Bruges and Ghent

How to Visit Bruges and Ghent if You Only Have One Day

Julie Belgium 41 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

7:26 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

Breakfast

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: 10€
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.

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

2:33 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 (8€ per person). 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 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 cost a total of €30.90 (in 2018) 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 Idea 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


Are you going to Belgium? If you have any questions about this Bruges and Ghent day trip, comment below!

Continue the Journey:

 

Bruges and Ghent One Day from Brussels Belgium

Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these affiliate links, we get paid a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Comments 41

  1. Hi Julie,

    Thanks so much for posting this! Reading about your itinerary was so helpful! I plan to visit Belgium from Paris in November and will have three days to spend there, so maybe one day each in Brussels, Ghent, and Bruges. To avoid having to switch hotels each night, do you recommend staying in one of the cities and doing day trips each day? If so, which city do you think would be a good “home base?”

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      Hello Tiffany. Of the three cities, Bruges is my favorite, as well as the favorite of many travelers. This would be the most “charming” place to stay. Brussels would be the most convenient, with multiple train stations it’s very easy to get here from Paris and to travel to and from Bruges and Ghent, and wherever you are going next. So, pick Bruges if you want to stay in a fairytale-like town or pick Brussels if you want convenience. Cheers, Julie

  2. Thanks for your suggestions. While you were staying in Brussels, you only mentioned about Bruges and Ghent as the places to visit. What about Brussels itself? Anything good in Brussels? I only have 3 days to visit these 3 cities and I’m coming from/going back to Amsterdam. How do I see these 3 cities in 3 days? Any suggestions?

    Thanks.
    Ron

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          To get around the towns we walked and used Google Maps for navigation. If you don’t have cellular service, you can cache the maps on your phone while on wifi and still use them while walking around. Cheers, Julie

  3. Hello, thanks for the great post. We’re heading to Ghent and Brugge in August. One question though. I was unable to find open ended train tickets for the day on the link you included to Belgium rail. Is it no longer possible to purchase a ticket for say, Aug. 1 that’s good for any train? Thanks again!

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      Hello Kara. The tickets are still open-ended. I just got on the belgiantrain.be website and gave it a try. You do initially enter a date and a time, but the time does not matter. What you are buying is a ticket from one station to the next on that given day. If you continue you through the ticketing process you will see that the time that you chose disappears. Cheers, Julie

  4. This was perfect for my solo day trip! Thanks so much for sharing such a detailed itinerary. One thing to share was that I was that I actually went to the ticket window to purchase my one way train tickets to Brugge & Ghent as instructed in your post (my CC wasn’t working at the machines). The ticket agent told me I only had to buy a round trip ticket to Brugge (15.20 euros). Stopping off at Ghent would be included in this round trip ticket at no additional cost! Just wanted to share bc that shaved some money off the ticket price ☺️

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      Wow, that’s great!! Thanks for letting me know. I had read something differently before our trip, but if the ticket agent said it was OK, I guess it is. Thanks again! Cheers, Julie

    2. Hi Julie, I am going from London to Brussels in a few weeks by train and We have 2 hotels booked (The Hotel on de waterloo) and the Warwick Grand Place. I am wondering which one is easiest to get to and around from our train from London and just getting around in general, we have not done this type of trip before so a little nervous lol! we are definitley doing your day trip to Ghent and Bruges!! Thank you so much for your insite!!!!
      Mark

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        Hello Mark. I am not familiar with The Hotel on de Waterloo (I can’t find its location on Google Maps) but Warwick Grand Place is a very short walk to the Grand Place and most of the main sites in Brussels. It should be easy to walk here to the majority of places in Brussels (at least what is on our walking tour). Most likely you arriving at Brussels-Midi. Your hotel is located near Central Station. To get here, you could either take a taxi or there might be a metro that you can take from Midi to Gare Central. If you stay at the Warwick, email the hotel and they will be able to give you exact instructions (or they might already have something on their website). Cheers, Julie

        1. Hi Julie,
          Thank you for the quick response!! The other hotel was The Hotel Brussels, sorry for the wrong name. or is there a better area you would suggest staying to make it eaiser for our 2 days there?
          We are also going to Paris for 3 days as you suggested as well and staying at the Hotel Le Mareuil, is that a good place and area for getting around?
          Thank you again!!

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            In Brussels, I think the Warwick has a better location than The Hotel, since you are right in the center of town. If you want another suggestion, take a look at The Pullman (this is where we stayed). This hotel is near the Midi train station. It’s very convenient for using the train to get in and out of Brussels and we took the tram into town on the day we visited the city center.

            Your hotel in Paris is near the Republique metro station, and from here you should be able to get around Paris easily. You are located east of the main sites in Paris, so you will be on the metro a lot, but the location is fine. If you move closer to the city center (towards Notre Dame and the Champs-Elysees) you will get around the city faster but you will also pay more for a hotel. So, it’s a trade off between location and cost. Hope this helps! Cheers, Julie

  5. This is perfect, I’m headed to Ghent for work and will have a couple free days.
    My plan is to do 1/2 day Ghent, full day in Bruges, and then move to Brussels for 1 full day until I have to head to London for work .

  6. I went through the entire itinerary and it was exactly what I was looking for! Thank you so much for the detailed description and costs and time to be spent. Helped my husband and me plan both Ghent and Bruges together! Thanks again!

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  7. Just Read through your itinerary, and it is exactly what I was looking for as I was unsure the best way of doing it.

    It is also very informative (price and time-wise), and do I have to thank you for the effort that has been put in…

    Keep up the good work and happy safe traveling..

  8. I’ve really enjoyed reading your post and pictures on Belgium. My daughters and I are visiting the first week in April. We are taking the train from Amsterdam to Brussels and visiting Dinant, Bruges and Gent. I dislike public transportation and I have a lot of anxiety about all of the public transit it will take to get to the places we are visiting. I liked your suggestion for the Pullman hotel for the ease of arriving and leaving the train station, but the hotel says it only caters to adults. Any other hotel suggests in Brussels?

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      We stayed here with our kids. They were 13 and 14 at the time. I would email the hotel for more information (h7431@accor.com). We have noticed this on Booking.com with other hotels…that kids aren’t allowed, and then when we contact the hotel, the hotel lets us know that kids are allowed. Also near the train station is an Ibis Hotel and Hotel Park Inn that you could try. Cheers, Julie

  9. Thank you so much! We’re going to be in Brussels at the end of March and I was wondering if we could exactly this itinerary in a day. This was extremely helpful.

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