Visiting Bruges, filled with historical and medieval buildings, canals, and cobblestone streets, is usually what people travel to Belgium for as it’s one of the most famous medieval cities in Europe.
Busloads of people come here for quick trips to take photos of the canals and buildings.
As such, I found Bruges to be very charming but expensive and touristy.
There aren’t a lot of backpackers or budget travel in Bruges.
It’s not a wild party city; there are few things to do there, and, if you’re solo, it can get a bit boring if your goal isn’t to relax.
It’s beautiful, and you should visit for a couple of days. If you pass through Belgium, you’re crazy for not stopping off here to visit Bruges for at least a night. It’s too beautiful not to see.
Gorge on waffles and chocolate, cruise the canals and get your cultural fix while perusing the artwork at Groeninge Museum.
This Bruges travel guide can help you plan your trip, lower your costs, and give you things to see and do for your visit!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Bruges
1. Take a canal tour
2. Grote Markt
3. The Burg
4. Gorge on chocolate
5. Take a hot air balloon ride
Other Things to See and Do in Bruges
1. Visit the City Museum of Fine Arts
The City Museum of Fine Arts (Groeninge Museum) is perhaps the most popular museum in the city, exhibiting works from Bruges’ own Jan van Eyck. There is also a world-famous collection of paintings by the Flemish Primitives. Admission is €12 EUR ($13.50 USD).
2. Belfort Belfry
This 83-meter tall bell tower is one of Bruges’ best-known landmarks. It once housed the treasury and the municipal archives and was used for spotting fires or other threats. After (somewhat ironically) being destroyed by fire so many times, the belfry was never rebuilt, and now only the tower remains. Climb the 366 steps to the top and enjoy some spectacular and panoramic views of the city. It costs €10 EUR ($11 USD).
3. Drink beer
Like the rest of Belgium, there’s a lot of good beer in this city. You can visit the Brewery De Halve Maan, and tour the facilities where an underground pipeline carries beer to bottling plants in the suburbs (your tour comes with a free beer). Another good option is Snuffel Hostel as they have a bar with a huge variety of Belgian beer to choose from There’s also ‘T Poatersgat, an amazing underground cellar bar with 120 Belgian beers on tap, or try the house beer at Vlissinghe Café. It’s the oldest pub in Bruges and has been around for 500 years!
4. The English Theatre
This theater is open all year round, and there are several, high-end productions to check out throughout the year. It’s not that expensive and conveniently located in the city center.
5. Explore by bicycle
Owing to its smaller size, Bruges is a great city to explore on bicycle. Be sure to get out into the countryside, too, if you have the time. Rentals are around €8 EUR ($9 USD) for half day and €12 EUR ($13.50 USD) for a full day.
6. Take a food tour
If you’ve got an unquenchable taste for Belgian beer and waffles, take a food tour. Discover Belgium’s Food Tour Bruges will give you the perfect overview, starting from €76 EUR ($85 USD).
7. Visit the Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum gives a great overview of the history of Bruges dating from prehistory through the Middle Ages, using archaeological findings, reconstructions, and interactive exhibits. It’s aimed a bit towards younger visitors, but you will learn a lot about how people in Bruges lived, worked, and buried their dead. Admission is €4 EUR ($4.50 USD).
8. Visit some of the quirkier museums
Bruges has several small, quirkier museums that are worth visiting if you have some spare time. The Diamond Museum will take you back 550 years ago to when the technique of cutting diamonds was first applied right here in the city. There’s also the Chocolate Museum, where a tour comes with a delicious tasting session, and the much darker Torture Museum filled with grotesque instruments of torture.
Bruges Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Dorm beds in this city will cost between €20-25 EUR ($22-28 USD) per bed. A private room for two with an ensuite bathroom will cost anywhere from €50-90 EUR ($56-100 USD).
Budget hotel prices – Two-star hotels start at about €60 EUR ($67 USD) for a room with basic amenities and free WiFi. Many hotels offer free breakfast as well. Three-star hotels are from €67 EUR ($75 USD).
Airbnb shared rooms start around €13.40 EUR ($15 USD) a night, while private rooms are from €27 EUR ($30 USD). You can find whole apartments start around €80 EUR ($90 USD) a night.
Average cost of food – Casual meals at cafes cost around €12 EUR ($13.50 USD) and fast food costs about the same. A meal in a sit-down restaurant, especially in the town square, will cost between €25-30 EUR ($28-34 USD) for food and drinks (if not more). If you want to cook your meals, there are some great markets throughout the city. Expect to pay around €60 EUR ($75 USD) for a week’s worth of groceries.
Backpacking Bruges Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Bruges, my suggested budget is €56 EUR ($63 USD) per day. This budget will cover a hostel dorm, cooking most of your meals in the communal kitchen, public transportation, a free walking tour, and maybe a paid attraction or two. The city isn’t cheap so you’ll have to be careful with your spending.
On a mid-range budget of about €127 EUR ($142 USD) per day, you can stay in a two-star budget hotel or book a nice private room at an Airbnb. If you cook about half of your meals, you can eat out occasionally and enjoy some famous Belgian beers. This budget will cover public transportation, one taxi per day, and two attractions per day.
If you want luxury, expect to spend at least €277 EUR ($310 USD) per day, but that’s the floor. You can stay in an excellent 4-star hotel, eat at nice restaurants for all your meals, and have plenty of drinks. On this budget, you can get around via taxi, and do some guided tours, like a Bruges food tour.
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Bruges Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Bruges, a city designed for older travelers and couples, is going to eat into your budget if you aren’t careful. In an expensive country, this is an expensive city. It’s not super budget friendly, but there are a few ways to save money! If you want to save money in Bruges, here are some of my suggestions to do so:
- Get Youth Discounts – If you’re under 25, then you can gain entry to the city’s museums for just €1.50 EUR ($1.70 USD).
- Walk around – Walking is the best way to see and get around the city. Most of the city’s main attractions are within 15 minutes of each other. There’s really no reason to take a bus or taxi. Just walk and enjoy the city’s beauty.
- Take a free walking tour – The best tours are free as they will help you get oriented and give excellent insight into the city’s history! The best free walking tour in the city is with FreeTour.com.
- Get the BrugesCard – This handy little card entitles you to free entry to 27 museums and attractions in Bruges as well as the cruises on the canal. You can also get 25% off a variety of concerts, dance and theater, and rental bicycles. If you are going to do many of the things listed on the card, this pass is going to save you money!
- Visit the market – On a Wednesday morning, the Grote Markt Square is taken over by a market which offers cheaper food and drinks than what you’ll usually find. Restaurants are expensive, so loading up on fresh food at the market will cut down your food expenses.
- Couchsurf – Nothing’s cheaper than sleeping for free. Couchsurfing connects you with locals who will give you not only a free place to stay but also a local tour guide who can introduce you to all the great places to see.
Where To Stay in Bruges
There are only a few hostels in Bruges so you don’t have a lot of options. My recommended places to stay in Bruges are:
How to Get Around Bruges
Bus – The local bus is operated by De Lijn. One way tickets cost €1.30 EUR ($1.50 USD) in advance, or €2 EUR ($2.25 USD) when you get on the bus. This covers two zones; it’s €2-3 EUR ($2.25-3.35 USD) for three or more zone.
If you plan on using the bus a few times throughout the day, a day pass costs from €5 EUR ($5.60 USD). A 3-day pass is from €10 EUR ($11.20 USD), and a 5-day pass is from €15 EUR ($18 USD).
Bicycle – Renting a bicycle is a great way to get around town. Hourly rates start at €4 EUR ($4.50 USD), while full-day rentals start from €12 EUR ($13.50 USD). There are a handful of bike rental shops, including:
- Fietspunt Station
- B-Bike Concertgebouw
Taxi – Taxis are expensive. Don’t use them if you can avoid it. If you must use one, expect to pay €12 EUR ($13.50 USD) for anywhere in town.
When to Go to Bruges
Summer (June to the end of August) is the best time to visit Bruges. This is when the weather is nicest and the city is in bloom. The average temperature in August is 63°F (17°C), and it rarely gets much hotter than that.
Spring and fall are the shoulder seasons, with cooler temperatures and fewer visitors. In April and May, temperatures are in the 40s°F and 50s°F (under 10°C).
Most people avoid the winter months, as the temperatures drop to near freezing. But if you want this magical city all to yourself, especially when there are Christmas markets, Bruges is worth the wintry visit!
How to Stay Safe in Bruges
Bruges is very safe to visit. However, since it is a touristy city, Bruges can also be a hotspot for pickpocketing and petty crime. Violent crime is very rare though and not something you need to worry about.
If you’re worried about getting scammed, you can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.
Always trust your gut instinct. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Bruges!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Bruges Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Bruges. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Rail Europe – If you are going to Europe and taking a lot of high speed or long distance trains, get a rail pass. I’ve used a rail pass three times and saved hundreds of dollars each time. The math just works.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Belgium, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- FlixBus – German based Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low €5 EUR ($6 USD)! Their buses include WiFi, electrical outlets, and up to three 3 free bags.
- Bla Bla Car – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way travel than by bus or train!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Bruges Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Bruges Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
A Tall Man in a Low Land: Some Time Among the Belgians, by Harry Pearson
This book’s Amazon description sums it up best: “Most British travel writers head south for a destination that is hot, exotic, dangerous or all three. Harry Pearson chose to head in the opposite direction for a country which is damp, safe and of legendary banality: Belgium.” (But if you’ve read this guide you’d know that Belgium is anything but banal!) Pearson’s time over several months in Belgium has him getting to know the culture – and loving it. From jellied pig cheeks to the peeing statues, Pearson discovers the quirkier side of Belgium.
Belgravia, by Julian Fellowes
It’s June 15, 1815, and the leaders of British society have come together in Brussels for the Duchess of Richmond’s ball. It is marked as one of the most tragic parties in history because the very next day, at the Battle of Waterloo, many of the young men in attendance find themselves on the battlefield. For Sophia Trenchard, the beautiful daughter of a chief supplier, this night will change the entire course of her life. This book is full of mystery – it’s an easy read before your trip!
In Flanders Fields: The 1917 Campaign, by Leon Wolff
Certainly not light reading, but if you’re a historical fiction fan you need to check out In Flanders Fields. This is a narrative story of legendary Passchendaele – the Third Battle of Ypres, which lasted from July to November in 1917. Here, 475,000 troops were killed, wounded, or they went missing. Wolff’s description of the bloody battle is rooted in fact, and his accurate descriptions of strategy and war tactics give plenty of harsh insight into what happened. This book will stick with you.
The Adventures of Tintin, by Hergé
Ok so this isn’t a book exactly, but The Adventures of Tintin is a famous comic about a young reporter and his dog. Chances are you already know about it. The series is quintessentially Belgian, and if you want to impress your new Belgian friends, read up on Tintin. This is the first volume, but if your interest is piqued, you have an unlimited number of graphic novels to choose from.
Camra’s Good Beer Guide Belgium, by Joe Stange & Tim Webb
If you’re coming here for the beer, consider this your brew bible. This is the 8th edition, and it’s the perfect companion for anyone visiting Belgium with a mission to sample plenty of beers. It’s full of information on the country’s breweries, beers, and bars, and the authors hold nothing back when it comes to breaking down the best and worst of your options. There’s also a ton of advice on where to eat, stay, and how to bring the beer home with you.