Bruges is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Europe — if not the world. Bruges is also a popular day trip destination, whether from Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, or anywhere else you can think of.
Like most popular touristic cities, Bruges can be expensive to visit. Can be being the key words here.
You can also take a day trip to Bruges without breaking the bank, and that’s exactly what I’m going to show you how to do in this budget guide to Bruges.
First things first. Ditch the guided tour and DIY that sh*t. Here’s how.
How to Get to Bruges
The first thing you’re going to have to do is get to Bruges. I did my day trip to Bruges from Brussels, so I have the most advice to give on that front, but you can also take a day trip to Bruges from Amsterdam, Paris (if you’re really willing to haul a**), or anywhere else in the vicinity that you’ve decided to base yourself.
How to Get to Bruges from Brussels
Direct trains from Brussels Midi to Bruges leave every 20 minutes to half an hour. Which means that you can likely just show up and there should be a train leaving soon.
Buy your ticket from one of the automated machines, rather than waiting in a long line to talk to a person. If you’re not sure what ticket to buy, check out this handy page on the Belgian rail website.
If you’re under the age of 26, though, I’ll save you some time: Buy a Go Pass, which allows you a single journey to anywhere in the country (yes, you read that right) for only €6,20. That means that you can get from Brussels to Bruges and back for only €12,40. How’s that for a deal?
Once you’ve bought your tickets, check the screens that are literally everywhere in the station for the next train to Bruges. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy your ride through the Belgian countryside. You should be there in about an hour.
How to Get to Bruges from Amsterdam
To take the train from Amsterdam to Bruges, you’ll have to change in either Brussels or Antwerp. The whole journey will take about 3 hours, so you’ll definitely want to get an early start!
The cheapest way to travel by train from Amsterdam to Bruges (disclaimer: that I was able to find after about 15 minutes of research) is to buy a Super Day Return ticket from Amsterdam to Antwerp for €42 and then a regular ticket from Antwerp to Amsterdam (see the information about getting from Brussels to Bruges for advice on this).
How to Get to Bruges from Paris
Caution: Not for the Faint of Heart
Getting from Paris to Bruges will take you at least 2.5 hours by train or 3.5 hours driving. It’s also really expensive (think: €150 for a return train ticket), so I would really only consider it if you’re desperately short on time and dying to see Bruges. Or If you’re absolutely loaded (Want to take me with you?).
Although it totally goes against everything I believe, I think you might actually be better off going on a guided tour like this one in this case, as they seem to be about the same price.
Definitely do some more research though if you’re actually considering it, this is just what I’ve deduced from a short time down some internet rabbit holes.
From Bruges Station to the Center of Bruges
First things first: do a little happy dance. You made it to Bruges! Second: you’ve got a bit more to travel before you actually get to the part of Bruges that is so popular with tourists. Sorry.
If you want to make your way straight to the popular Markt Square, then it’s about a 20 minute walk from the train station. My suggestion, though, is to slowly make your way there, taking in the sights as you go. There’s no need to rush things, my friends.
What to Do in Bruges on a Budget
As a popular tourist destination, Bruges is absolutely jam packed with things to do. You’ll need to have discerning eye when you’re deciding what to do, though. You don’t want to fall into any tourist traps!
The Top Sights
Minnewater Park is just next to the train station and is a great place to stop on your walk into town. This gorgeous park might be most famous for the castle-like building overlooking the lake, but wander a bit further out and you’re sure to find some amazing hidden gems. Minnewater Park is also a great place to spot swans!
Markt Square is what you’ll find on all of the postcards of Bruges. It’s pretty beautiful, but don’t linger too long. It’s also very touristy, and there’s so much more of Bruges to explore!
Burg Square is Markt’s more flashy neighbor. While the Markt embraces cute Belgian architecture, the Burg just covers everything in gold. The result is pretty impressive.
If you want to get the perfect shot of the Bruges canals, head to this popular photo point just outside of ‘t Klein Venetie cafe. The views definitely don’t disappoint – you might just have to jostle your way through a few tour groups to actually see it!
Bruges Off the Beaten Path
The Begijnhof is a collection of white houses home to the nuns of the Order of St. Benedict. The required silence offers a great respite from the crowds in Bruges. You can find this little piece of living history right next to Minnewater Park.
It’s pretty likely that you’ll see loads of beautiful lace in souvenir shops all over Bruges. But if you want to learn a little bit more about the production of that lace, then you should head over to the Bruges Lace Museum, or Kantcentrum. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it here while I was in Bruges, but I’m dying to get back to watch the lace making demonstrations (2-5pm)!
This is actually the only attraction I’m suggesting that costs anything, but at €5 (€4 for youth and seniors, free for children under 12) I think it’s great value!
Wander the Streets
Wandering the streets of Bruges is about as budget as it gets. You don’t have to pay a single cent and you’re sure to find some absolutely amazing things while you do. I actually preferred wandering the streets to any of the major sights: I thought they were more beautiful AND there were less people!
Where to Eat in Bruges on a Budget
I went full budget-traveller when it came to eating in Bruges and packed a small lunch that I ate in Minnewater Park. It was pretty dang idyllic, actually, and I would highly suggest stealing my strategy and picking up some groceries the night before.
If you’re looking for a more traditional dining experience, though, then check out A Wandering Casiedilla’s Guide on Where to Eat in Bruges on a Budget — and don’t forget to stay FAR AWAY from restaurants in the touristy center.
The Old Chocolate House
I did break my not-eating-out budget rule when it came to The Old Chocolate House, though. If you have a sweet tooth, this place is a must visit. For €4, you can get a HUGE mug of hot chocolate (you mix the chocolate in yourself ????) and it is to. die. for. They also make huge waffles for €6. Basically, just go.
Tips for Your Day Trip to Bruges
Get up early — This one is a no brainer, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again. If you’re only spending a day in Bruges, then you want to maximize your time there.
Don’t Pay for the Museums – There are several popular museums in Bruges, but from what I can tell they’re mostly tourist traps. Unless there’s one you REALLY want to visit, I wouldn’t bother visiting them. Bruges is about the beauty of the town, anyway. Don’t waste your time inside.
Don’t Bother with Public Transportation or Taxis — Sure, Bruges has busses (and taxis, but this is a budget post!), but half of the beauty of Bruges is in walking along a million beautiful little streets! Save a few euros and walk everywhere. I promise you won’t regret it.
Download the USE-IT App — I suggested this already in my Belgium on a Budget post, but I’ll say it again for the people in the back: Download the USE-IT app. It’s free, and it’s awesome. I found so many cool things I never would have without it (and it works offline!).