When to fly
Tourists start arriving around Easter when the weather warms up and the city hosts a number of events. The Procession of the Holy Blood is one of the oldest and most solemn religious events in the world and attracts thousands of spectators. Held on Ascension Day (May), this event is focused around Bruges most sacred religious artefact, a piece of cloth which is said to have drops of Jesus Christ’s blood on it. A procession takes place through the city which includes a series of religious and historical events being re-enacted. As this is a very popular event, it would be wise to book accommodation and flights for this period well in advance.
The city continues to be quite crowded through the summer, particularly on weekends and during school holidays. If you are looking for good deals on flights to Bruges and accommodation then it is advised not to travel during these times.
Spring is beautiful and mostly mild but can have chilly days. Autumn experiences a similar climate and during both these seasons there are fewer crowds, making it one of the best times to book flights to Bruges. Spring also hosts the annual Bruges Beer Festival (February). Join around 15,000 other locals and tourists to sample over 300 beers. Be sure to pair that with some of the delicious Flemish food, the festival also has on offer.
The low tourist season is winter, between November and January, when the cold is unrelenting, the canals can also freeze up enough for ice skating. If you don’t mind braving the cold, then this can be a good time to look for cheaper flights and hotel rates. You can also get into the festive spirit at Bruges Christmas Market.
If you’re longing for a trip back in time then book a flight to Bruges and transport yourself to the 13th century. The preserved medieval city has some of the finest examples of Gothic architecture and art in Europe, drawing millions of tourists each year and making it Belgium’s most visited city.
The best way to explore this picturesque city is on foot. Stroll through its quiet cobbled streets and stop into a church or two along the way. Boat rides along the canal and a guided tour of the city on a horse-drawn cab are a must. Or venture further east to the quaint village of Damme and visit the 15th-century mansion, the Saint-Jean d'Angély House, then have lunch in one of the town’s excellent restaurants. Book your Bruges flight in spring when the weather’s pleasant and the hordes of tourists haven’t arrived yet.
Belgium has mild summers and cold winters because of the icy Baltic winds. Bruges is no exception to this climate. Summer temperatures can reach the mid-20s and this is when Bruges is usually packed with visitors who wish to spend their time exploring one of the most perfectly preserved medieval cities in Europe.
Getting around Belgium
Bruges is the most popular Belgian destination for tourists, most of whom set out to sightsee on foot. It’s easy to walk around this city of winding waterways and cobblestone streets, or you can sit pretty on a horse-drawn carriage or canal boat and explore the city that way. There are also buses that traverse the city limits and trains to get you elsewhere in Europe.
Getting from the Airport to the City
The main airport for travellers taking flights to Bruges is Ostend Bruges International Airport (BRU) (website: www.ost.aero), which is about 15 miles from the city centre.
Belgium insider information
- Bruges (along with Brussels) is famous for its chocolate. You can smell chocolate being made throughout the city year-round. The most famous chocolate from the area is the Bruges Swaentje – the Bruges swan. Try it at any chocolatier.
- If this isn’t enough to satisfy your cravings, head for the Choco-Story, a museum dedicated to chocolate, which has the mouth-watering mission, “to make known the story of the transformation of cocoa into chocolate and to promote the health and quality aspects of Belgian chocolate”.
- Bruges is small and you can walk across the city centre in half an hour. Sign up for a walking tour if you want to make sure you don’t miss the best bits. A range of different walks can be booked at the tourist office, from the traditional, which takes in all the monuments, to the more unusual, entitled “fiction and fantasy” or “the sleeping city”.
- The Grote Markt, or city square, is one of the first destinations for most visitors to the city. Pedestrianised in 1996, the attractive and colourful square is home to an excellent food market on Wednesday mornings, open from 8am-1pm. Join the locals buying their weekly food.
- Bruges’s canals are the reason it is christened (along with many other cities) the “Venice of the North”. For a different view of the city, take a boat trip along the canal. Open throughout the summer (most canal boat trips are closes from November to March), you can book at the tourist office, or just arrive at one of the landing stages. The trips are understandably popular with tourists, so arrive first thing in the morning if you want to beat the long queues.
- The Groeninge Museum has paintings by well-known artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, Hans Memling, and Jan van Eyck, all of whom lived in Bruges.
- Visit the lace museum in Dijver 16 and 17 housed in some of the town’s many almshouses (godhuizen). You get a good sense of what a rich sponsor provided for the poor and elderly, who in return, prayed for his soul and usually made lace.