The canals of Bruges are part of the personality of the city. They are one of the main attractions in Bruges to the extent that the city is known as the "Venice of the North". Navigating through them and discovering the most hidden corners of Bruges is almost a must to enjoy the essence of the city.
The city of Bruges is the capital of the only province in Belgium with direct connection to the North Sea, the province of West Flanders. The city is also known as the "Venice of the North". This nickname makes sense because when you hear talking about Bruges, one of the first images that come to mind, most likely, is that of a city crisscrossed by numerous canals.
You will probably also think of a city plenty of towers, steeples, bridges and museums ... in any case, you are not wrong, because this is one of the reasons why the city centre of Bruges was declared World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2000.
And yes, Bruges preserves its historical centre in perfect conditions. The canals played a key role in the construction of the city, as they reveal the close connection Bruges had to international trade during the Middle Ages. The canals were the umbilical cord that connected Bruges with the North Sea, and given the location of Bruges in the centre of Europe, they made the city a mandatory stop for merchant ships of that time and, today, for tourists.
SAILING ON THE CANALS
One of the wishes of tourists visiting Bruges is to enjoy a boat or a horse ride around the city. While the two alternatives are a good choice, the fact is that a boat trip is a different way to see the city. You will have views that tourists on foot or on horseback will never enjoy.
From the canals you will reach inaccessible corners of Bruges, such as private yards with thick vegetation, banks occupied with swans resting in front of the camera lens pointing in their direction, or even famous and charming bridges like St. Boniface bridge or Jan van Eyck square (Jan van Eyckplein in Dutch).
In the Lake of Love or Minnewater, after crossing the bridge that once connected the beguinage with the city of Bruges, you can enjoy numerous swans and ducks that surround the boat as if trying to get our attention. Without a doubt, they will succeed!
When navigating the Dijver canal, one may feel like the protagonist of a festival. It is the main canal in the city centre, with many different buildings in its banks, like an antique shop in which we can see in one of its windows a statue of Marilyn Monroe; the police station of Bruges and the Arenthuis Museum are also located here, this latter being devoted to the versatile British artist Frank Brangwyn, where art exhibitions are also held. A few meters from this museum are the Groeninge Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts of Bruges, one of the most important museums in Belgium, where the collection of works by the "Flemish Primitives” stands out, ranging from Gothic to Baroque painting.
The College of Europe is also very remarkable, where children of many senior diplomats and European entrepreneurs study. Of special important is the Spanish House, the former palace of a Spanish mayor, now converted into a huge souvenir shop and a brewery in which the "wall of beer” stands out, where are exposed 1130 varieties of beer that visitors can buy.
CANALS ON FOOT
The canals of Bruges can also be enjoyed on foot by walking through their docks, crossing their bridges and enjoying their views. You can also enjoy the "flea market" in the Dijver canal, where you will find authentic relics.
But a less touristy area is the area of the great canal surrounding the old town of Bruges. If we take a map of Bruges, we will see that the historic centre is a large oval-shaped area surrounded by a wide canal with dense vegetation on its banks. This canal is currently located where the former city walls (which no longer exist) stood.
This canal has many spacious green areas with few visitors, where there are normally no tourist boats. You will get here views of Bruges that are very different form the typical ones. Even to the northeast of the historic centre, on the banks of this canal, you can see four wooden windmills, so traditional at the time in this region.
Learn much more about the history and curiosities of the Canals of Bruges with our guided tour of Bruges.
Dijver Canal, Bruges.
BOAT SCHEDULE AND PRICES
The boat trip costs around € 8 per person.
You can take one of these boats from 10h to 18h pm, between March and November.
Tickets can be purchased directly at the box office of the different piers from where they depart. You will find them in different parts of the historic centre of Bruges, near St. John’s Hospital or the Dijver canal.
HOW TO GET THERE
For a boat trip, the best option is to go to St. John’s Hospital, the current Memling Museum, or continue to the Dijver canal where we will find different piers.
If you want to stroll along the canal around the historic centre of Bruges, the simplest thing to do, if you get to Bruges by train, is to follow the signs directing us to the old town. You will get to the Poertoren tower, before heading to the beguinage of Bruges. From there, you can continue the course of the canal and enjoy a different tour of the Bruges.