Bruges, Belgium

Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium

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This was our fifth stop on our 2017 European Adventure (click here to view that trip overview page).

You may have wondered "why did they visit Bruges?" Consider; It is the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium, it is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Its port, Zeebrugge, is an important center for fishing and European trade. In the city center's Burg square, the 14th-century Stadhuis (City Hall) has an ornate carved ceiling. Nearby, Markt square features a 13th-century belfry with a 47-bell carillon and 83m tower with panoramic views.

Bruge has the appearance of a medieval city with a canal circling the city of 117,260 inhabitants. This is a very walk-able city, not many cars, mostly bicycles and every third shop seemed to be a chocolate shop! Let me say that just about everything you have ever heard about Belgian Chocolate is true!

How to get to Bruges?
There are a number of options, we arrived via train from Amsterdam. You could utilize air, bus, train or your own vehicle depending upon your scenario. The closest airport is in Brussels nearly 70 miles from Bruges, so you would still need to consider a method to complete your journey. There are daily bus schedules between Bruges and Brussels, two hours are required for that form of transportation. Train service from Brussels requires approximately one hour, see the Belgian National Railway site for more information.

Some Interesting Facts about Bruges
  • Bruges is famous for it's lace making.
  • There are more castles per square inch in & around Bruges than any other country in the world.
  • Belgians invented fries, not Americans.
  • There are more than 80 bridges in Bruges.
  • Virtually everything in Bruges is closed on Sunday.
  • De Halve Maan is a brewery that makes Brugse Zot – a beer made only in Bruges.
Bruges Coat of ArmsImage is the property of Heraldry of the World
Where is Bruges Belgium Located?
Travel Tile

Bruges is 260 kilometers south of Amsterdam, 100 kilometers northwest of Brussels, 300 kilometers north of Paris and 15 kilometers east of the English Channel. The closest airport is the Ostend–Bruges International Airport and the main train station is the Bruges railway station.

Bruges Train Station
Above image is the property of MichielDMN via Wikimedia Commons using the Creative Commons CC BY 3.0 license

We arrived via train from Amsterdam, and since the Bruges Train Station is approximately 3 kilometers from our hotel in Bruges and certain areas are pedestrian only, we took a taxi to the Martin's Brugge Hotel. The above train type is typical of what you will find in Belgium for Intercity (IC) travel. IC trains are the most common train service in Belgium and travel short distances between the major cities in Belgium, as well as some services to neighbouring countries such as Germany, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. We rode the Thalys TGV from Amsterdam and then switched to an IC train in Bruxelles-Midi.

Exploring Bruges Belgium - Martin's Brugge Hotel
Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium

We had previously selected the Martin's Brugge Hotel, as we could see that it's location was very close to the central square in town, and it looked like a nice place to stay.

This turned out to be a good location to be at, less than one block from the Markt Square and surrounded by shops and interesting restaurants. Go one block in one direction and you are on the square, go one block in the other direction, and you are at the canal.

Brasserie Strijdershuis
Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium

The Brasserie Strijdershuis restaurant was directly across the street from our hotel, and every time we walked by there, the great food smells were calling our name! We finally decided to have dinner there, and enjoyed it immensely, as we had mussels, french fries and an excellent local beer! Do not let the alley-way appearance fool you, that is just the outside seating area of the restaurant, the inside area was very nice.

The walkway in front of the restaurant where this picture was taken, leads past the Belfort Brugge out to the Markt Square.

NOTE: It appears that this restaurant is no longer in business as of May 5, 2023.

The Bottle Shop
Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium

Also directly across the street (and around the corner) from our hotel was this amazing beer shop named "The Bottle Shop". Now we were aware of the Belgian Beer Industry and how these breweries have won numerous awards, but we were not aware of the size of the Beer Industry - there must have been 400+ beer brands in this shop!

NOTE: The Bottle Shop is located at; Wollestraat 13, 8000 Brugge, Belgium just across the street from the Belfort Brugge.

We could not decide on which beer to purchase, so we stopped and took a selfie while we made up our minds (note - every good thing you've heard about Belgian Beer is true!)

Bruges Horse Carriage Tours
Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium

Horse Carriages are very popular in Bruges! There are tours of Bruges via carriage that start at the Markt Square carriage Station & there is a 5 person per carriage limitation. We walked all over Bruges, and where ever we went, horse carriages were either already there or would soon be there.

Click here to see a Google Search list of carriage tours.


The first image above is the property of Visit Bruges via their website. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

Bruges Markt Square
Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium

Markt Square was originally a market place and stage for tournaments and festivals for over a thousand years. Today, it is full of historic relics such as the majestic Belfry Tower and Church Hall while surrounded by banks, restaurants, and modern shops. It is also one of the most iconic spots of the movie "In Bruges".

Youtube Video Link
Our Video of the Square

Click this image to see a video we took of the square.
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Historium Bruges
Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium

We had entered the Historium Bruges on the east side of the square, and as it had a balcony, we stepped out to get some pictures of the square.

The highlight of the Historium is a virtual reality experience that transports guests to the 15th century. As you don the VR headset, you become a character in a captivating historical story, following the adventures of Jacob, a young apprentice. The visuals, sound effects, and narrative draw you into the world of medieval Bruges, making you feel like you've truly traveled back in time.

In addition to the VR experience, the Historium also features informative displays on Bruges' history, including its economic prosperity, artistic heritage, and political significance. Visitors can learn about the city's iconic landmarks, such as the Belfry and the Basilica of the Holy Blood, while gaining insights into the daily life of its inhabitants.


Belfry of Bruges
Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium

The Belfry of Bruges is a medieval bell tower in the centre of Bruges, Belgium. One of the city's most prominent symbols, the belfry formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives, and served as an observation post for spotting fires and other danger. A narrow, steep staircase of 366 steps, accessible by the public for an entry fee, leads to the top of the 83 meters (272 feet) high building, which leans 87 centimetres to the east.

The belfry was added to the market square around 1240, when Bruges was an important centre of the Flemish cloth industry. After a devastating fire in 1280, the tower was largely rebuilt. The city archives, however, were forever lost to the flames.

The octagonal upper stage of the belfry was added between 1483 and 1487, and capped with a wooden spire bearing an image of Saint Michael, banner in hand and dragon underfoot. The spire did not last long: a lightning strike in 1493 reduced it to ashes, and destroyed the bells as well. A wooden spire crowned the summit again for some two-and-a-half centuries, before it, too, fell victim to flames in 1741. The spire was never replaced again, thus making the current height of the building somewhat lower than in the past; but an openwork stone parapet in Gothic Revival style was added to the rooftop in 1822.

Bruges Provinciaal Hof
Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium

This is a Neogothical building on the market place in Bruges, Belgium. It is the former meeting place for the provincial government of West Flanders.

Both the exterior and the interior are in the Gothic Revival style. The central meeting room has ten sculptures of royalty by Hendrik Pickery, and mural paintings of famous people from West Flanders. The rest of the building is decorated with more sculptures by Hendrik and his son Gustaaf Pickery, stained glass windows by Jules Dobbelaere, and chandeliers by Edward De Vooght. A number of paintings can be found as well, including work by Joos de Momper, Jan Van de Putte, Jan Baptist van Meunincxhove, and paintings from the Romantic era. Click here for their website.

 Quick History Lesson 

In 1294, the Waterhalle, 95 meters long and about 30 meters high, was built as the central point of the port of Bruges, right in the heart of the city. When the boats no longer could reach the hall, it was demolished in 1787 and replaced with a neoclassicist building. From 1850 on, part of this was used to house the provincial government meetings, until it burned down in 1878. A replacement in neogothical style, intended to house the province and a postal office, was started in 1887 by architects Louis Delacenserie and René Buyck. The post office was opened in 1891, and the first part of the Provinciaal Hof in 1892. The last parts of the buildings were finished in 1920.

The building was used as the government meeting hall until 1999, and is now mainly a ceremonial building, and also used for exhibitions.

Belfort Tower
Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium

272 feet in height, leaning 87 centimeters to the east. Originally built in 1240, and rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1280. A wooden spire at the top of the tower was destroyed by fire in 1741 and never replaced.

Visitors can climb the 366 steps to the top of the tower and enjoy stunning views of the city and its surrounding countryside. Inside the tower, visitors can also explore the historic carillon, which features 47 bells and plays music several times a day.


Image is the property of Visit Bruges via their website.

 Quick History Lesson 

The statues at the centre of the square are of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, two freedom heroes in the struggle against the French at the beginning of the 14th century. Jan Breydel was head of the butchers and Pieter de Coninck was head of the weavers. This, at least, is how the story is told in the historical novel "The Lion of Flanders" by H. Conscience. The statue was erected in 1887 when Romantiscism, characterised by a yearning for the glorious past, reached its Pinnacle throughout most of Europe.

Click here to go to the Wikipedia Page where the above data came from.

Bruges Canal Tour Boats
Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium

There are several tour boat operators that provide canal tours, we went with Bruges River Cruises, as their get-on point was just down the Wollestraat from our hotel (just before the bridge, turn right to buy a ticket).

Bruges Canal Bridges
Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium

Some of the bridges over the canals were seriously low, for several, everyone had to duck! However, you have to admire their longevity, these canals were built starting in the 12th century BC!

As you can see in image # 2 (right side) those bridges do not provide much space to squeeze through, I am going to guess that "boat size" is a crucial factor in order to clear those bridges!

Bruges Canals Surround the City
Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium Exploring the Canals & History of Bruges, Belgium

We hiked around the city starting from Markt Square, found a coffee shop, and then continued our hike until we reached the Coupure Canal on the eastern edge of Bruges. As you can see in image # 1 (left side), the canal is paralled by a walk way, by which we eventually returned to Markt Square.

These two images show Kings bridge (Koningsbrug), just one of the 80 bridges in Bruges. This bridge was built in the 20th century on the same spot where a bridge had previously existed.

 Quick History Lesson 

The city originated on the banks of the river Reie. In the course of time a real town gradually developed, which was connected through canals to the deeper branch of the North Sea, the Zwin. The Bruges' canals are referred to as "Reie", named after the river "Roya" wich used to flow into the Zwin estuary.

The inner canals were once part of Bruges' old ramparts and city walls. The first city walls were built after the death of the Flemish Count Charles the Good. He was murdered in St. Donatian's Church in 1127. In the weeks after the assassination the citizens of Bruges built a rampart around the city, which followed the path of the inner canals of the city: the Dijver, Groenerei, St. Annarei, Goudenhandrei, Augustijnenrei, Smedenrei, and Kapucijnenrei. In a garden wall of the house in the Pieter Pourbusstraat is the only remnant of the first wall: a semicircular reinforcement tower, which is clearly visible from the Pottenmakersstraat.

Wikipedia Logo The above information was extracted from Wikipedia

We spent two nights in Bruges, and on the third morning we caught a train and travelled to the Brussels International Airport for our flight to Vienna, Austria. Once again, the magnificent European Rail System was on time, efficient and took us to the Train Station directly under the Airport departures and arrivals halls, at level -1. You walk upstairs from the train station, and presto you are in the Airport Ticketing area!

Bruges is an interesting place to visit, however it is important to plan your trip there in order to make the trip as enjoyable as possible. Since it would be almost impossible for any single web page to tell you everything there is to know about Bruges, here are some informative links for you to utilize for your own research - most of these we utilized for our own trip

  • Just Traveling Thru European Travel Tips
  • Just Traveling Thru Travel Planning Tips
  • Bruges History on the 'Visit Flanders' site
  • Google search results list for "Bruges Chocolate Shops"
  • Amazon Search Results list for "Bruges Belgium"
  • Youtube Search Results list for "Bruges Belgium"
  • Bruges History on the 'Lonely Planet' site
  • BBC Cultural Tour of Bruges
  • Bruges Belgium Tours on the "Viator" site
  • Things to do in Bruges on the 'TripAdvisor' site
  • Top Things to do in Bruges on the 'US News' site
  • Bruges Tourist Attractions on the 'Planetware' site
  • Google search results list for "Accommodations in Bruges Belgium"
  • Google search results list for "Eateries in Bruges Belgium"
  • Google search results list for "Bruges Belgium Shopping"
  • Visit our Youtube Channel
  • Our Image Gallery for Bruges
  • Wikipedia Article for Bruges
  • Google Image Gallery for Bruges
  • Bruges Tour from the "Get Your Guide" site


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