Bruges has a hassle-free vibe, wrapping locals with a warm blanket of comfy taverns, bakeries and romantic wanders.
Weekends pass slowly and satisfying as people embrace the feeling of this 14th century sleepy Flemish town. Plus, there’s no lack of affordable hotels and hostels in town starting at $47.
But where do you begin to figure out how to spend your time here with a range of good neighborhoods? Have no fear, because we’ve assembled a perfect Cheapo weekend in Bruges.
Grab breakfast at a supermarket like Delhaize (they’re stocked with fresh baked goods) and enjoy the view of the Markt before the tourists arrive. On Wednesdays there’s an open market here well-equipped with locally made jams and a dozen chocolate praline stands. Unless it’s already high on your list, you should probably refrain from the €50 horse carriage ride—Bruges is extremely walkable and best absorbed by foot.
Exploring the scenic canals of Bruges is a fun and free activity. Photo: Audrey Sykes
For some great sightseeing in town (and on the cheap), you could start at the center Burg Square. Skip the €8 walk up the Belfry clocktower—you’ll get a city view later. With a casual stroll south, through alleyways and cottages, you’ll wind up under the Gentpoort gate. Hang in the sun by the canalways at Minnewater Park. Nearby is the Bruges photo-op Begijnhof, a peaceful garden with romance written all over it.
Window shopping might sound like an obvious to do when on a low budget, but Bruges is great for it. Small lace boutiques, Belgian waffles and chocolates are on window display like glamorous stiletto heels. Tiny handmade toys, a glistening array of Belgian beer glasses and even private houses show off quirky collections on their street facing windows.
Related: Cheap Bruges hotels in Markt and Burg
If you like Dali, don’t miss this unique museum in Bruges. Photo: emanchado
Hitting the town on a rainy day? Try a visit to the Dali museum for €10, and upgrade the experience for a few extra euros—€13 gets you a glass of Cava and a Belgian chocolate. The Basilica of the Holy Blood is an ornate chapel said to house a vile of Jesus Christ’s blood, while The Church of Our Lady houses the Madonna and Child statue by Michaelangelo. Both churches are free, although viewing times of Chirst’s “blood” is an extra €2.50 donation.
Despite the hundreds of beers bottled around Bruges, there’s only one working brewery in the city. De Halve Maan (meaning The Half Moon) is family-run brewery known for their smooth Bruges Zot blond and brown beers. Their 45-minute tours happen every hour, both informative and entertaining, with a chance for a great city view, and ending with a beer to enjoy in their authentic Belgian beer cellar café. Even better, they cost only €7.50 and run all day from 11 AM to 5 PM.
Café Vlissinghe is the oldest tavern in Bruges dating back to 1515. Photo: Audrey Sykes
Cheap eats out are best found at restaurants that don’t have menus in a rainbow of languages. You can always stick to frites and waffles, but it’s not difficult to find local fare. Ribs ‘n Beer have all-you-can-eat specials for €18 on Monday (daily for groups of six or more), or a more healthy bistro Hashtag Food (€13) and fast Pasta Delizia (€6).
Turn your walkabout day into a café beer hopping adventure. Some great and authentic favorites include Le Trappiste, De Garre and T’ Brugsch Bieratelier. Many Bruges cafes hold over 300 assortments of beer. If the weather is warm check out the beer garden at Bruges oldest pub Café Vlissinghe (circa 1515!). More lively late night pubs are brought by backpacker bars like Charlie Rockets and Lybeer Traveler’s Hostel.
If you didn’t splurge on dinner, then you should have some money left over for a tasty start to your next morning. A good patisserie or bakery in Bruges is a cheap alternative for eating a pricey breakfast. Some favorites are the Gingerbread Tea Room (€10), Patisserie Academie (€4), Books & Brunch (€12) or La Baguette (€4).
If bicycling in Amsterdam was too intimidating to try, Bruges is the best place for a round two attempt. Pick up a bike for a day at Bruges Bike Rental (€10) or Bicycles Popelier (€12) and head out of town.
Get out of town for a quick jaunt to Damme by bike. Photo: Audrey Sykes
There are bicycle signs around Bruges, and many of them point to Damme. From downtown follow the Potterierei along the canal. Once you exit town you’ll be on DamseVaart-Zuid. It’s a an easy two-mile bike ride along the river to Damme, a tiny port town from the 1400s. The bike ride offers a sweet sample of the Flemish countryside, while Damme is the perfect place to picnic for the afternoon.
A slightly more challenging bike ride north of Damme will reward visitors with the Belgian beaches of the North Sea. Towns like Blankenberge and Knokke-Heist are modest seaside towns with small sailboat harbors and windsurfers. Blankenberge gets extra points for a nice pier and a marine life park.