Visitors from across Europe and beyond flock to Bruges for its incredibly picturesque Old Town, which feels lost in time with its grand plaza, flower markets and twisting canals. Gather in the central Markt square to admire the view or take a walking tour to explore all of this enchanting destination’s hidden nooks and crannies. Sample famous Belgian goodies like chocolate, beer and waffles, or shop for lace and souvenirs. Although the city’s main squares can be packed in the summer, you don’t have to venture far to find a pocket of picture-perfect serenity.
One of the main attractions within Bruges is the city taken as a whole, and visitors are charmed by walking around and admiring the architecture from the outside. Start your foray into Bruges in its Markt or Market Square, a beautiful plaza surrounded by typical gabled houses and the 14th-century Belfry. Climb up the Belfry to enjoy city views, or sit in an open-air café and take in the atmosphere. Highlights in Bruges also include the Church of Our Lady with its Gothic façade and Michelangelo sculpture, and the Fish Market is well worth a look with its picturesque building and stalls.
In most cases, you’ll dock at Zeebrugge. This bustling commercial port has much to offer in its own city limits, including charming museums and a waterfront theme park. Zeebrugge Port is only 20 minutes away, with most cruise lines offering shuttle bus transfer services to either Zeebrugge’s train station or Bruges city centre. Antwerp is a bit further afield but is used by some cruise and ferry lines. If you’re arriving here, it’s nearly a two-hour drive into Bruges, or a one hour and 20-minute train ride. There’s no need to worry about transportation within Bruges – this town is extremely walkable and there are loads of taxis.
Parking options will depend on whether you’re arriving and departing from Zeebrugge or Antwerp. For those using the Zeebrugge port there are multiple car parks positioned close to the Seafront Exhibition Site, and the Zeedijk is located near Zeebrugge’s beach and port area. Those departing from Antwerp will find plentiful parking outlets within the city, though official recommending using a Park and Ride lot on the outskirts in order to benefit from free parking. There are currently nine Park and Ride lots around Antwerp, with public paying car parks available in each district as well.
Once you’re satisfied with your outdoor explorations of the city centre, head indoors to see some of its intriguing specialty museums! View delicate antique lace at the Arentshuis Museum, paintings from Flemish Masters at the Groeninge Museum, or Renaissance tapestries at the Gruuthuse.
Shop until you drop in Bruges’ specialty boutiques. The Steenstraat is the main drag for shoppers, with international high street brands alongside quirky designer shops.
If your feet are feeling a bit tired, you can hop into a motorboat to take a tour of Bruges’ picturesque canals. The city is intersected by a network of these waterways, making this a different way to get your bearings – from the water.
The food and drink in Bruges is generally excellent. Try local favourites like steamed mussels with a choice of garlic or cream sauce, served up with crispy frites. It would be a crime to leave town without sampling the local beer as well! There are several breweries in the area, so try visiting De Gouden Boom’s brewery museum to see how these drinks are made. If you prefer non-alcoholic drinks, head to the Verdi Tea Room to sip delicate teas and dine on exquisite Belgian waffles with chocolate and cream.