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Paris, Colmar, and Bruges are a few of my favorite places in Europe and what better way to experience each of them than by experiencing them all together? On this epic “8 Day Vacay”, you’ll start in the beautiful city of Paris, before traveling the charming towns of Bruges and Colmar.
Please note: this trip can follow the path of Paris to Bruges to Colmar OR Paris to Colmar to Bruges. For which route to take, I’d choose based on the cheapest train tickets and plane tickets as if you end in Colmar you’ll want to fly out of Paris and if you end in Bruges you’ll want to fly out of Brussels. For purposes of this post, we will be following Paris to Bruges to Colmar, return to Paris.
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How to Spend 8 Days Exploring Paris, Bruges, & Colmar
If you’re a nurse reading this, this is part of my “8 Day Vacay” series! A travel series aimed at nurses who are looking to take 8 days off from the hospital (with no need to take PTO) and travel to destinations both near and far. For more information, read A Guide to the “8 Day Vacay” and How to Make the Most Out of Your “8 Day Vacay”
Arriving/Departing & Traveling Around the Region
To begin this 8 day trip through France and Belgium, you will want to fly into Paris (Charles de Gaulle Airport or Orly Airport) and fly out of Paris if you’re ending in Colmar, or fly out of Brussels if you’re ending in Bruges. My favorite search engines for comparing prices are Kayak and Skyscanner.
Once you’re in France and traveling between regions, I prefer to use Omio and Trainline to compare train prices and find the cheapest option.
Day 1 (Wednesday) – Depart for Paris
Because this is a trip created for nurses, I suggest taking full advantage of the fact that only working three days a week gives nurses the chance for 8 days off without taking any PTO. For this reason, I suggest departing for Paris on a Wednesday which will land you in Paris late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
Read this post for taking a taxi from the airport/around Paris, and other modes of transportation in the city
WHERE TO STAY IN PARIS
Paris has so many incredible places to stay within the city, that you really shouldn’t have any trouble booking. To guide you, I suggest finding a hotel in the following neighborhoods: Le Marais, Montmartre, or Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The only area that I would really avoid is staying near the Eiffel Tower as its very touristy and there isn’t much to do around the area.
If you’re looking for a simple and affordable stay, I enjoyed my time staying at Hôtel 9Confidentiel in Le Marais.
If you’d rather stay elsewhere, my favorite platforms to utilize for hotel stays are booking.com and Airbnb.
Don’t miss: The Ultimate Paris Travel Guide
Day 2 (Thursday) – Paris
HIGHLIGHTS: Montmartre + Cabaret
Whether you just arrived to Paris Thursday morning or you got in late Wednesday night, Thursday is going to be a slow and easy day in the beautiful neighborhood of Montmartre. Montmartre is in the 18th arrondissement, in Northern Paris. The neighborhood sits up high on a hill where you can all of see Paris sprawled out before you. Montmartre is well-known for the Sacré-Cœur, a place where artists used to live and create (think Picasso, Van Gogh, etc), and for being the birthplace of cabaret. You could easily spend an entire day here getting to know the neighborhood, exploring the narrow cobblestone streets, and people watching from quaint outdoor cafes.
For a full guide to Montmartre and how to spend your day from morning to evening, make sure to read How to Spend a Day in Montmartre
For dinner, I suggest traditional French food at Aux Bons Crus or L’Auberge Bressane. If you’re looking for a cocktail to accompany your meal, make sure to check out The Best Cocktail Bars in Paris for an expansive list of the coolest places to drink in the city.
And before your night wraps up, I highly suggest purchasing tickets to one of the famous cabaret shows in Paris – Crazy Horse or Moulin Rouge.
Day 3 (Friday) – Paris
HIGHLIGHTS: Le Marais + Musée d’Orsay + Musée Rodin
Exploring Le Marais (one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris), the d’Orsay Museum, and the Rodin Museum will not only give you incredible insight into Paris’s art, culture, and history, but it will also allow you to walk through some of the most beautiful and scenic parts of the city. (By the way, I also highly recommend the Louvre, but the Louvre is an incredibly expansive museum that takes hours to get through. If you want to see it, perhaps skip the other museums listed).
If you’re planning on visiting multiple national museums, you might find it useful to purchase a museum pass. Tickets can be bought at the airport or tourist stands around the city. For a small fee, the museum pass allows you into all of the National museums free of entry).
Start your morning with pastries at one of the many boulangeries around the city. One of my favorites that you’ll find everywhere is Eric Kayser. Then walk to the Rodin Museum where you’ll be able to see beautiful sculptures crafted by Auguste Rodin. The Rodin Museum is in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood; full of outdoor cafes and restaurants. I suggest walking by Cafe de Flore as the whole area that surrounds Cafe de Flore is stunning. (You could grab lunch here, but it’s quite touristy and expensive).
Afterwards, continue on towards the d’Orsay Museum, famous for housing many of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings including Starry Nights. At this point, if you’re needing a break or a sweet treat, there’s a tea and pastry shop called Angelina’s that’s close by on the other side of Jardin des Tuileries. (I’m partial to the hot chocolate).
Once you arrive to Le Marais, grab lunch at Les Marche des Enfants Rouge, the oldest food market in Paris since the 1600s. The covered market has food stalls to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats, flower shops, and also has some pretty incredible restaurants and wine shops. You could spend at least an afternoon here, sitting down at different outdoor restaurants and ordering a couple of dishes from each restaurants menu (which I highly recommend). Before heading here, check opening hours as the hours differ in the summer and winter.
If the market is closed, instead I recommend grabbing a quick lunch at L’As du Fallafel or Chez Alain Miam Miam.
Once you’re done with lunch, stop at Musée Carnavalet, a museum dedicated to the history of Paris. As you walk through the different rooms in the museum you’ll see replicas of famous buildings in Paris and be taken through different rooms that showcase Paris in the earlier years.
For dinner, I recommend Bar du Central if you want something casual and near the Eiffel Tower (Bar du Central is only a 12-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower so make sure to step out and see the Eiffel Tower sparkle before or after dinner! This happens every hour on the hour). Clown Bar, if you want something more innovative. Or Chez Paul for casual French in a lively atmosphere.
Day 4 (Saturday) – Travel to Bruges
HIGHLIGHTS: Brewery Tour + Canal Tour + Belfry Tower
Saturday morning, get up early and catch a train to Bruges! Depending on how many stops you have, the train ride should be around three hours. (Remember, use both Omio and Trainline to compare prices and times!).
Upon arrival to Bruges, check into your hotel before heading out explore this incredible charming town. I highly recommend starting out with exploring the local beer scene, as Belgium is well-known for their beers. You cold take a brewery tour at Half Moon Brewery or if it’s nice out, head out on the patio at 2Be Beer.
Depending on what the weather is like, I also would recommend a canal tour to see Bruges by boat and learn about the history of the city. You can catch a boat pretty much anywhere in town, but I suggest the one near “‘t Klein Venetie” which also happens to be a great photo spot.
Before night falls, head to the top of the Belfry Tower for sweeping views over Bruges. And for dinner, I suggest dining at Rock Fort; by far my favorite restaurant in Bruges.
Day 5 (Sunday) – Bruges
HIGHLIGHTS: Groeninge Museum + Gruuthusemuseum + Damme
For such a small town, Bruges has a surprisingly amazing museum scene! I would wake up early and make sure to check out both the Groeninge Museum – an art museum showcasing works from Belgian and Flemish artists spanning six centuries – and the Gruuthusemuseum – a history museum dedicated to showcasing Bruges’s history.
In the afternoon, jump on a bike and bike your way to the sleep town of Damme. Damme is northeast of Bruges and it takes about 20-minutes to bike there. While there isn’t much to see and do in Damme, the bike ride is beautiful and you’ll get to see the Belgian countryside and see windmills along the way.
For more on Bruges, don’t miss: A Complete Guide to Bruges, Belgium
Day 6 (Monday) – Travel to Colmar
HIGHLIGHTS: Unterlinden Museum + Canal Tour
Get an early start, as traveling from Bruges to Colmar is a bit of a longer journey – around six hours. (Don’t forget, use both Omio and Trainline to see what offers the best prices and times!).
Colmar is located in eastern France in the Alsatian region. This region is well-known for growing wines, particularly rieslings. It’s also well-known for its German influence as this part of France was fought over for years between the French and German. (Fun fact: most people in this region learn German as their second language before learning English).
WHERE TO STAY IN COLMAR
Colmar is small and easy to get around, so anywhere you stay will be a good choice in terms of being able to access the town. I stayed in this Airbnb and would highly recommend it.
If you’re interested in art museums, once you arrive to Colmar, tour the Unterlinden Museum. I also recommend a canal tour so that you can see the beauty of Colmar by boat. For dinner, head somewhere you can try traditional Alsatian cuisine – particularly the flammekueche.
Day 7 (Tuesday) – Colmar + Alsace Region
HIGHLIGHTS: Biking Through the Alsace
Part of the charm of Colmar is that it’s in the most beautiful area in France – nestled in the vineyards with small, quaint towns all around. On your last full day in France, rent a bike and bike around the region. (If you’re making this trip in the winter, instead check out A Guide to Christmas in the Alsace for an alternative way to spend your time).
Before getting going, stop at Marché Couvert Colmar, a covered food stall in Colmar. I particularly liked the pastries from L’endarine. Once you depart Colmar, head to Eguisheim – the town that inspired Beauty and the Beast. For more villages to visit in the Alsace (on bike), make sure to read this post!
For dinner, make reservations at Aux Trois Poissons, a seafood restaurant in Colmar.
Day 8 (Wednesday) – Depart from Paris
Depending on when your flight leaves, you might want to consider taking a late night train from Colmar back to Paris to catch your flight Wednesday morning. But if you’re able to take a later flight, I recommend catching a morning train to maximize your time in the Alsace.
And with that, your time in France and Belgium has come to an end. This trip is fun and easy and the perfect “8 day vacay” to get you away from the bedside for a short amount of time.
If you’re looking for more “8 Day Vacay” ideas, you can find them here!