When I planned my three days in Belgium, I knew I needed a day in Bruges. Nicknamed the “Venice of the North,” it’s a very small city (only 117,260 people — a little over double the size of my hometown!) but an absolutely beautiful one. My mom and brother went here for spring break my freshman year of college (our breaks didn’t line up so I couldn’t come with) and ever since seeing their photos, I’ve been dying to make the trip myself. And even after nearly seven years of anticipation, Bruges lived up to the hype.
It’s about an hour on the train from Brussels to Bruges, and I booked mine on Rail Europe (though it was a Thalys train) about two months in advance. However, I later learned this was seriously unnecessary — you can just buy them from a kiosk at the station! The tickets can also be used for any train, and there’s tons that run along this route so if you miss one, there will be another in about 15 to 20 minutes. On the way there, I walked to the train station (Gare Nord) from my hotel near the Grand Place, which was about a 25 minute walk. But on the way back, I stayed on the train and went to the Gare Centrale, which was right near the Grand Place.
Once you get into Bruges, it’s a quick walk from the station to to the city center. And a gorgeous walk, at that. Sadly, I was there on a pretty gloomy day, but it was still so picturesque. I can’t imagine what it would look like on a day when the sun is out.
Honestly the biggest appeal of Bruges is just how charming the city is. I spent most of my time there walking the streets and snapping photos. But since it’s a city filled with canals, the best way to Bruges is by boat! There’s plenty of boat tour companies located around the city, I just hopped in one that I saw on the street. It cost about 15 euros, and lasted about 30 minutes. It’s well worth it for the views that can only be captured by water.
Another great way to see the city? From the top of the Belfry tower, which sadly, I didn’t do. By the time I made my way over there there wasn’t much time left in the day and honestly, my feet were tired from all the walking and it was quite the climb up there, so I was okay with skipping it.
The real highlight of Bruges? THE FRENCH FRY MUSEUM. Yes, this is a thing. It’s called the Frietmuseum, and it’s all about the history of French fries — which, fun fact, are actually a Belgian thing. American soldiers in World War I were fighting in Belgium and ate fries, thinking they were French because French-speaking Belgians served them. The name stuck! But I kind of feel for the poor Belgians, not getting the credit they deserve for creating of the greatest foods of all time.
The museum was honestly well done and interesting, so different from your typical museum stop! And of course, they serve fries in the basement. I knew I was going to Fritland back in Brussels that night (and I ate them for lunch that day too…) so I skipped, but my mom said they were amazing! The museum is located just off the city’s main square, called the Markt.
I ended my day walking to the outskirts of the city where I caught a glimpse of the windmill before grabbing a waffle to go. Though it may not be packed with sights to see like Paris or London, Bruges is truly so lovely — and the perfect place to spend a day wandering around (and eating fries!)