Brussels is a huge and multicultural city with over a million people and plenty of things to keep travelers busy. But to really experience Belgium's charm, it's best to visit one of the nearby smaller cities, such as the medieval Bruges—or Brugge in the local Flemish language—just 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of Brussels.
Since the entire country is only about the size of Maryland, traveling around Belgium is quick and easy. Taking the train is the transport of choice for most visitors and locals, and it's the fastest way for getting from the Belgian capital to Bruges. If you want to save some money, the bus is even cheaper and only takes about 30 minutes longer. If you have a car, taking a road trip through Belgium is a great way to explore not only Bruges but also other cities in the area.
|Train||55 minutes||from $15||Arriving on a time crunch|
|Bus||1 hour, 25 minutes||from $8||Traveling on a budget|
|Car||1 hour, 15 minutes||60 miles (97 kilometers)||Exploring Belgium|
What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Brussels to Bruges?
For such a short distance, buses are an inexpensive and painless way to travel from Brussels to Bruges. Tickets with the company Flixbus start at just $8 and the journey takes about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on where in Brussels you leave from. Buses originate at Brussels South station and then stop at Brussels North station before exiting the city, so you can choose whichever departure point is most convenient for you.
Flixbus drops passengers off right next to the main Bruges train station, which is walking distance from the historic town center and all of Bruge's most famous attractions.
What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Brussels to Bruges?
Train travel in Belgium is so simple that the most complicated part is just figuring out what station you're leaving from. Trains for Bruges pass through all three of Brussels' primary stations, so you can choose whichever one is closest to where you're staying. However, most travelers choose the city's main station, which is called Brussels South in English, Bruxelles-Midi in French, or Brussel-Zuid in Flemish. If you see any of these names when buying tickets or looking at a map, they all refer to the same place.
Trains for Bruges leave about every 20 minutes and the journey takes roughly an hour. You can see the schedule and buy tickets through the SNCB website, or you can just show up at the station and buy your ticket before boarding the train. Tickets have a fixed price and don't get more expensive, so there's no penalty for waiting to buy them. Tickets start at about $15 for an adult one-way ticket, but there are discounts available for youth and seniors.
Tip: If you're making a weekend trip, you can purchase a roundtrip ticket for any train from Friday evening to Sunday with a special discount for almost half off the full price.
How Long Does It Take to Drive?
Driving yourself to Bruges takes about an hour, 15 minutes without traffic, although that time can balloon up to two hours if it's rush hour. Only 60 miles (97 kilometers) separate the two cities along the E40 highway, but this popular commuter route quickly gets congested with drivers traveling between Brussels, Bruges, and Ghent, three of Belgium's most populated cities. But if you can avoid the worst of traffic, it's an easy drive without tolls.
Parking in the historic center of Bruges is highly restricted, but there are parking garages on the edges of the center with varying rates where you can leave your car. For free parking, you can look for lots or street parking on the outskirts of the city. From there, it'll be a longer walk into the center or you can take a local bus.
When Is the Best Time to Travel to Bruges?
If you're taking the train, booking a roundtrip ticket starting at 7 p.m. on Friday and returning any time on Sunday is the best method of travel, since the weekend discount cuts the price in half. If you're driving, weekday morning and evening rush hour should be avoided, if possible.
Bruges experiences the warmest weather in the summer and never gets unbearably hot, since the average high temperature in July and August is a comfortable 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius). It's also the high season for tourists and the small town can feel overwhelmingly crowded with visitors. Spring and fall are the shoulder season where temperatures are cooler but, in exchange, there are fewer tourists. Winter is the coldest time of the year, although its proximity to the coast keeps Bruges from reaching freezing temperatures as in other parts of Northern Europe. Plus, Christmas markets that pop up around the city only add to the city's already undeniable appeal.
What's the Most Scenic Route to Bruges?
Belgium's most spectacular scenery is concentrated in the southern part of the country and in the opposite direction of Bruges. However, you can use a car to make a loop and visit four of Belgium's most visited cities. Use the E40 highway out of Brussels and stop in Ghent en route to Bruges, which is on the way and adds no additional time to the drive. If you're returning to Brussels, use the E34 highway traveling east to Antwerp instead of going back on the same route. From there, you can circle back to Brussels or continue east into the Netherlands.
What Is There to Do in Bruges?
You wouldn't guess it based on its quaint size, but centuries ago Bruges was one of the financial powerhouses of all of Europe. Today, its medieval architecture and buildings are some of the best-preserved in Europe, and the entire city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city's canals rival those of Venice or Amsterdam, and taking a cruise is one of the best ways to get acquainted with Bruges. The renowned Belgian painter Jan van Eyck lived most of his life in Bruges, and the Groeninge Museum highlights not only his work but also other regional artists. Belgium is known around the world for its beer and chocolate, and travelers can experience the best of both in Bruges. Many of the city's chocolate stores are concentrated around the street Katelijnestraat, so be sure to stop by and pick something up. In February, the Bruges Beer Festival takes over the town for a full weekend of imbibing.