24 Hours in Bruges

Before leaving for Belgium I heard over and over again that Brussels wasn’t worth visiting and Bruges is where we should have planned to spend most of our time. It’s the Venice of the north, they say. It’s like a fairytale. And as Venice is one of my favorite cities in the world, and the two fairytale like cities I’ve visited have forever charmed me, it was hard not to have some regrets that we’d only planned a day trip.

However, I have to say I am pleased it worked out as it did. We went on a random weekend in January and Bruges was so full of tourists it almost felt like a resort. Brussels was big and exciting, and was meant to be international. Bruges was gorgeous but felt set up mainly for tourism and a day trip with the following itinerary was the perfect amount of time to see and do everything we wanted. I’m sure long term you could get off the tourist track and see the local side, but I don’t think adding a day or two would have accomplished that.

If you’re traveling by train from Brussels, note that there are stops at multiple stations in the city, so you can find the most convenient one based on where you’re staying. ALSO please note that a relatively direct train will take you about 90 minutes, and the others will take MUCH LONGER and move at what one might describe as the pace of a snail. We are obviously smart people who planned to take the fast track there… back however, we just got on the next available train. It was a mistake, but I read nearly an entire book during the never-ending journey, so at least there’s a bright side.

Upon arrival, you can follow the hordes of people to the city center. I was not expecting Bruges to be so touristy, but I swear for every local person I saw, there were ten tourists. For breakfast, we went to Marie’s House, because we heard they had good waffles. With the caveat that we weren’t able to try their signature dish, I have to say I wouldn’t recommend them. First, they don’t start serving waffles until 2:00, so you have to time it right (aka waffles aren’t breakfast for anyone in the world but Americans), but also, a bottle of ketchup randomly exploded all over us and the staff saw it all happen and did not react. They didn’t give us anything to clean it up without us having to ask, or try to replace the food or drinks that were covered in ketchup. It was all just a bit meh. Instead, you should try Books and Brunch, which sounds incredible and about which I’ve only heard good things (though be sure to have a reservation).

From there head to Markt, the main town square. Markt is gorgeous. Take some pictures of the buildings, check out the horse drawn carriages, and maybe stop into some of the bookstores. They all have an English section, and the books range from popular current fiction and non-fiction, to books about the local city, which I love.

After getting your fill of Markt, head over to Rozenhoedkaai, which is the most photographed place in Bruges. It reminded me a bit of “The Most Photographed Barn in America” from White Noise, but it was incredibly gorgeous, so again, justified.


From there, if you’re interested in getting off the beaten track and a fellow book lover, you can head to In Den Eenhoorn, which is just outside of the main part of town. I loved this walk because it felt much less touristy and a bit more like the Bruges locals see. The bookstore is huge and has books in so many different languages. We picked some up in Spanish to challenge ourselves.

There are so many cool museums, like the Torture Museum, a Dali exhibition, and the Frietmuseum which is the history of frites! After checking out some of the collections, wander a bit and take in more of the gorgeous surroundings, and if you need a break find a coffee shop to get a snack, waffle, or some tea.

Of course, you can’t forget the beer. Go to Duvelorium Grand Beer Cafe, if you have time wait for a table by the window, and enjoy your pint with a perfect view of Markt Square.

One of the chocolatiers we stopped into had a huge box (17 pieces) for a flat rate of 6.50 euros. We asked if we could fill it with less than 17 pieces, trying to exercise some form of self control, and the woman looked at us incredulously–she couldn’t begin to understand why would we ever WANT to do that. That is my kind of place.

Plan your 24 hours in Bruges well, i.e. do not take the next train but the fastest train, and you’ll leave happy you went but also feeling like you’ve seen everything you needed to see.

24 Hours in Brussels


I was not excited or mentally prepared for this trip. It was January 20th and since Thanksgiving, I’d either been traveling or hosting straight through, and even without those factors the weekend’s schedule was daunting. We were traveling/sleeping in buses or airports both Thursday and Saturday night, and only had accommodation booked for Friday. My outlook was more defeated exhaustion than one of energetic excitement. Add in that I had not heard the best things about Brussels, and those 30 euro return tickets started to feel like more trouble than they were worth.

But! I was so wrong! Belgium was amazing. I had heard Brussels was pretty boring but Bruges would be like a fairytale, and while the latter was correct, I loved Brussels! The international vibe, the gorgeous architecture, the super nice people, the bilingual population, and also THE FOOD. So much chocolate. So many frites. And the waffles. Man, those waffles. Brussels is a chocolate and beer lovers heaven on earth.

We only had a day to spend in this amazing city, and while knowing what I know now I wish I had planned more time there, I think we had a good itinerary for the time we had. Check out my itinerary for 24 hours in Brussels below.

First thing in the morning, head towards Grand Place. We took some pictures of the amazing square, and at this time of day the sun is out and makes the gold buildings shine in such an incredible way. It’s also central to everywhere else you’ll want to go.

From there walk just around the corner to Maison Dandoy, which is SUPER cute and delicious. It has an upstairs that feels like you’re sitting in someone’s living room, and it is a great place for your first waffle experience.

And as delicious as those waffles are, one isn’t nearly enough, but that’s perfect because it leaves room for Fritland, which is AMAZING. Man do they give you an insane amount of insanely delicious frites. Not going to lie, I ate an entire order all on my own. And it was so worth it. Fritland is again, just around the corner.

After that you can wander around the area a bit heading towards Au Bon Vieux Temps, which is the oldest bar in Brussels, open for over 300 years. On the way, check out some chocolate shops, because that chocolate is amazing. The bar really actually looked like an old bar, and you could feel the history. That said, they were playing 80s pop pretty loudly, so the ambience was a bit compromised, haha. Here we took a little break, had some delicious beer, and discussed how surprised we were with how much we like the city. Maybe our expectations were really low, but we were all really enchanted.

Then you have time to wander through Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, which was gorgeous but pretty expensive. My camera died, but the window displays were incredibly creative and artistic, well worth the trip. There is also a bookstore that I really wanted to check out, but we didn’t have time to stop in. If you like books, I’d check out both that and Muntpunt, a library and information center, as it is one of the coolest and most unique libraries I’ve been to.

From there, you’re right next to street full of restaurants, but most have people out front trying to force you inside. I don’t trust/like this method, and we ended up going to Chez Leon which didn’t have anyone peddling out front. I highly recommend it! The place looked small but was actually huge, made up of about 10 different cozy rooms connected by maze like hallways. The food was delicious and there was a wide variety of prices on the menu. We got the mussels, which were incredible. If you go, get the mussels.

If you feel like an after dinner walk, Grand Place is beautiful lit up at night, and well worth the quick stroll.

After that we headed back to our hostel, Meininger Hotel, which I also recommend. The common areas were really lively, there was a bar, a kitchen, and our rooms were comfortable and well designed (each bed had a plug and a personal light). At $25 a night in the city center, it’s  fairly priced, and they also let us hang in the common room until 4 am on our last night, even though we hadn’t booked a room. We had an early night partly because we hadn’t slept at all the night before, but also because we were waking up early the next day to go to Bruges!

Like I said, I hadn’t expected much from Brussels, and while I do think we got a great feel for the city and saw the most important parts, looking back I would have planned to stay longer. I wanted to check out the flea market and the EU Parliament. Guess it’s just another city I’ll have no choice but to return to!