Brussels is in a pretty strategic location in that day trips to Bruges, Ghent and even Antwerp are incredibly easy and doable. And if you are short on time, doing these cities as a day trip and choosing one as a base saves both time and money on accommodation.
If I had an extra day, I would have liked to have spent a day in each town but instead I spent the morning in Bruges and the afternoon in Ghent. Although I wasn’t able to fully absorb myself in the surroundings, it was sufficient enough to see the main sites and fall in love, particularly with Bruges.
Beautiful restaurant in Bruges.
I absolutely loved Bruges and can wait to get back there to explore properly. Making my from the train station to the city centre, I sort of felt like I was walking through an old English town with it’s quaint little houses but then you step into the main square and you’re transported back in time.
Due to its rich medieval history and architecture, the historic centre of Bruges is actually a UNESCO heritage listed city and rightly so, it’s stunning. Did I also mention it’s lined with canals as well? It’s Belgium’s answer to Amsterdam or Venice. In fact sometimes people often refer to Bruges as the Venice of the north.
Walking along the canals in Bruges.
What to see and do
Bruges is a small town but there is plenty to do and see. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do much other than walk around and explore but I have a bucket list of things to do if and when I go back.
If you’re on a strict time frame like I was, I would suggest going on a free walking tour that way you get in as much of the city as possible in a short amount of time. Due to a delayed train I sadly missed the Viva’s Tour free tour and just wandered and explored by myself.
I spent over an hour and could have spent more just following the canals and taking photos. I was there on a cold, drizzly November day and it was beautiful so I can only imagine how it would look and feel in spring when all the flowers are in bloom.
Time permitting, I would also suggest climbing the Belfry bell tower in Market Square for birds eye view of the town. Wish I had had time for that one!
Can you believe these are court rooms?
Things to see and do
- Go on a free walking tour with Viva’s Tour
- Explore the residential area on your way from the train station to city centre
- Wander along the canals and take in the views
- Take a boat tour of the canals
- Visit the Basilica of Holy Blood
- Fall in love with Market Square and it’s architecture
- Eat waffles and fries
- Take in Bruges’ beautiful Town Hall
- Climb the Belfry Tower
- See the only Michelangelo sculpture (Madonna with Child) that left Italy at the time in the Church of Our Lady
How to get there?
The easiest way to get from Brussels to Bruges is via train. It takes approximately an hour depending on which service you choose and they are quite frequent throughout the day. I caught the train from Brussels Central station.
Bikes, vines & cute houses in Bruges.
Ghent was my second stop of the day. Situated about half way between, it makes for the perfect stop on your way home from Bruges back to Brussels. I didn’t enjoy Ghent nearly as much as I did Bruges but it was still a worthwhile stop.
Again, I was suppose to do the free walking tour of the city but because I was already running late from my delayed morning train, I also missed out on the Ghent tour.
Ghent is a much bigger city than Bruges mainly due to the fact that it’s a large university town. This made the city feel much more busier and livelier. It’s also unique in that it has an ancient castle in the middle of the city which was one of the highlights.
I did however find it a little harder navigating Ghent due to the tram system. On one hand, the city is very well connected if you know where you’re going but if you’re a newbie and aren’t familiar with the lines it’s incredibly easy to jump on the wrong tram. I may or may not have been one of those people but that’s the fun of travel right?
What to see and do
- Gravensteen Castle
- Free walking tour with Viva’s Tour
- Explore the neighbourhood of Patershol for cute little cafes and restaurants
- Take in the beautiful Town Hall
- See the Mystic Lamb in real life, one of the very first oil paintings in the world
- Admire the cathedrals of Saint Bavo And Saint Nicholas
- Climb Ghent’s Belfry for a view of the city and a couple of dragons on the way
- Enjoy the many town squares including
- Explore the neighbourhoods of Graslei and Korenlei along the riverbank
- See the city’s sites on the hop on hop off River boat
Wandering the streets of Ghent.
How to get there?
As mentioned before, Ghent is literally half way between Brussels and Bruges. The easiest way to get there is via train which takes about half an hour. It’s much closer than Bruges so even if you wanted to only spend an afternoon or evening here, it’s totally doable.
While I only did a handful of the things on this list, I hope to get back to Bruges and Ghent and hopefully provide a more in depth travel guide.