Zeebrugge (tours to Bruges), Belgium cruise holidays

Understand that Zeebrugge literally means Bruges-on-Sea and you immediately appreciate why this ferry port is also Belgium's major cruise port. A medieval jewel on the North Sea, the charming city of Bruges is just 10 miles away. Sometimes called the Venice of the North because of the picturesque criss-crossing canals on which you can enjoy fascinating and romantic boat rides, Bruges actually has a character all its own. Beautiful Bruges is a picture-perfect destination at any time of year. The charming city offers an exciting cultural escape, just a short jaunt from home. Wander the atmospheric cobbled streets of the city centre (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), explore by bike or take a canal trip to marvel at the architecture. Although it has all the facilities of a modern city - smart shops, restaurants, bars and hotels - these are all found behind the centuries-old facades and weathered gables of the historic buildings at the city's heart. Bruges is rightly famous for its exquisite lacework, tasty chocolate and huge range of local beers while, from Zeebrugge, you can also visit another historic city, Ghent, the capital Brussels, and historic battlefield sites such as Waterloo and Ypres.

 

Top Sights and Attractions

Exploring Bruges

Of Belgium’s many stunning North Sea coastal beaches Zeebrugge Beach is the biggest. But just 10 miles away, the quaint canals, tasty beers and delicious chocolate of beautiful little Bruges may prove too much of a draw, and you can get there in no time. All around and among the historic houses and centuries-old façades, you’ll find smart modern shops, excellent restaurants and chic bars. Souvenir shopping here tends to be for exquisite lacework, which you can buy at every turn, as well as the local – yes, you guessed it! – beers and chocolate. From Zeebrugge it’s also possible to reach historic Ghent, the Waterloo and Ypres battlefield sites and the capital city of Belgium, Brussels.

 

The Church of Our Lady

Standing at a staggering 115.5 metres tall in the centre of Bruges, the Church of Our Lady is quite the sight, with the second tallest brickwork church tower in the world. The ornate spire and elaborate architecture of this impressive Gothic church fit right into the fairy-tale feel of medieval Bruges. Dating back to the 14th century, it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a remarkable treasure inside: Michelangelo’s two-metre-tall white Carrara marble sculpture, The Madonna of Bruges.

 

Basilica of the Holy Blood

Although quite a small basilica by Roman Catholic standards, the Basilica of the Holy Blood is a highlight along with the stunning gothic Church of Our Lady. As well as their historic and architectural value, there’s a wealth of intriguing stories and Christian beliefs behind these places. The Holy Blood relic kept here is said to have been brought to Bruges from Jerusalem and is believed to be the blood of Jesus Christ. 

 

Things To Do

Enjoy a Canal Boat Tour

The compact city of Bruges is the perfect, pretty place to see on a short canal boat trip. Gently winding along the waterways, you can relax and take in most of the city’s famous landmarks. There’s highlights like the City Hall and its fairy-tale towers, the Church of Our Lady’s Gothic cathedral, the Town Hall and Markt (Market Square) in the very heart of Bruges. P&O Cruises offers a Bruges Canals and Free Time shore experience, which includes a boat tour hosted by knowledgeable, entertaining guides who’ll let you in on the legends and history of this enchanting destination.

 

Climb to the Top of Belfort

Built back in the 13th century, Belfort has been a bell tower, a watchtower and a treasury in its time. Today, the 83-metre-tall building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, central attraction and iconic symbol of Bruges. Take the 366 steps to the top for a fantastic view of Bruges and the countryside around. You’ll pass the 47 bells in the carillon room on your way up. 

 

Learn to Make Chocolate

Ask anyone today to name a place famed for the world’s best chocolate and ‘Belgium’ is likely to be their reply. The words ‘Belgian’ and ‘chocolate’ go together like ‘sweet’ and ‘tooth’, and those who love to indulge in this luxury won’t be disappointed. There are many chocolate-tasting tours and experiences you can join, including ones where you’ll learn to temper and make your own to take home – if you can resist long enough, that is! 

 

Food and Drink

Bruges specialises in ‘moules frites’ (mussels and fries), a national dish not to be confused with action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme, ‘The Muscles from Brussels’. All kinds of seafood, shellfish and fish recipes are famed and firm favourites in Bruges. Traditional Belgian waffles are popular and you’ll find every kind of chocolate you can dream of. You can even make your own on a fun chocolate-making workshop experience. And while the list of Belgian beers is ever-growing, you’ll be able to home in on one that’s just right for you. Taste buds at the ready – Bruges is calling!

 

Shopping in Bruges

Bruges shopping can be antique or à la mode. Chic designer fashion is sold in ancient cloisters on cobbled streets as well as the latest labels on the pedestrianised Steenstraat, near the Belfort tower. The bustling central square (Markt) has been trading for over 1,000 years and is where you’ll find the weekend lace market, a vision of angelic white designs of every kind and purpose. Why not add a little touch of Bruges to your home and reminisce about your holiday every time you see your souvenir? Edible memories such as those bought from the chocolatiers may not last as long, but they’ll bring back the exquisite taste of Bruges in an instant. It’s all here for you to browse and buy.

 

Culture and History of Bruges

History

What’s Bruges’ backstory?

Bruges has a whole lot of history for such a small destination. A Viking settlement in the 9th century that became a small fishing village in the 10th, the city quickly made a big name for itself as a major trader, thanks to its prime location on the Zwin estuary of Belgium’s northwest coast. In the 15th and 16th centuries, famous paintings by Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling emerged and Bruges became acclaimed in the art world, too. Well-known artists then flocked here, creating some of their best-known pieces under the spell of this enchanting little city on the canals.

 

Culture

For a medieval city, Bruges really packs in the attractions for today’s traveller! You’ve all the riches of Belgium in one perfect place. Enjoy famous beers, wonderful chocolate, pretty lace, and the best-known Flemish art in the Groeningemuseum. Stroll through the city’s main ‘Markt’ square and discover the Gothic Town Hall and Belfry or get a great view from the Church of Our Lady’s 115.5-metre tower. A lovely canal boat ride is a tranquil way to see Bruges, and all year round there are music events, theatre shows, great food and festivals to keep you entertained. The Christmas market is a big draw, as well as soaking up the vibrant café culture and people-watching in people-pleasing bistros and restaurants.

 

Port Facilities

In warmer months, you could visit the wide, sandy beaches near Zeebrugge port (it does mean ‘Bruges-by-Sea’, after all). Zeebrugge Beach is Belgium’s biggest and very popular for surfing and sunbathing, while Westende has beautiful sand dunes. Both are within easy reach. There’s also the Zwin nature reserve, home to many birds and animals, that’s perfect for a stroll. And if you’d like to head into Bruges itself, it’s only about 10 miles away from the terminal. So, a short ferry or taxi ride will soon see you exploring the big heart of lively little Bruges.

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Frequently asked questions about Bruges, Belgium

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