The largest city in the Belgian province of West Flanders. Bruges is a small city home to over 100,000 people.
The first fortifications were built here under the rule of Julius Caesar and in 1098 it became the capital of the Flanders region. It developed into a mercantile centre during the medieval period due its position in the Hanseatic League and it’s stock exchange is said to be the first in the world.
Nowadays, Bruges is one of the most visited tourist hotspots in Europe, with 2 million tourists visiting the city annually. The nearby port of Zeebrugge handles over 50 million tonnes of freight annually but tourism is the mainstay. In 2008, it was featured in the cult black comedy In Bruges, attracting a brand new generation of visitors.
For gay rights in Belgium, please check our Gay Brussels City Guide page.
Compared to Brussels and Antwerp, there isn’t a gay scene here as such. There is one gay cruise club catering for gay customers and not much else. Many gay tourists do, however, visit Bruges and frequent the local bars. Belgium’s very liberal attitudes ensure that most, if not all, venues are welcoming to gay tourists.
Ostend-Bruges International Airport (OST) is about 25 km from the centre of Bruges. It is mainly used as a destination for seasonal and charter flights, so it will probably not be your main route into Bruges. Brussels Airport (BRU) offers the widest range of international connections.
From Brussels Airport train station journeys take around 90 minutes, including a transfer at Brussels-South station. Single journeys start from around €20. Taxis cost in the region of €200 so are only really worth considering for those with serious cash to burn.
There are also direct shuttle bus services from Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL) provided by Flibco. Journey times can take around 2 hours but prices start from just €5.
Bruges main railway station is one of the busiest in Belgium (expect to stand at rush hour). It is well connected to destinations within Belgium but also offers connections to Paris and Lille. It is easy to transfer to the greater European rail network from here.
From the UK there is an overnight ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge operated by P&O which takes around 12 hours. You can book single journeys this way but they also offer minicruises which give you a few hours in the city before you have to return.
Bruges historic city centre is very compact so it is easy to get around on foot. Walking is one of the best ways to take in the historic sites and beautiful medieval architecture.
Like many of the cities in flat, northern Europe, cycling is a popular means for locals to get around. Over 60% of the traffic into Bruges is by bicycle and as such cycle routes are easily navigable (even for tourists). Bike rental companies are available and there are companies that offer cycle tours.
By public transport
You will only need to take a bus if you’re staying a bit out of the centre (or weighed down by shopping). All buses are operated by De Lijn, the Flemish transport operator. Singles cost €3 and offer unlimited travel for up to an hour. Most buses are pretty regular however on Sundays and Saturdays some may change route.
Taxis in Bruges are readily available but they are quite expensive when you consider the actual journey time and distance (after 10pm the rates climb even further). There are taxi ranks at major locations but for ease it is best to order in advance.
For a list of some of the best hotels in Bruges, please visit our Gay Bruges Hotels page.
Grote Markt – the beating heart of Bruges and the main draw for tourists. Here you will find many restaurants and cafes and many souvenir stores.
Groeninge Museum – a fantastic gallery, with a focus on artists with a connection to Bruges. There is something here to interest art enthusiasts of all tastes.
Van Oost – one of the most famous chocolate shops in Bruges (and the prices relfect this). Here you can get almost anything moulded in chocolate.
Basilica of the Holy Blood – a stunning gothic church on the Burg Square. It’s main draw is a vial of blood that allegedly belongs to Christ.
Brewery De Halve Maan – a fantastic opportunity to see how one of Belgium’s main cultural products is made. At the end you are rewarded for your patience with a sample of the good stuff.
The Friet Museum – the only museum dedicated to the humble fry (or if your British, chip). Here you will find out about the history of the potato as it made its way across the Atlantic and onto nearly every dinner table in the world.
Concertgebouw Brugge – concert hall with an international program of events. The main season runs from September to June.
Damme – located just 6km from Bruges, this charming village is well worth a day trip. A bus takes only 15 minutes but for a truly romantic journey, take the picturesque riverboat, taking up to an hour.
Summer has the most pleasant weather, although temperatures generally don’t rise much further than 70 degrees faranheit. Summer is, unfortunately, swarmed with tourists so if you’re prepared to risk rain and a chilly spell, spring or the beginning of fall might be best. Winters are cold but the snow adds a touch of romance.
There are a variety of festivals held in Bruges throughout the year. The religious inspired Procession of the Holy Blood and Assumption Day take parade take place in May and August respectively. Music lovers are drawn to August’s medieval Musica Antiqua Fetival and July’s alternative Cactus Festival.
Belgium is within the European Schengen visa area. If travelling from outside Europe, check to see if you require a Schengen visa.
Belgium is a member of the Eurozone. Cash dispensers are widely available. You may be asked for photo ID if paying with a credit or debit card in a shop.
The official language of Bruges is Flemish, which is almost identical to Dutch. French is also widely spoken here but you will be understood in most places if you speak English.
There is a city tax of €2 applicable on all overnight bookings.
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