09:00 Begin in the heart of medieval Bruges at the Unesco World Heritage Site Grote Markt, which has been the city’s commercial centre for more than 1000 years. Instantly you’ll be hit by the charm of the old-world cobbled streets and centuries-old buildings, as well as the quaint little chocolate shops and cute cafes.
10:00 It’s well worth the slug up 366 steps to the top of the Belfry Tower (Markt 7) to see the breathtaking view of Bruges, as well as the surrounding countryside. On your way up (83 metres, mind you), catch your breath by stopping off to inspect the bell tower’s impressive clockwork mechanism, the treasury, and the 16th-century carillon, a keyboard instrument used to ring the 47 bells.
11:00 A short stroll down Breidelstraat St will lead you to the smaller, but prettier, Burg square. Here you will find the Basilica church and the Chapel of the Holy Blood. While the basilica’s 12th- and 16th-century architecture is certainly impressive, it’s the chapel that most people come to see as it’s said to house a vial containing the actual blood of Jesus Christ.
12:30 A few streets off the main tourist drag, shop for lunch lunch at the Dell’ Arte, a cosy and affordable brasserie with an excellent selection of Belgian specialities including mussels and fish soup.
13:30 Explore the tranquil surrounds of the Begijnhof/ Beguinages (Wijngaardstraat), a walled community that once housed a Catholic order of women. In springtime, this is a definite must as the 13th-century whitewashed cottages are surrounded by a carpet of daffodils, creating a staggeringly beautiful scene and definite photo opp. Continue your stroll through the picturesque Minnewater (Lake of Love) park and visit the Church of Our Lady (Mary Street) to admire the Michelangelo inside, the only known statue of the great artist outside of Italy.
17:00 By now, you’ve well and truly deserved a sit down, so take a seat on one of the canal boat tours (departing from various jetties, south of Burg). Bruges by boat is one of the best and certainly most relaxing ways to view the city’s monuments and historical buildings. And, as the canals go where the roads do not, you’ll gain a perspective of the city you wouldn’t see otherwise. Although there are five tour companies to choose from, the route and price is much the same.
19:00 Beer is taken as seriously as food in Bruges, and while Cambrinus (Philipstockstraat 19) offers scrumptious and hearty dishes, it’s the range of more than 440 Belgian beers that makes this restaurant so popular. Best to book ahead.
21:30 With the night still young, head to bar De Republiek, for beers, cocktails and DJs.
10:00 After a booze-filled night, you’re going to need a good, strong coffee, and Délisa ‘Délices & Saveurs (Jan van Eyckplein 7) offers the best in town. Just a short walk from the Markt, the coffee is cheap and from an actual espresso machine.
10:30 Belgium is famous for its frites, and a visit to the world’s only fries museum, Frietmuseum, promises a fun-fillfed hour or two. Housed in one of the city’s oldest buildings, which dates back to 1399, this three-storey ode to the frite explores everything from the history of the spud to the representation of Belgian fries in art, music and film. Opened in 2008, it’s run by local Eddy Van Bella, who also runs the chocolate and the lamp museums, which holds his 6500-strong lamp collection.
12:00 Take a 45-minute tour of the small family-run Half Moon Brewery, which has been active since 1856 and is the only working brewery left in central Bruges. With low ceilings and steep staircases, make your way to the rooftop terrace, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views and a complimentary beverage from the brewery. The lunch here is superb.
14:00 Next, immerse yourself in the surreal mind of the great Spanish artist Salvador Dali at Museum-Gallery Xpo: Salvador Dalí, Marquis de Púbol. This permanent collection includes outstanding watercolours, drawings, sculptures and famous works of graphic art by the eccentric artist. Dali aficionado Barron Saint Mythelfinger has transformed the medieval hall into a Dalinian showroom in garish gold, mother-of-pearl and pink. Unmissable for art lovers.
17:00 End your trip on a sugar high by sampling the waffles at Laurenzino (Noordzandstraat 1). The only question left is: chocolate or Nutella?