t get to see everything, but we did get to see the highlights.

What We Would Have Done Differently

Ideally, spend one full day in Bruges and one full day in Ghent to have the best experience. You get to slow down and savor these cities. We did feel rushed while in Bruges, trying to see as much as possible while still saving time for Ghent.

You have the option to only visit Bruges, of course, skipping Ghent completely. Even though we only had a few hours in Ghent, we really enjoyed our time here. The rain made it more fun and then ending the day with sunny skies was nice. I’m so glad we got to see Ghent from the Belfry.

I would also skip walking around the Patershol neighborhood. We only spent 15 minutes doing this, but it felt like a waste of our time, and we almost missed the view from the Belfry.

The key to making this day work is the very early start in Bruges. We got to climb the Belfry in Bruges and take the canal cruise with almost no time spent in lines. Had we waited in long lines we would have had very little time in Ghent.

Traveling by Train in Belgium

The train makes it very easy to get from Brussels to Bruges and Ghent. You can purchase your tickets in advance or buy them at the train stations.

We purchased our tickets online in advance. The advantage of doing this is that you do not have to spend time in the stations buying your tickets. I know that it only adds a minute or two, but there were two instances where we just made the train. If we had to take time to purchase tickets, we would have had to wait another 10 minutes for the next train. It’s not a lot of time, but when you’re trying to visit both Bruges and Ghent in the same day, those minutes add up.

To purchase your tickets online in advance, visit belgianrail.be. When you are purchasing these tickets, you enter the date of travel but you do not enter a time. The ticket is good for one specific day for one journey, any time of day. For example, if you purchase a ticket for May 1 from Brussels-Midi to Bruges you can take any train on May 1, whether it’s at 7:30 am or 5:50 pm. This is great because if you don’t make that 7:26 am train, you can just catch the next one at 7:32 with the same ticket.

The only downside to purchasing your tickets in advance is if you change your date of travel to Bruges and Ghent.

To do this round trip from Brussels, we bought three one-way tickets: Brussels to Bruges, Bruges to Ghent, Ghent to Brussels. This costs about €33 (in 2023) for one standard 2nd class ticket for an adult. For people under the age of 26 years, you can choose the “Go Pass” which saves several euros per ticket.

We printed our tickets at home and brought them with us for this day trip.

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the Pullman Hotel in Brussels. This hotel is located right next to the Brussels Midi train station. The location is brilliant. We could walk to the train platform from our hotel in 5 minutes. Since we were right next to the train station, taking a 7:30 am train wasn’t so bad. Plus, this is a great place to stay if you are arriving in Brussels by train or taking a train to your next destination. To get to the city center of Brussels it is just a 10-minute metro ride.

Travel Ideas for Brussels

Are you planning to spend a day in Brussels? Taking a chocolate tour is one of the most popular things to do in the city. If you want to save some money and tour the best chocolate shops in Brussels, take a look at our self-guided chocolate tour. 

How to do a Brussels Chocolate Tour on Your Own

And if this visit is part of a bigger trip through Europe, learn how to visit Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Paris, and Amsterdam in 10 days.

10 Day Amsterdam Brussels Paris Itinerary

Are you going to Belgium? If you have any questions about how to spend one day in Bruges and Ghent, comment below!

More Information for Your Trip to Belgium

PARIS: Start with our article Best Things to Do in Paris for ideas of what to do in Paris. Plan your time in the city with our 2 Day Paris Itinerary and 3 Day Paris Itinerary. We also have a Paris Hotel Guide, advice on visiting Paris with kids, a Paris Food Guide, and advice for visiting Paris at Easter.

NETHERLANDS: Learn how to spend 2 perfect days in Amsterdam and the best things to do in Amsterdam. We also have a guide on Where to Stay in Amsterdam and how to visit Utrecht and The Hague.

LUXEMBOURG: In our One Day in Luxembourg Itinerary, learn about the best things to do in Luxembourg City and how to plan your time.

LONDON: Start with our article Best Things to Do in London for ideas of what to do in London. Plan your time in the city with our 5 Days in London Itinerary. We also have a a guide on Where to Stay in London and the best things to do in London at Christmas.

EUROPE ITINERARIES: Check out our article 10 Days in Europe: 10 Amazing Itineraries for 10 different ways to visit the best places in Europe. And if you have less time, check out our guide to 25 Ways to Spend One Week in Europe.


Bruges and Ghent One Day from Brussels Belgium


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Comments 59

  1. Avatar for Darina
  2. Avatar for Keera

    Hi there!
    Absolutely love your itinerary! I’m trying to books 3 one way tickets as you mentioned without adding time. However, the website is not allowing me to proceed. Also, the closest station from our hotel is, Brussels centraal, that wouldn’t make a difference from which station we start our journey right? Looking forward to following your itinerary next month!

    Kind Regards

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      I’m glad you like our itinerary! When we did this, I booked the three tickets individually, rather than altogether. That might be why you are having an issue with the website. When purchasing your ticket from Brussels, make sure you select the Centraal station, if that is the one closest to your hotel. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Renee

    Thank you so much for sharing. We are heading to Brussels in a few weeks. Can I ask….what were you shooting with? Phone camera or DSLR? If you were using a DSLR which lens?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      I have a Canon 5D Mark IV camera with a 24-70 mm 2.8 lens. I love it but it’s a big, heavy camera. You can see all of our camera gear in our gear guide. Have fun in Brussels! Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Katy

    Hi Julie,
    I’m so glad to have found your blog posts! I am taking my husband to London and Paris over the Easter holiday as a surprise for his birthday (leaving the kids at home). He has been to London many times (his parents were from England), so now I am thinking that it might be better to just spend 2 days in London And then a day in Bruges before heading to Paris. My question is whether it would be better to stay overnight in Bruges or Brussels before taking the train to Paris the next morning (which will be Easter). Any thoughts on this are greatly appreciated!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      I think spending the night in Bruges would be very nice. It adds a little more travel time to get to Paris (versus staying in Brussels) but I liked Bruges a lot more than Brussels. Plus, you will get to enjoy the town in the evening after all of the day trippers leave. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Isabella

    Thank you very much for this very detailed post. In order to get to France to meet friends on a particular day and also visit Luxembourg and Switzerland we can only allow one full day to get to from Calais to Ghent so the timings were also very useful. We may not have done everything that you suggested but it really gives us a good idea that seeing both towns is possible.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  6. Avatar for Preeti

    Dear Julie,

    This is an amazing detailed post. Just a life saver. I am traveling from Rotterdam and may stay a night at Bruges with the first stop at Ghent. I will follow your itinerary as it seems just enough to enjoy the place – weather permitting of course, since I am traveling in January.

    Thanks Preeti

  7. Avatar for Irene Garcia
    Irene Garcia

    This was very helpful. I have a question…My husband and I will be staying in Amsterdam for 1 week mid-February (visiting from California) and would like to visit Ghent and Bruges for 1 day/1 night and will be traveling by train. Would you recommend that we spend the night in Bruges or Ghent. Which of the two has more to see/do? Do you have any recommendations on the itinerary as far as first stop/last stop? Any feedback is much appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Irene. There is more to do in Bruges and it is a prettier town so I recommend staying here. Go to Ghent first and end in Bruges. Just check the timing of when things close in Bruges so that you have enough time to get to everything. And you will probably have to move fast through Ghent. If you can, see Ghent first, spend the afternoon and evening in Bruges, and if you have any extra time the next morning, you could do what you didn’t get to in Bruges. Since you are coming from Amsterdam, not Brussels, you won’t have a full day for both like we have written in this article. Cheers, Julie

  8. Avatar for Katrina

    This post is a life saver. Been looking for a self guided trip tp Bruges (and Ghent) from Brussels. This is so detailed, I would follow this to the last detail. Haha! But seriously, this is super cool. Thanks! We are going in January and I’ve been looking for tours to go to Bruges. However, all I’ve seen are big bus tours and I wanted something in a smaller scale. I found one small group tour but of course it’s more expensive. Cost is okay, but then I came across this post! And I realized that the trip is doable on our own. Thank you! Will save this for sure.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  9. Avatar for moshe yanai
    moshe yanai

    if i want to do one day to go from brussels to btouge came back to brussels and after two days take a train to ghrnt so i buy 2 return ticket and how much its cost we are 8 senior we are the age 68-74 so we have another price for the train ticket and maby also with the tram ticket wait for your answare thank you moshe yana

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      You can purchase a senior ticket which saves a lot of money. However, you can only use this ticket after 9 am on weekdays, so you can’t get an early start with this ticket. To see pricing, click the link in this post, input your cities and dates of travel to get updated pricing. Tram tickets are 3 euros, I am not sure if there is a discount for being a senior. Here is a link with more info you can read. Cheers, Julie

  10. Avatar for Mehuli Mazumdar
    Mehuli Mazumdar

    Hey Julie!

    Thankyou for this amazing post!

    Me and my friends are heading to Belgium from France this weekend. We have planned to stay 2 nights in Bruges, travel to Brussels and on the way we stop at Ghent.
    Do you think it’s possible to do that?
    Does the train line from Bruges to Brussels stop at ghent?
    And if so can we take one ticket from bruges to brussels.. Get down at g gent roam around and then use the same ticket to continue our journey to Brussels?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Mehuli. Yes, you can visit Ghent when traveling from Bruges to Brussels (the train stops in Ghent on the way to Brussels). Here is info on how to store your luggage in Ghent while you go sightseeing. We purchased separate train tickets: Bruges to Ghent and Ghent to Brussels. However, someone else did write in that they bought one direct ticket, Bruges to Brussels and were able to get on and off the train at Ghent. I’m still not 100% that this is allowable. To be on the safe side, purchase your train tickets at the station in Bruges. The ticket agent will know if you can do it all on one ticket or if you need 2 separate tickets. Have a great trip! Cheers, Julie

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