NEED TO KNOW
LOCATION Bruges is in the Flemish-speaking province of West Flanders, in northwest Belgium
POPULATION Around 117,000
VISITORS PER YEAR Around 3.65 million
DAYTIME TEMPERATURES Jan: 39°F (4°C); Apr: 57°F (14°C); Jul: 73°F (23°C); Oct: 59°F (15°C)
It is hard to describe the capital of the West Flanders province of Belgium without using the phrase “fairy tale,” although it was not always that way. After its heyday from the 12th to 15th centuries, the port fell into decline when its river channel silted up, stifling trade.
It was only in the early 20th century that the creation of the nearby port of Zeebrugge reinvigorated Bruges. The medieval walled city is circled by a canal and filled with charming step-gabled houses and attractive churches.
Although the main squares – Markt and Burg – are usually bustling with tourists, it is still possible to find peace and quiet in the streets nearby. The canals are particularly appealing first thing in the morning, before the day visitors arrive.
The nearest airports to Bruges are at Brussels and Charleroi in Belgium and Lille in France. Trains shuttle visitors from the airports to Bruges center. Eurostar services go directly from London to Brussels, from which point you can take another train on to Bruges.
When to Go
The Old Town is packed with tourists in summer, so visit out of season to avoid the crowds. Be prepared for cold weather in the winter.