Ferries and cruises to Zeebrugge (Bruges), Belgium

Bruges, capital of West Flanders in Belgium, with its canals and medieval buildings, is a dream of a destination for history buffs, architecture lovers, and anyone who appreciates the look and feel of a beautiful, friendly, unique place to explore.

The name Bruges itself comes from the Old Dutch for bridge, and it’s easy to see why when you begin to wander along the ancient cobbles streets; bridges abound and give you quick and easy access to all the major attractions, restaurants, hotels, and sights that you need to see whilst visiting.

Bruges is a surprising place. Its age and beauty belie a tourist hotspot that means that in the summer months especially it is full of visitors, but don’t let that put you off – the people simply make the atmosphere that much more exciting.

With wine bars, museums, restaurants for every budget, unique boutique hotels and the most beautiful scenery across the Flanders region, Bruges can suit every kind of traveller, from single adventurers to family explorers.

Bruges has history, and lots of it. In fact, mentions of Bruges can first be found way back in the 9th century, when the Vikings founded it. They obviously knew a good thing when they saw it, and over the next three hundred years or so the tiny town of Bruges grew up into a wealthy, industrial city. Although Bruges’ fortunes did decline (thanks to Antwerp’s dominance in the textile industry), in the sixteenth century things began to look up again thanks to a burgeoning tourist trade that still exists today.

Getting to Bruges

Ferry Routes

Operator Route Services Travel Time Price
Hull Bruges (via Zeebrugge) 1 daily 13¼ hours See prices °

This information is for reference purposes only. Journey times are approximate. Frequency is based on typical schedules. Schedules are subject to availability and weather conditions. Information correct at the time of writing.

Taster Cruise Ship Itineraries

Cruise line Typical itinerary Prices
Southampton Ports such as Zeebrugge See prices °
Southampton; Dover; Portsmouth Ports such as Zeebrugge See prices °
Southampton; Harwich Ports such as Zeebrugge See prices °
Southampton Ports such as Zeebrugge See prices

This information is for reference purposes only. Information correct at the time of writing.

Top 3 Cruise & Ferry Deals

  1. Sail to Belfast with Stena Line from £10pp each way
  2. 2 for 1 Guernsey mini cruise on Condor Ferries from £32
  3. P&O Ferries Amsterdam mini cruise from £40pp

Bruges' top 10 attractions

Bruges is steeped in so much history and boasts museums, great shopping, and much more. Here's my top 10 recommendations when visiting the city:

  1. Visit the historic centre of Bruges, which is lined with beautiful architecture and small shops.
  2. By extension, make sure you visit Burg Square too.
  3. De Halve Maan brewery is a great place to stop by to discover authentic Belgian beer.
  4. Bruges boasts plenty of churches and Basilica of the Holy Blood is a great example to visit.
  5. It's only a small city but nevertheless if you find yourself looking for some tranquillity then pop over to Minnewater Lake.
  6. There's no shortage of museums and historical attractions to visit in the city. Examples include Historium Brugge, Bruges Beer Museum, and the Folklore Museum.
  7. Take a canal boat ride along the peaceful waterways of the city.
  8. Don't miss a horse and carriage ride too which is befitting to a city with so much medieval history.
  9. Track down authentic Belgian frites. A selection of eateries can be found in the city although you could head to the Frietmuseum to learn about their origin before trying the real deal.
  10. Visiting Bruges and not sampling real Belgian chocolate would be unthinkable. You'll find a variety of chocolate shops on offer covering a variety of price points. One of my favourites is The Chocolate Line which offers a mix of safe, traditional flavours with a range of zany and imaginative creations.

Remember to pre-book attraction tickets and tours online to save time.

Sightseeing

Burg Square

There are so many attractions to visit on your first trip to Bruges, but the first one that you must check out is Burg Square.

One of two medieval squares in the city, Burg Square is so full of history it feels as though it is bursting at its rather capacious seams! With the Town Hall, the Bishop’s Palace, and the Holy Blood Basilica for starters, a whole day could be spent here with no trouble and a lot of enjoyment.

There are cafés and restaurants dotted around the square, so take the time to have some ‘me time’ and, whatever the weather, sip a refreshing drink as you marvel at the medieval architecture. Sometimes in the summer months there are free concerts in Burg Square, which can make for a fun – if rather impromptu – festival atmosphere!

Stadhuis

It is possible to explore inside some of the Burg Square buildings, including the Stadhuis (town hall).

Built in 1376, the building still houses the city’s local government, and the interior of the hall is impressive to say the least. It is easy to spend an hour or more enjoying the gorgeous frescoes and Gothic architecture.

And best of all? It’s absolutely free to visit!

Basilica of the Holy Blood

Also found in the Burg Square is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Although not free, it is very cheap (around €2, and for that you get a booklet that tells you the history of the building) to enter, and worth every cent.

Named for the phial of Christ’s blood that is kept inside (it was brought back from the Crusades), it is as fascinating as it is ancient.

Church of Our Lady

Keeping with the theme of religious buildings, the Church of Our Lady is a lovely one. But even for those without any religious leanings (or who are particularly keen on beautiful medieval architecture), this is definitely a place to visit.

Why? Because it’s where Michaelangelo’s world famous Madonna and Child is on display. The ‘Madonna of Bruges’ was finished in around 1504, and is a stunning work of art. It would be a shame to visit Bruges and miss out of seeing this amazing piece of history.

Groeninge Museum

The Groeninge Museum is small but perfectly formed, and features paintings by some of the great Belgian artists. These include Jan van Eyck, Roger van der Weyden, and Hieronymous Bosch.

With just a few rooms at their disposal, the museum curators have done a fine job of making the most of the space, and there is plenty to see.

Visiting the museum is free if you have a Brugge City Card (which is paid for upfront and then allows you entrance to most of the main Bruges attractions), and it is well worth a visit.

Folklore Museum

The Folklore Museum (or Museum voor Volkskunde, if you want the Flemish version) is all about Belgium’s colourful history, focusing mainly on the people who made the country what it is today.

Here you can visit an alms-house, a cobbler, a hatter, and many more depictions of seventeenth century life in and around Bruges.

Chat to the people you find in the museum and you’ll discover a wealth of heritage right under your feet. The best day to go is a Thursday, as that’s the day that the traditional sweets are made in the museum (and the day that you can taste them!)!

Bruges Canal Tour

It would be impossible to visit Bruges without going on a fantastic canal tour. Perhaps not as famous as the Venice or Amsterdam versions, the Bruges canals are absolutely beautiful, and certainly worth hopping on board one of the many boats and vessels that glide serenely around the city.

Get your cameras ready for the best in views and make sure you hop on and off whenever you spot something that sparks your interest on land!

Bruges DIY Film Tour

For those who love a bit of Hollywood excitement, why not walk on your very own In Bruges tour?

Although not an official tour (there is no guide, for example - you decide what to see, where and when), details of all of the film’s main locations can be found in the Bruges’ tourist office, and, with the aid of a map, it is possible to conduct your own walking tour between them all.

It’s lots of fun, and the next time you watch the film you’ll be able to shout, “I’ve been there!” to whoever happens to be with you (always a bonus)!

Bruges Windmills

The Windmills of Bruges are another famous sight, and they are easy to find too, being in the middle of the city. There used to be hundreds, but now only four remain. Thankfully, these four are now protected.

Fascinating and strange by turns, these incredible working windmills are certainly impressive, and, with their attached museums, you’ll be able to learn as much (or more than) you ever thought possible when it comes to windmills and milling!

Sint-Janshospitaal

Sint-Janshospitaal was, as the name suggests, once a hospital (it was, in fact, a hospital for 800 years and cared for locals, travellers, and pilgrims alike, but now it is home to a collection of medical instruments through the ages that will delight and disgust in equal measure.

Not only that, but there are six painting by Hans Memling, a traditional herb garden, and a medieval apothecary to enjoy.

Cycle around Bruges

Many first time tourists to Bruges choose to hire a bike to get around much more easily, quicker, and so as not to miss anything.

There are dozens of bike hire venues across the city, and the prices are competitive. Getting fit as you do your sightseeing has never been easier!

As a bonus, Bruges is a safe city to cycle in, with little traffic and dedicated cycle paths, so even the most wary cyclist should be able to get around with no problems.

Since there are no real public transport links across the city (apart from the canal boats, of course), this could be an ideal way to make sure that you get to see everything you’ve chosen to see on your break.

If you have been to Bruges before and already tried all of the usual tourist attractions, don’t worry – there is still plenty more to see.

Harp Concert

Have you ever been to a harp concert before? Harpist Luc Vanlaere offers free (although a donation is always welcome, and well deserved) 40 minute harp concerts three times a day every Tuesday to Saturday. Luc, who plays all his own compositions, can be found Congresscentre Oud St Jan, and if you miss out on hearing him play, you’ll be missing a strange and unusual treat!

Chocolate Museum

Belgium, of course, is famous for its chocolate, so a visit to the Choco-Story Chocolate Museum is a must. Learn about the history of chocolate, who first discovered it, and how they made it famous.

Find out about what is happening now in the exciting world of chocolate making. Discover where chocolate is heading and what is in store for chocolate lovers the world over. Not only is this a fascinating museum, but the Choco-Story also runs fantastic workshops.

These hour-long workshops will teach you how to make pralines, truffles (or pralines and truffles if you choose the extended one!), or mendiants (a disc of chocolate covered in dried fruit or nuts).

They also run special workshops for children and, if you want to treat your work colleagues, it is possible to enjoy a team-building workshop here too!

A museum dedicated to frites!

Belgium is the home to legendary French fries and so the Frites Museum is unmissable.

This unique and quite frankly bizarre museum details the history of the potato and how the Belgian frites became so famous. Expect lots of potato and chip memorabilia, and some weird and wonderful keepsakes and souvenirs available to purchase.

Your self-guided tour concludes at a restaurant serving frites for a small fee.

Diamond Museum

The Diamond Museum offers a great opportunity to delight in the beauty and uniqueness of girl’s best friend. The diamonds on display here are gorgeous sparkly numbers that are as impressive as they are pricey.

Throughout the year on specific dates there are various exhibitions (all diamond related, of course) that can be booked in advance, and the museum itself is host to a diamond polishing show every day. It may sound bizarre, but it is absolutely mesmerising!

Lamp Museum

The Lamp Museum is another odd sounding yet completely fascinating place to visit in Bruges.

It details the entire history of interior lighting, documenting every major technological advance from the very beginning, and doing it in an interesting and thought provoking way.

There are more than 6,000 different lamps and accessories in this museum, and it will take you a few hours to get round it.

Brewery Tour

If you like your beer, it is well worth a visit to De Halve Maan family run brewery in the centre of Bruges.

De Halve Maan (the half moon) has been a working brewery for many years, but it was in 2005 that it started up production again after a while of inactivity, and now the distinctive Straffe Hendrik and Brugse Zot beers are available once more.

Take a tour around the brewery itself, and enjoy the museum exhibits that the owners have collated. The tour takes around 45 minutes and is guided, so you can ask your expert all the beer related questions you can think of. As a bonus, there is a beer tasting at the end, and it’s part of the admission price!

Hot air balloon rides

Hot air balloon rides are exhilarating, fun, and the perfect way to enjoy all the scenery that Bruges has to offer in one go. From way up high you can see the towers and churches, and canals and squares, and all the Gothic architecture from an entirely new viewpoint.

These romantic and beautiful flights are usually available from 1st April to 31st October (weather permitting) and are an entrancing, captivating, and different way to see the city.

Hotels

In Bruges, there are over 100 hotels to suit every budget, every taste, and every combination of travelling group. And some of them are very surprising indeed.

Budget hotels in Bruges

When it comes to value, there are a number of places to choose from:

The Hotel Fevery is a 3 star hotel with green credentials that includes breakfast, taxes, and WiFi in the cost. There is a lovely lounge to relax in and sample the local beers on offer. This hotel is well positioned in the quiet area of the city, but within walking distance to all the main attractions.

With exceptionally friendly staff and in a great position for sightseers, the Loreto Hotel is the perfect base for a short break of exploration in the city. It’s also within walking distance of the station, which is handy!

Situated in a beautiful 17th century mansion, the Hotel Navarra is right by the famous Markt, the town square. The owners pride themselves of a ‘home from home’ atmosphere, and this intimate, stunning hotel is ideal for couples.

Family-friendly hotels in Bruges

What about families? No problem, they are catered for as well:

The Bonobo Apart Hotel offers either self catering or standard (including breakfast) rooms to choose from, so you can pick the option that suits your family the best. There is free WiFi to keep everyone happy as you are all getting ready to go out, and its quiet location is a bonus, as is the kid safe garden.

The Grand Hotel Casselbergh is a gorgeous hotel offering rooms with beds for up to four people, so the whole family can stay together if they prefer. The rooms are lovingly decorated, and it is a joy to see them. This is a great base for exploring the city, as it is within walking distance of most sights.

The Crowne Plaza Brugge has a great swimming pool for splashing about with the kids, as well as children’s activities laid on by the staff, meaning that you can go for that romantic stroll or evening out without having to worry.

Luxurious hotels in Bruges

And for those who want a little luxury? Try these!

Now a 26 room boutique hotel, the Pand Hotel is an attractive place which was once an eighteenth century carriage house. Known for its charm and unique character, each room is different, and there is nothing ‘chain’ about it! There is a library, various lounges, beautiful fireplaces, and yet the rooms are stylish and modern.

Thought by many to be the best hotel in Bruges, the Hotel Prinsenhof is a little slice of luxury, geared towards ensuring you are comfortable, relaxed, and happy. There are four different types of room to choose from, from the standard to the superior deluxe, and each one offers something different.

For sheer luxury, it doesn’t get much better than the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce. There is even a doorman service, and you can use it to get the best restaurant reservations, tickets to shows and the opera, taxis, and anything else you could want. Right on the canal, this is pure paradise.

Restaurants

Holiday food is some of the best food around, and that’s a fact! And thankfully, Bruges has enough restaurants to suit everyone’s needs, and keep everyone full up between tourist attractions. Beware, though, some can be very pricey, especially the ones near to the main visitor centres, so it is worth walking a little further to find something that is good value for money.

Value for money is important, and food is no different. So if you want to snag a bargain, try some of these places:

For real value, the set lunch menu at ‘T Pallieterke is a must. Comprising of a choice, depending on how much you are willing to spend (the price per person ranges from around €19 up to around €35, although a children’s menu is available at a cheaper price), of two of three delicious meals, it’s a great way to sample Flemish food.

If you have a sweet tooth, Patisserie Academie is the place to bring it (and the rest of you)! With various different desserts, cakes, and pastries, and special orders made for birthdays, anniversaries, or anything else that deserves a treat, why not indulge?

Big portions for a small(ish) amount of money can be enjoyed at Eethuis Aubergine. What’s not to love about that? The food is what they call ‘continental’ and is actually mainly Italian, so if you want to sample traditional Belgian dishes this isn’t the place. If you want good, homemade food, this is perfect!

And for those really special occasions, why not indulge?

With fresh lobster and chilled champagne featuring heavily on the menu, you can expect the best at Park Restaurant, and you’ll get it too. But these aren’t the only delicacies on the menu, and you can treat yourself to meals that include caviar, foie gras, and scallops, as well as a wide selection of perfectly paired wines.

De Stove is a small restaurant (so get there for when it opens, or make a reservation to ensure you get a table), with few staff, but that doesn’t mean that the food is inferior in any way. In fact, it is incredible. Everything is fresh that day, so you know you are eating the best, whether it is seafood, steak, or a beautiful, homemade dessert.

Situated directly opposite the castle, Assiette Blanche not only offers fantastic food, but gorgeous views as well. The interior of Assiette Blanche is spectacular as well, and you’ll feel very spoiled indeed as you sit in the refined restaurant and try to choose between confit veal cheek or monkfish fillet!

Family travel

Although Bruges may not be the first place that springs to mind when you are thinking of booking a family break away, it should definitely be considered.

With the plethora of canal boat rides, hot air balloon trips, and cycle hire options, for those who love to be active it is ideal, and can open up a world of experiences.

But it’s not all about exercise – there are treats too. Chocolate is everywhere (and this includes museums and specialist shops), as are pâtisseries and cafés for relaxing in together.

When to Visit Bruges

Bruges is a beautiful city, and there is no bad time to visit. The summer months, however, do get very busy, so if you are looking to beat (most of) the crowds, try to go between October and March.

There are various important and famous events that happen throughout the year in Bruges, and you might want to fit your trip around making sure you are there to witness them. The Procession of the Holy Blood happens in May, for example. This is one of the oldest religious processions in the world, and attracts many thousands of visitors. Or for the sweet of tooth, there is a chocolate festival in April – how can you resist?

Mondays are not great days to be in Bruges, since many of the cafes, bars, restaurants, and attractions such as the museums are closed. Of course, you can still wander around the city, but there isn’t much to do unless you take a drive elsewhere.

Christmas in Bruges is magical, and there is a wonderful, authentic Christmas market that takes place in the Markt. This runs from late November to early January, and is full of unique stalls, ice skating, warming mulled wine, and of course speciality chocolates!

If Christmas is special the Easter is even more so, with the many churches that are found in Bruges taking part in the celebrations. From processions to concerts, there are events galore at this time of the year.

Getting to Bruges (Zeebrugge)

Ferry Routes

Operator Route Services Travel Time Price
Hull Bruges (via Zeebrugge) 1 daily 13¼ hours See prices °

This information is for reference purposes only. Journey times are approximate. Frequency is based on typical schedules. Schedules are subject to availability and weather conditions. Information correct at the time of writing.

Taster Cruise Ship Itineraries

Cruise line Typical itinerary Prices
Southampton Ports such as Zeebrugge See prices °
Southampton; Dover; Portsmouth Ports such as Zeebrugge See prices °
Southampton; Harwich Ports such as Zeebrugge See prices °
Southampton Ports such as Zeebrugge See prices

This information is for reference purposes only. Information correct at the time of writing.

Top 3 Cruise & Ferry Deals

  1. Sail to Belfast with Stena Line from £10pp each way
  2. 2 for 1 Guernsey mini cruise on Condor Ferries from £32
  3. P&O Ferries Amsterdam mini cruise from £40pp

Top tips when travelling to Bruges (Zeebrugge) by sea

  1. You may struggle to visit everything you want to in such a short space of time on a mini-cruise to Bruges. Consider booking a hotel room when you book your mini-cruise and change a quick getaway into a longer holiday in Bruges.
  2. Bruges is a small, walkable city but you may want to consider taking your car or hiring a car to explore the Flanders area at your own pace rather than relying on public transport or taxi drivers.
  3. If you do stay longer in Bruges then consider taking the train to Brussels for a day of sightseeing there. The two cities are worlds apart although thankfully the train ride is only around an hour.

Handy information

Where you will dock

The port of Zeebrugge is dominated by shipping containers and the main passenger terminal building is quite an old brick built building. It's small but it needn't be much bigger.

The terminal is located deep inside the port and it is a considerable walk (1.5 miles (about 2 kilometres)) to the port perimeter and the massive beach that is nearby. There's a pavement to the perimeter but it does appear to be designated for cyclists. It also involves crossing a busy road so walking out of the port might not be the best idea in the world.

Zeebrugge is the main entry port for Bruges which is around 11 miles (about 18 kilometres) south from the terminal, a short and convenient drive by car or on a transfer bus.

Transfers

P&O Ferries organises s a coach service to and from Bruges city centre which is included in mini cruise bookings. If you take your car overseas then Bruges is only around 25 minutes drive from Zeebrugge. Book here °.

DFDS doesn't offer onward travel from Dunkirk but if you take your car overseas then Bruges is just an hour drive from the port. Book here °.

Nearest airports

The nearest airport to Bruges is Ostend-Bruges International Airport which lies to the west of both Ostend and Bruges, It is around 17 miles (about 27 kilometres) from Bruges and around 2 miles (about 3 kilometres) from the heart of Ostend. From the port of Zeebruge it is around 19 miles (about 31 kilometres).

Nearest railway stations

The railway station in Bruges lies towards the outskirts of the historical centre. Station Brugge lies to the south of the quaint city and connects to Brussels (and beyond) to the east and Ostend to the west. The nearest railway station to the port of Zeebrugge is at Blankenberge which is around 3.5 miles (about 6 kilometres) from the port, adjacent to the long stretch of beach. Trains run from here through Bruges.

Currency

The currency used in Belgium is the Euro (€). 100 cents make up 1 Euro. Euro coins are available in 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents coins. Euro bank notes are available in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 values.

The exchange rate is currently around £1 equals €0.00. The rate you get when exchanging currency online or on the high street may differ to this rate as this figure comes courtesy of the European Central Bank. The foreign exchange rate may differ from this so it pays to shop around to get the most currency for your money

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