Gothic building on canal in Bruges, Belgium

Zeebrugge Cruise Port to Bruges: Ultimate DIY Excursion Guide

Docking in Zeebrugge and dreaming of Bruges? Don’t get stranded at the port โ€“ turn your cruise stop into an unforgettable adventure with this DIY guide.ย Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a first-time cruiser,ย I’ve got you covered with the easiest ways to get fromย Zeebrugge to Bruges, including how to navigate from theย Zeebrugge cruise terminal to the train station and all the top attractions to see in Bruges once you get there! Get ready to unlock the medieval magic of Bruges!

Starting your cruise in Southampton? Zeebrugges is a very popular port of call for cruises starting in Southampton. If you’re on one of them, check out my Southampton Embarkation Guide with essential info on Southampton’s 4 cruise terminals, plus a DIY Titanic Walking Tour and day-trip to Isle of Wight if you get to Southampton early.

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Zeebrugge Cruise Port to Bruges: Is a DIY Excursion Easy? ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž (Smooth Sailing)

Navigating from Zeebrugge cruise port to Bruges is straightforward for most cruisers, making it a great option for a DIY excursion. If you’re the sort of cruiser who likes the flexibility of just wandering around a city, then you’ll absolutely love Bruges! Here’s why I rate it ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž:

  • Multiple Transportation Choices: There’s several options for reaching Bruges, including a convenient cruise shuttle bus, train and a combination of tram and bus using public transportation. 
  • Compact and Walkable City Centre: Bruges’ historic core is relatively small and easily explored on foot. 
  • Well-Marked Attractions: The city is well-signposted, making it easy to navigate and find your way around. Plus, most attractions are clustered around the Markt and the canals, so you’re unlikely to get lost.

I’m surprised that the train and buses to Bruges is an hourly service and not run frequently, given the popularity of Bruges. I’d say that the majority of cruisers visiting Zeebrugge cruise port end up in Bruges. But if you do a little bit of homework and check your train times before hand, you can be in Bruges in under 40 minutes!

Zeebrugge Cruise Port Essentials: All You Need To Know

  • Zeebrugge cruise port schedule: Official Zeebrugge Cruise Port Schedule
  • Zeebrugge cruise port address: Zweedse Kaai, 8380 Brugge, Belgium – see it marked on my Zeebrugge/Bruges cruise port map below ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ‘‡
  • Currency: Euros
  • Language: Most spoken language in Bruges is Flemish (similar to Dutch) but French and English are also widely spoken as second languages. In Bruges, as it’s highly focused on tourism, almost everyone will speak English with you.
  • Official Websites: Visit Bruges is the official tourism website, De Lijn is the local transit authority & has a useful journey planner.
  • Recommended Transport App: Use Google Maps to navigate train, trams and buses. SNCB Belgian’s English website is also useful for checking train timetables.
  • eSIM for roaming in Belgium: For a great data connection without the huge roaming fees, use an eSim data pack from Airalo. I always recommend having a smartphone with a valid plan when youโ€™re at port touring independently. Get US$3 off your first eSIM data pack from Airalo when you use ROXANN1666 when you sign up or apply it at checkout

Zeebrugge | Bruges Cruise Port Map

  • My Zeebrugge / Bruges Cruise Port Map: ๐Ÿ‘‡ Click on the upper right hand corner to see a bigger version. Use buttons on bottom left to zoom in/out. If the map is not loading correctly, click here to see it directly on Google Maps

Zeebrugge Cruise Port to Bruges: Your Transportation Options

There are multiple DIY options to get from Zeebrugge cruise port to Bruges city centre. Your cruise line will likely put on a paid or complimentary shuttle to Bruges (as there’s really not that much to see in Zeebrugge. But you already knew this, so I won’t focus on cruise line run shuttles!

Also, there’s taxis available from Zeebrugge port and one-way to Bruges is typically around โ‚ฌ60 depending on traffic.

1. Cruise Express Shuttle Bus

Despite its name, this shuttle bus is not run by the port. It’s a privately run shuttle service. Starting from directly outside the cruise terminal, it will drop you off in Bargeplein – see this marked on my map above ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ‘†. This is the closest and only official coach parking in Bruges. From there, it’s a leisurely 15 minute walk into the centre of Bruges itself.

  • Frequency: Every 30 minutes, with first shuttle back to Zeebrugge at 4 hours before “All Aboard” time. Note that the last shuttle is an hour before “All Aboard Time”. Return pickup is also at Bargeplein.
  • Tickets: โ‚ฌ25 for adults, โ‚ฌ5 for kids under 10. This needs to be pre-booked, if you want a guaranteed seat to jump on the first coach when you disembark. You can also buy a ticket on the day, from the ticket office around the corner from the cruise terminal.
  • Journey Time: The drive itself takes about 20-30 minutes depending on traffic.

This is the easiest option if you don’t want to have to navigate local trams and trains. Or you can purchase the equivalent port shuttle ride from your cruise line. From the shuttle drop-off point at Bargeplein, you can easily join a combined walking tour and canal cruise. This takes roughly 2.5 – 3 hours and will return you back to the shuttle stop, for your shuttle back to Zeebrugge cruise port.

2. Tram to Blankenberge then Bus or Train to Bruges Station

  • Walk to Zeebrugge Kerk tram station: After you exit the cruise terminal, walk towards the main road and make a right. You should see tram tracks straight away. The tram stop is about a 5-minute walk away.
  • Tram to Blankenberge Station: 5 stops to Blankenberge station. It takes about 10 minutes. Tram stops in front of Blankerberge train station.
  • Frequency: Line KT Tram runs every 15 minutes – for timetables, use the real time route planner on De Lijn’s English website
  • Tickets: โ‚ฌ2.50. Purchase using a contactless card onboard the tram

Once you’re at Blankenberge station, you have two options:

  • Train to Bruges Station: Hourly services to Bruges station
    • Timetables: Check timetables on SNCB Belgian’s English website
    • Tickets: โ‚ฌ3.80 one way. Purchase at ticket machines – cards are accepted. If you’re traveling on a Saturday or Sunday, you can purchase a weekend ticket for โ‚ฌ5.20 as a return ticket.
    • Journey Time: 10 minutes
  • Bus to Bruges Station: Bus route #40 will take you directly to Bruges station. The stop is opposite the tram station.

When you arrive at Bruges Station, it takes about 20 minutes to walk into Bruges centre.

Note: While this option may seem complicated and involves a change, I’ve put this ahead of the hourly train service from Zeebrugge-Dorp, because there are multiple options to get to Bruges from Blankenberge. If you miss the train, you can catch the bus. Also Blankenberge is a seaside resort and there’s better facilities (and even worth a quick look) while you wait for your train/bus. Zeebrugge-Dorp station is small and there really aren’t anything there!

3. Train to Bruges Station from Zeebrugge stations

Note that there’s more than one Zeebrugge station within “walking distance” of the cruise port. The closer station is Zeebrugge-Dorp – about 20 minutes walk away. The other, slightly further away, is Zeebrugge-Strand station – 30 minutes walk away.

  • Zeebrugge-Dorp Train Station: After you exit the cruise terminal, walk towards the main road and make a right. You will see tram tracks and bike lanes on the main road. Continue along until you cross a small bridge and the station is the second turn on your left.
  • Frequency: Unfortunately the train only runs once an hour! Usually at 8 minutes past the hour. If you time it well, this can be a very straightforward journey into Bruges.
  • Timetables: Check timetables on SNCB Belgian’s English website
  • Tickets: โ‚ฌ3.80 one way. Purchase at ticket machines – Cards are accepted. If you’re travelling on a Saturday or Sunday, you can purchase a weekend ticket for โ‚ฌ5.20 as a return ticket.
  • Journey Time: 15 minutes
  • Walk to Bruges town centre: It will take 20 minutes to walk to Market Square and Belfry of Brugestechnically the centre of the city centre – but there’ll be plenty to see before you get there

Trains from ZeebruggeStrand also run hourly. So check timetables before deciding to walk there.

Must-See Attractions in Bruges

1. Grote Markt (Market Square)

Grote Markt in Bruges, Belgium with the Belfort Tower in the background

Literally the heart of Bruges, Grote Markt is a bustling square lined with colourful guildhalls, the impressive Belfry Tower (see below) and the Provinciaal Hof (Provincial Palace).

Provincial Palace in Bruges Market Square, Bruges, Belgium
Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay
  • Provincial Palace (New 2024): It’s re-opened after extensive refurbishment! As it is a public building, it’s free to enter. So go in and have a browse.
    • Opening Hours: Closed Tuesdays. 10:30am to 6pm Wednesday to Monday.
    • Tip: There’s a WC in the basement, which accepts a euro coin or accepts card. Handy when you’re sightseeing around town!
  • Historium Bruges: Be transported back to the Golden Age of Bruges in the 15th century! With the help of a virtual reality (VR) headset, you’ll be flown virtually over Bruges – it’s surprisingly fun (and it’s kids friendly).
    • Opening Hours: Daily from 11am to 6pm. Open till 10pm on Saturday.
    • Tickets: โ‚ฌ25 adults, โ‚ฌ21 students & seniors 65+, โ‚ฌ17 for kids aged 6-12. Tickets without the VR experience is โ‚ฌ5 cheaper. Tickets are dated but not timed – you’ll simply be slotted into the next VR experience. Book online here.
  • Bruges Beer Experience: Note – not a brewery! If you like Belgian beer, then this museum will take you through the history of Belgian beer, the different beer styles, the equipment and science that goes into creating these beers. You’ve probably thinking, a museum? Yeah, but you can also head straight to the bar and buy a ticket (โ‚ฌ10) to choose 4 tasting glasses out of 16 draught beers. The museum has entry fee but the Bar is free entry, so you can share the beers with your travel companions too! Open from 10am to 6:30pm. There’s gluten free beer and alcohol free beer here.

2. Belfry of Bruges

Belfry of Bruges at Bruges Market Square, Belgium
Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

Also known as the Belfort, this majestic bell tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the 13th century, the Belfry originally served as a watchtower and the treasury. Note that it’s 366 narrow, winding steps to the top! Along the way, you’ll pass through the old treasury, where the city’s charters, seals and coffers were once kept.

The most interesting is the carillon chamber and you can see it sitting behind glass, housing 47 bells that create the Belfry’s iconic chimes. If you happen to be in Bruges on a Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday, be sure to listen out for the Belfry’s chimes between 11am and 12 noon.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 9am to 7pm from April to October. From November to March, 10am to 6pm Sunday to Friday & 9am to 7pm on Saturday.
  • Tickets: โ‚ฌ15 adults, students and seniors; โ‚ฌ13 for kids aged 7-17 and free for kids under 7.

3. De Burg

Bruges City Hall, lite up at night, Belgium
Brugge City Hall | Image by meineresterampe from Pixabay

Around the corner is Bruges’s second town square. The Burg Square is home to the imposing Brugge City Hall, in stunning Gothic style with an ornate facade and intricate sculptures, from the 14th century. Open daily from 9:30am to 5pm. โ‚ฌ8 adults, free for kids under 13.

But the star attraction at Burg Square is undoubtedly the Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilig Bloed Basiliek). This small but exquisite basilica is said to house a relic of Christ’s blood Brough back from the Crusades. The basilica is structured as a double chapel – the lower chapel in Romanesque style and the upper chapel, with opulent decorations and gilded statues. The Basilica is free to enter but the museum and treasury is โ‚ฌ5 entry. Open daily from 10am to 5:15pm.

4. Groeninge Museum

Nestled along the serene Dijver canal, the Groeninge Museum has an extensive collection spanning six centuries. The most well known are the masterpieces of the Flemish Primitives, a group of 15th and 16th century artists renowned for their meticulous detail and vibrant colours. The most famous is probably Jan van Eyck’s “Madonna with Canon Van Der Paele”.

  • Opening Hours: Closed Wednesdays. Otherwise, 9:30am to 5pm.
  • Tickets: โ‚ฌ15 adults, โ‚ฌ7 for kids aged 13-17, free for kids under 13

5. Stroll Along the Canals South of Market

Bruges canals at dusk, Belgium
Photo by Beata Makuch

While the Market Square and the de Burg offer a glimpse into Bruges’ history and grandeur, it’s the canals south of Markt that truly reveals Bruges’ charm. Even if you plan on taking a canal cruise, I would still recommend taking a stroll around the area. Here’s a few places not to miss:

  • Rozenhoedkaai (Rosary Quay): Start your canal-side wander at Rosary Quay, perhaps the most photographed spot in Bruges! This is where the Dijver and Groenerei canals converge, with elegant step-gabled houses and the majestic Belfry tower in the distance. Incidentally, this is also where many canal cruises start and/or finish at.
  • Dijver Canal: Follow the Diver canal south and you’ll find yourself on a promenade lined with willow trees and historic buildings. Then you’ll see Bonifaciusbrug (Boniface Bridge), the so called “Bridge of Love”, another picturesque spot to take some selfies!
  • Groenerei Canal: Walk along this canal and you’ll find yourself back at Groeninge Museum

If you’ve come with the Cruise Express shuttle bus, then the end of the canals will be a 5-10 minute walk back to Bargeplein. If you’ve still got time, then continue your stroll to the west of the canals.

6. West of the Canals

Venturing west of the Markt and Burg squares, you’ll discover a quieter side of Bruges. So if you happen to visit Bruges on a “high tourist traffic” day, head west of the canals instead.

  • Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady): This towering Gothic church’s most famous feature is Michelangelo’s marble sculpture, “Madonna and Child“.
    • Opening Hours: Open 9:30am to 5pm Monday to Saturday, 1:30 – 5pm on Sunday
    • Tickets: โ‚ฌ8 adults, โ‚ฌ4 aged 13-17, free for kids under 13
  • Site Oud Sint-Jan (Old St. John’s Hospital): Once a medieval hospital, the recently opened museum now houses an authentic 17th-century pharmacy, complete with a herb garden!
    • Opening Hours: Closed Mondays. Open 9:30am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday
    • Tickets: โ‚ฌ15 adults, โ‚ฌ7 aged 13 to 17, free for kids under 13

Featured Photo by Aevrun

I hope this post has inspired you to embrace the freedom and flexibility of exploring this medieval gem on your own terms.ย If you found this guide helpful,ย I’d be thrilled if you shared it with your fellow cruisers in your roll call groups or on social media.ย Here’s to an unforgettable port day filled with Belgian waffles,ย charming canals,ย and a whole lot of cobblestone charm!

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