Friday 13 October 2023

A canal tour in Bruges

On our recent cruise over the summer holidays our ship stopped in Zeebrugge. There isn't much to do in the port itself so you have a couple of options - a day trip to Brussels or a day trip to Bruges. We chose Bruges because it is much closer and we remembered a lovely day trip a few years ago. There are several different options to travel from the port to Bruges. After a lot of research we decided to splash out on a taxi as it was the easiest and quickest option, but there are also shuttle buses and trains available.

We really wanted to do a canal boat tour as I remembered doing one before and really enjoying it. It's a really good way to see the city, and if you do it first thing then you have time to go back and have a closer look at anything interesting that you might have spotted from the boat. 

Bruges canal boat tour and landing stage

The boat tours are run by five different shipping companies, each departing from a different landing stage. You can find details of the companies and landing stages here - Bruges by boat. It's a fixed price of 12 Euros per adult and 7 Euros per child (aged 4-11, children under 4 are free). You buy the tickets on the spot and you can't book in advance, so although the lines do move quickly it's worth arriving early to avoid a long wait. The boats run from early March until mid November, and may also run at other times of the year.

There are also some private tours available which can be booked in advance and are often combined with  a guided walking tour. These are much more expensive but may be worth it if you want to know that you have a guaranteed spot.

Bruges view from canal boat tour

All the tour boats follow the same course around the canals which takes about 30 minutes, and the number of boats is limited which means that it doesn't feel too busy on the water. You can find full details of the course here - Bruges canal boat tour details.

You can see lots of interesting things from the tour. I was fascinated by what looked like a flea market packed with people in a beautiful setting among the trees.

Flea market on canal banks in Bruges

There is also an exciting moment when you go underneath a very low bridge. I am so short that I didn't actually need to duck as we went below it, but many people did!

Bruges canal boat tour going under a very low bridge

The tour was fully guided with plenty of explanation from the captain in several different languages. It was a really interesting and enjoyable tour.

A few days before our visit to Bruges we spent the day in Amsterdam where we also took a canal boat tour. That experience was very different! It was difficult to choose a tour in Amsterdam as the boats all take different routes and are priced differently, and boarding was a bit chaotic. The canals felt very crowded, several times we had to wait for another boat to move out of the way and at one point we nearly collided with another boat that was going far too fast. The canal boat tour in Bruges was much more relaxed and peaceful!

After the tour we headed back to the Market Square for the obligatory Belgian waffle before going for a walk around the city. Bruges is a small town and very walkable so even if you are just there for a few hours you can still have a really good look around. You only need a few hours to get a good feel for the city, and I'd definitely recommend a visit if you are in the area.

Belgian waffle in Bruges Market Square

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