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Day trip to Bruges from Brussels

What is the best mode of transportation to take a day trip to Bruges from Brussels? Join a bus tour? Rent a car? Just take the train? Etc?

I'll be traveling solo in Belgium in March and would like to take a day trip to Bruges and am trying to determine the easiest method to get to Bruges and to get around the town for the day to sight see. I'll be arriving in Brussels by train from Amsterdam and staying near the city center for 3 days. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

Posted by
4694 posts

Belgian local trains are inexpensive, reservation-free, and frequent. It's a little over an hour to Bruges, by way of Gent - also worth a visit another day. You'll buy a local bus card outside the Bruges rail station because it's about a mile to the main square. All trains from Brussels stop at all three Brussels stations for the same fare. I personally like Antwerp better than Brussels, but there's enough to see with three days in Brussels.

Posted by
37 posts

Do you think 3 days is too many to spend in Brussels? I'm trying to figure out if it is worth spending a day in Bruges, a day in Antwerp, and then a day in Brussels instead of 3 days in Brussels. I know it will probably depend on what I want to see, but just thought I'd ask your opinion. I already have accommodations booked for 3 nights in Brussels though.

Posted by
91 posts

Krafty08,
We visited Belgium earlier this year. Depending on your interests, a day in each city could easily be filled with various sights and museums. My order of preference would be Bruges, Antwerp, Gent and then Brussels. With only 3 days, you will have to pick and choose. Use the trains. Efficient and not expensive. The towns are walk able

Posted by
14003 posts

Taking the train on your own is easy. In Ghent (great place to base, cheaper, less touristy, lovely at night), there's a tram to the old center, in Bruges, a bus.

Posted by
11658 posts

Taking the train to Bruges is very easy, and it was such a nice town to walk that we didn't feel the need to use the bus to get around. Same with Gent and Antwerp. I don't know as I'd make a move every day but we stayed in Bruges for 4 nights, took a day trip to Gent, and found plenty to do so yes, I'd recommend an overnight in that one. Personal preference, maybe, but we much preferred it (and both of the other two) to Brussels.

Posted by
4694 posts

I would never change hotels three times in three days. As others noted, the trains are very easy to use. Rather, concentrate on finding a room that has easy accesss (walking or public transit) to the train station, instead of just the cheapest. That way you are flexible.

Posted by
37 posts

Thanks everyone.

I'll plan to stay in Brussels all three nights since I already have accommodations booked, and I will plan to do a day trip to Bruges, and as suggested I will use my third day to either visit Antwerp or Ghent or stay in Brussels. I was a little worried about trying to cram in too much on my 12 day trip where I am already hitting 4 major cities (Amsterdam > Brussels > Prague > Budapest), but I have also heard from plenty of people that Brussels isn't their favorite and 3 full days there would be too much.

Would anyone like to share their favorite thing they did/saw while in Brussels/Bruges/Antwerp/Ghent? I'd love to hear your favorite experiences!

Posted by
1005 posts

For Brussels it really depends on your tastes, since there is a wide range of attractions. Having a coffee on the Grand Place is number one. I'd also be sure to visit the Margitte Museum. If you are a foodie, there are great restaurants and since you are a solo traveler, you might sign up for a food tour. If you like music, the Musical Instruments Museum is a top spot--plus it has stunning Art Nouveau architecture. The best part of Brussels right now is that it's not very crowded (last year's terror attacks scared some tourists), so you'll be able to enjoy the city without the hordes you'll find in Bruges (and get a good table at a restaurant!).

Posted by
37 posts

Thanks, T.

I am both an architect and a foodie so those are the main things I like to seek on my travels.

Posted by
253 posts

Renting a bike in Bruges is also a good way to go for a day. We got one for like 10 euros near the train station and was easy to get around the old city with bike paths and few cars on the streets.

Posted by
308 posts

I have heard that you either love or hate Brussels so you might want to be flexible with some of your plans for day trips.

At the least, I would prioritize time for a day trip by train to Bruges if I were you. My favorite experience from Bruges was eating "Flemish fries" from a street vendor in the market square. I picked a dipping sauce that was a mix of mayonnaise, ketchup, and whisky. It was tasty and (most importantly) memorable.

Posted by
11658 posts

The nice thing about staying in Bruges is that, like many other tourist magnets, it was great in the early mornings and in the evenings when the day-trippers were gone or yet to arrive. I got up early, grabbed the camera, and wandered streets that were virtually deserted: a great time for architectural shots. The canals were mirror-like without the tour boats stirring them up, and the buildings in the Markt and Burg are more dramatic when lit up at night.

We also found that most of those day trippers didn't wander very far away from the Markt, Burg and some of the bigger attractions, like Church of Our Lady. There were parts of the old center where we encountered very few tourists at all during peak tourist hours.

I'm a big art fan so I'll leave most of those venues out but I'd hit Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk), Jeruzalemkerk (that one is really interesting) and Basilica of the Holy Blood for church architecture. I'd also do Beguinage Ten Wijngaarde and Sint-Janshospitaal for their histories and architecture. There are some very important works of art in the latter that are well worth paying attention to even if art isn't your thing.

If you can fit them in, take a look around Sint-Salvatorskathedraal and Our Lady of the Pottery (Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Ter-Potterie). You might also want to take in what's left of some of the Medieval city gates (Gentport, Kruispoort, Ezelpoort, Smedenpoort) and windmills along Kruisvest, close to Kruispoort.

But we never got tired of just walking and looking!

Posted by
14003 posts

I like just walking in Ghent, especially after dark when the Gothic buildings and bridges are illuminated.

In Bruges, I took a private photography tour. I was the only one who booked that day, so I had a private tour. The guide was instructive, informative and totally engaging. If you're interested, PM me and I'll look up the info. This was about 5 years ago.

Posted by
4694 posts

krafty, if you are interested in architecture you should consider the Cogels Osy Lei in Antwerp, with 100 or more turn of the century townhouses (exterior only, privately owned). Antwerp also has plenty of Art Nouveau.

Edit: Some of the high points asked for elsewhere:

Brussels: Place du Petit Sablon garden and sculptures, David's "The Death of Marat" in the Ancient Art Museum, painted in exile in what is now Belgium. The "Bozar" is a better museum than the name suggests, and good if you're tired of paintings.
Antwerp: Meyer van den Burgh Museum, Middelheim Sculpture Garden (good weather only), Photo Museum, Butcher's Guild Museum, Fashion Museum, MAS, exterior of synagogue, Rudolf Steiner school architecture, exterior of "The Boat House". (Last three near the main art museum KMSKA closed for years of renovation).
Gent: Mystic Lamb polyptych, under renovation but mostly on show, seven days a week
Bruges: The most famous Beguinage, but I prefer those in Leuven and Turnhout; Madonna of Bruges; Walking around town.

Posted by
11158 posts

For me, the only thing I really enjoyed in Brussels was the Art Nouveau tour with ARAU. The tour connects far flung sights and gets into some buildings not normally open to the public. See what's on for your travel dates: http://www.arau.org/en

As you see, reactions the the "Belgian big four" (Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp, and Ghent) are all over the place, and you won't know until you've seen them how you will feel. Personally, I loved Antwerp (including Cogels-Osylei), liked Bruges a lot (I agree you can wander a bit and lose the worst of the crowds), was slow to warm to Ghent but ended up liking it enough, and found Brussels a snooze (except for my ARAU tour). However, since trains between all these places are frequent, cheap, fast, and don't have advance purchase discounts, you can decide on the fly how you want to spend each day, and if you're in a place you find uninspiring, you can "escape" easily to one of the others for the rest of the day.

Posted by
37 posts

Can anyone estimate how much a round trip train ticket from Brussels to Bruges will be?

Posted by
351 posts

In September we bought day-of tickets Brussels to Bruges for around $30 round trip, per person