With its maze of cobbled streets and squares, striking old buildings, and network of scenic canals, the UNESCO-listed Historic Centre of Bruges is undeniably picturesque. A boat trip down the romantic canals of Bruges is at the top of the bucket list for many Belgium visitors, and there’s no better way to experience this beautiful city than from the water.
A Bruges sightseeing excursion isn’t complete without a canal tour. Boat tours typically last about 30 minutes, cruising around the historic center and passing landmarks such as the Groeninge Museum (Groeningemuseum), Old St. John's Hospital, and Basilica of the Holy Blood. Even if you choose not to spend the night in Bruges, the city is small enough to explore on a day or half-day trip from Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent, or even other European destinations such as Paris and Amsterdam.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Boat tours leave from the city’s four main quays, or piers—Tanner’s Square (Huidenvettersplein), Nieuwstraat, Wollestraat, and Quay of the Rosary (Rozenhoedkaai).
- Most boats are open-air, so dress for the season’s weather.
- Many boat cruises offer wheelchair access, but it’s best to check in advance with the tour operator.
How to Get There
Bruges (Brugge) is located in Belgium’s West Flanders province, roughly an hour by train from Brussels, where the closest international airport is located. Many day trips offer coach transportation to Bruges from nearby cities such as Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels.
When to Get There
Most boat tours run from March through November, but winter cruises are sometimes possible depending on the weather. It’s best to book ahead, especially during the busy summer months, when lines can be long.
Photographing the Bruges Waterways
The most memorable photographs of Bruges focus on the city’s canals, and there are plenty of opportunities for budding photographers to capture the waterways on camera. Head down to the waterfront at sunrise or sunset for the most impressive light, or set up a tripod at night to capture glittering reflections on the water. Notable photo spots include the swan-filled waters by the Begijnhof building, the Church of Our Lady gardens, the tree-lined promenade of the Quay of the Rosary, and the Meestraat Bridge.