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Is Bruges Really Worth Visiting?

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Last updated Aug 28, 2020 @ 11:08 pm

If you’re headed to Brussels with enough days to enjoy both Belgium’s capital and to make some little trips out of the city, you’re most likely considering visiting Bruges.

Perhaps you got intrigued about the place from the movie ‘In Bruges’ staring Collin Ferrell or perhaps you’re planning to come just because it’s no. 1 tourist spot in Belgium.

Bruges location

Where is Bruges, actually? The city lies in the northwest of Belgium, near the shore. It’s the biggest city in the region, even though its old town is rather small. Bruges forms a part of the Flanders region, thus people speak Dutch there.

What it’s like in Bruges

Bruges is a nice little city nearby Brussels, easily accessible by train. The historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a little Google image search will flood you with photos of a beautiful picturesque town.

The houses lining the canals in Bruges are more than pretty...

The houses lining the canals in Bruges are more than pretty…

Very unique architecture in Bruges that tourists from all over the world come to admire.

Very unique architecture in Bruges that tourists from all over the world come to admire.

The problem is that it’s crowded with tourists. Once you’re fighting your way through the center, avoiding stepping on somebody’s foot and not being seduced by the many souvenir stalls and chocolate shops, you start wondering if that trip has been worth it.

If you decide to sit down for a meal, you’re likely to experience poor service, mediocre food quality and high prices. And the restaurants are flooded anyway. Here, waiters don’t need to try.

I guess that’s the destiny of most places marked by UNESCO. Places of extreme beauty and historic relevance often become Disneyland versions of their former selves.

Is Bruges worth visiting? Don’t get me wrong, you still have to go see the unique medieval town. But don’t rely on it solely and, if you can, visit at the beginning of the workweek.

In case you really fall for Bruges, here are a few tips on the best things to do there.

If you’d rather see Bruges with a local guide, check out this highly-rated tour (the price is per group).

 

River cruises in Bruges, Belgium

It’s quite typical to take a boat ride through Bruges’ canals. After you stand in the line for a while.

Main square in Bruges, Belgium

The main square in Bruges. Beautiful, yet full of tourists and touristy restaurants with poor service.

A cute home in Bruges, Belgium

Somebody’s home in Bruges and one of the most photographed buildings on the way from the rail station.

Well, good you’re reading this, because I have a great tip for you:

 

Make a day trip out of Brussels, go to Bruges for a few hours and then head to Gent on your way back!

Doing the Brussels – Bruges – Ghent trip right

Getting a good big breakfast in Brussels before going will help you enjoy Bruges’ historical center without having to experience its pricy restaurants with poor service. Save the appetite for Ghent, you won’t regret!

Plus, Ghent is right in between Brussels and Bruges. You don’t even have to make any detours, just get off the train in the middle of your journey.

Both Bruges and Ghent can thus be managed on a day trip from Brussels. However, you won’t regret it if you stay a night or two in Ghent.

Why Ghent?

What is that about Ghent?

The architecture in Ghent is no less amazing than in Bruges

The architecture in Ghent is no less amazing than in Bruges. Don’t you think?

What Ghent looks like

Gent looks slightly more modern, but it definitely deserves more attention than tourists currently give it. Its architecture is amazing and you can stroll around for hours admiring all the buildings and churches.

It’s easy to enjoy high quality coffee at one of Gent’s plentiful cafés and wait for the sky to become dark and give yet another dimension to the architectural wonders.

Ghent, too, has lovely canals and historical buildings. In my opinion, they are just as beautiful as in Bruges, but there’s many more of them.

Castle of the counts in Ghent and the spot where students protested against rising beer prices from :)

Castle of the counts in Ghent and the spot where students protested against rising beer prices from :)

Cluster of historical houses in Ghent, Belgium

Cluster of historical houses in Ghent. These were my favorite! The middle one resembles the Airbnb apartment we stayed at.

Ghent, too, has beautiful canals lined by historical buildings.

Ghent, too, has beautiful canals lined by historical buildings.

Fun and quirky side of Ghent

Ghent is unique in so many ways! Now, after coming back from my second visit to Ghent (and Bruges), I noticed the following fun aspects of the city:

  • Every Sunday, locals gather at a flower market, eat oysters, drink champagne and chat with friends.
  • The beer is relatively cheap thanks to students who protested against rising prices of beer in 1949
  • Ghent is full of street art and they even have a Graffiti Alley!
One of the main churches in Ghent forming a beautiful silhouette of the city.

One of the main churches in Ghent forming a beautiful silhouette of the city.

In Ghent, you’ll not only experience history and architectural beauty, you have a chance to meet locals, and even hang out with them. There’s still true essence to Ghent, and the city lives its own life, not just one fully dependent on tourism. All this makes Ghent more than worth visiting.

I can’t help but post a whole paragraph of how Lonely Planet describes Gent. If I haven’t convinced you till now, you’ll be sold the idea by reading below:

‘Ghent is one of Europe’s greatest discoveries – small enough to feel cosy but big enough to stay vibrant. It has enough medieval frivolity to create a spectacle but retains a gritty industrial edge that keeps things ‘real’. Tourists remain surprisingly thin on the ground, yet with its fabulous canalside architecture, wealth of quirky bars and some of Belgium’s most fascinating museums, this is a city you really won’t want to miss.’

Convinced?

To browse through places to stay in Ghent and top rated things to do, check Ghent overview by TripAdvisor.

In Ghent too you can take a good guided tour with a local.

Practicalities of visiting Bruges and Ghent

Weather

Remember, the weather in Belgium is unpredictable. Carry with you an umbrella or a simple raincoat (and thank me later).

Transport

There are frequent trains between Brussels, Ghent and Bruges. You can buy tickets online or just at either train station.
Travel time between the cities: Brussels – Ghent: ~ 30 minutes | Ghent – Bruges> ~ 30 minutes | Brussels – Bruges: ~ 1 hour
You can easily walk to Bruges historical centre from the train station, just follow the crowd. It’ll take about 10-15 minutes. In Ghent, you need to take a tram. Buy a ticket from a newsstand.

Accommodation

Consider staying in an Airbnb apartment. That way you’ll feel like a real local!

Alternatively, browse the accommodation options in both cities here:



Booking.com



Booking.com

 

 

Have you been to Bruges and/or Ghent? What was it like? Do you agree with me Ghent is worth visiting, perhaps even more than Bruges?

Pin this post for later:

Is Bruges really worth visiting? Find out the best way to enjoy Bruges and perhaps one more place to relax from all the tourist crowds.   Discover whether you should visit touristy Bruges in Belgium and if so, how to do it right. Bruges is an incredibly beautiful medieval town, but the crowds of tourists can easily destroy your experience.   Is touristy Bruges even worth visiting? It definitely is, but you need to do it right. See how to make a visit to the beautiful Unesco heritage site and make the most of your trip. Combining Brugge with Gent will give you a much better experience.

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Bruges Walking Tour - DIY For Free! | Bel Around The World

Thursday 11th of June 2020

[…] When in Bruges, take the river ride if you can! It was a pity I couldn’t because it was pouring the entire day I was there. You’ll be able to see parts of Bruges that are hidden from the pedestrians on the streets. […]

The best day trips from Brussels to discover Belgium and beyond - Next Stop Belgium

Wednesday 3rd of June 2020

[…] Ghent is a great alternative to the touristy Bruges. It has all the amazing things people usually seek out in Bruges, such as lovely canals with boats and stunning architecture. In Ghent, though, everything is on a larger scale. […]

Jack Richard

Friday 1st of November 2019

Bruges is like being on a fairytale. Then again, it is more touristy than Ghent so I advise that you don't visit during the high season and on the ends of the week. That way, you will maintain a strategic distance from the groups and have an all the more genuine feel of this astounding city. ... Ghent has a beautifully recorded focus, a ch√Ęteau historical center, a castle, and many canals.

Michaela @1001VoyagesGourmands

Monday 23rd of July 2018

I love Ghent! :) When first visited, I did not understand why everybody talked about Brugges and just a few fellows about Ghent. Love to go there for the Ghent Summer Festival and local markets especially. But Brugges has its charm for me too, although always crowded...

Veronika

Saturday 11th of August 2018

Yes! I feel the same way about Ghent! I actually discovered it by accident on a way back from Brugges and was like - whoa! I gotta come back and explore it more! :) Good to know about the summer festival, I'll check it out.

Brianna

Thursday 12th of October 2017

I loved Ghent way more than Bruges! Bruges had WAY too many people and touristy shops. Plus Ghent has more free public restrooms ;)

Veronika

Wednesday 18th of October 2017

Hehe, I didn't realize that about the restrooms. Another plus point for Ghent!