Although the best way by far to visit Bruges is on foot or on a bike, many tourists have questions about the public transport system in Bruges and on their way to Bruges. So here is a guide to help you along!
There is no airport near Bruges, so most tourists arrive here by car or by train. The nearest airport is Brussels airport, and the nearest stop for the hight speed train from Paris and Amsterdam are Antwerpen and Brussels. Many British tourist arrive by ferry or through the Eurotunnel. And then you have the cruises that arrive in Zeebrugge.
In Bruges busses connect the train station and the suburbs with the centre of the city.
In Belgium and in Brussels two separate companies run the busses, trams and metro, one run by the Flemish part of Belgium (De Lijn) and one run by the French administration of Belgium (MIVB)! Welcome to our very unique governmental system!
IF YOU ARRIVE BY PLANE
We have two main airports in Belgium of which Brussels airport in Zaventem is the largest. There is a direct train connection from ‘Brussels airport Zaventem’ ( the station in under the airport building) to Bruges. Some trains go directly, but for some connections you will have to change trains in Brussels. You can change trains in the three Brussels stations: ‘Brussel-Noord’ (Brussels North), ‘Brussel-Centraal’ (Central Brussels), or ‘Brussel-Zuid’ (Brussels South, or Bruxelles Midi). It takes 1,5 hours to travel from the airport to Bruges. The station in Bruges is simply called ‘Brugge’ or ‘Bruges’, it is the only station. If you take the train from Brussels airport you will have to buy a regular ticket Brussels-Bruges and pay a (compulsory) surcharge ‘Diabolo fee’ of 5,3 euro (to finance the train connection with the airport!). If you buy a regular ticket online from Brussels airport to Bruges, the diabolo surcharge is included. If you travel with a rail pass or go pass (under 26 years old) you have to buy the diabolo ticket on top of that. There is also a shuttle bus service operated by Flixbus from the airport to Bruges, one early mornings and one in the evening. This option is cheaper that the train, travel time is similar to that of the train but might vary due to traffic and there are very limited departure times. The bus drops you of at Bargeplein in Bruges, so very close to the centre.
If you land at Brussels South airport – Charleroi, you can take a shuttle bus to Brussels South train station, operated by Flibco. This takes 55 min. Tickets can be bought online or from the airport ticket desk at the bus station but then the tickets are more expensive. From Brussels South you can take a direct train to Bruges, which takes another 50 min. travel time. Both the shuttle bus ticket as the train ticket can be used on any bus or train on the day of travel on the route Charleroi airport to Bruges. ( there are reduced prices on train tickets for youngsters (under 26 years old), seniors (over 65 years old) and children under the age of 12. Second oprtion is the TEC-bus from the airport to ‘Charleroi South’ train station which takes 20 minutes. From ‘Charleroi South’ the train to Bruges takes 2 hours but you have to change trains in ‘Brussel-Zuid’ (Brussels South). You can buy a ticket that combines the TEC bus and the train, at the airport (ticket machines outside the terminal near door 2) or online. Third option is Flibco: a shuttle bus service, operates between Charleroi South airport and Bruges. You can book your tickets online. The Flibco bus is a cheaper option, travel taim is 2 hours and 10 minutes but this may vary due to traffic, and you have to book a fixed departure time, the train gives you the flexibility to take any train on the day of travel. The bus drops you of just behind the Bruges train station, so very close to the centre of Bruges.
WITH THE TRAIN FROM OTHER BELGIAN CITIES
Brussels, Gent (Ghent) and Antwerpen (Antwerp) all have regular train connections with Bruges. From Antwerpen there is one direct train per hour to Bruges that takes 1,5 hours, on others trains you have to change trains in Gent. From Brussels there are several direct trains per hour to Bruges, that take about one hour from Brussel-Centraal. From Gent there are several direct trains per hour to Bruges that take about 20 minutes travel time.
WITH THE TRAIN FROM AND TO THE SEASIDE
Bruges is located very close to the seaside. There are train connections to Zeebrugge (20 min.), Oostende (15 min.), Blankenberge (13 min.) and Knokke (20 min.). The train to Zeebrugge stops right at the beach.
WHERE TO BUY TRAIN TICKETS IN BELGIUM
You can either buy your tickets online on www.belgiantrain.be or in any train station. The price for a ticket is the same online and at the ticket counter in the station, and the price is not cheaper if bought in advance. There are discounts for under 26 (kids and youngsters), and for over 65 (senior). If you use the train several times during your visit as an adult you can buy a rail pass (this is a 10-journey pass), which you can share with several persons. The ticket price on the rail pass is 8,3 euro per ride to any station in Belgium. If you are under 26 and travel with friends or use the train several times you can buy a go-pass 10 (also a 10-journy pass for under 26), which cost you 5,3 euro per ride to any train station in Belgium. If you only need one ticket as an under 26 you can buy a go-pass 1 which will cost 6,6 euro per ticket to any Belgian train station.
WITH THE TRAIN FROM PARIS OR CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT
From Paris you can take the high speed train Thalys, and from the airport Charles de Gaulle you can take the high speed train TGV to ‘Brussel-Zuid’ (Brussels South or Brussels Midi), and from there the IC train to Bruges. The high speed train takes 1 hour and 20 minutes from Paris to Brussels and a bit longer from the aiport to Brussels. The IC train from Brussels to Bruges takes 55 min. There are 3 direct trains per hour between Brussels and Bruges.
WITH THE TRAIN FROM AMSTERDAM
From Amsterdam, and Schiphol airport you can take the high speed train Thalys to Antwerpen. And from Antwerpen take the IC train to Bruges. The high speed train takes one hour and fifteen minutes from Amsterdam to Antwerpen. The high speed train from Amsterdam continues to Brussels. The Thalys ticket is cheaper if bought in advance. The Thalys ticket is for a fixed departure hour, with pre-booked seats.
You can also take the direct IC train from Amsterdam (or Schiphol airport) to Antwerpen. This takes 1 hour and 50 min. travel time. Your ticket gives access to any Intercity train on the chosen travel date. If you buy the IC ticket at least one week in advance you get cheaper rates (early bird).
From Antwerpen Centraal the IC train takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to Bruges. There are 3 trains every hour between Antwerpen and Bruges.
WHERE TO BUY INTERNATIONAL TRAIN TICKETS
Train tickets from Paris, Amsterdam or other European cities can be bought online on www.b-europe.com , and are cheaper the longer you buy them in advance. Thalys tickets can be bought up to 4 months in advance. If you travel with the Thalys from Paris or Amsterdam and continue to Bruges you can buy a Thalys ticket to Bruges (or any Belgian station) which includes the connection Antwerpen-Bruges with the IC train. There are lower fares for under 26 and over 60 years of age. If you travel by IC train from Amsterdam to Belgium you can buy the tickets on the day of travel or you can buy your IC ticket at least one week in advance on the site www.nsinternational.nl and get cheaper tickets to any Belgian station (early bird tickets), it will be even cheaper if you travel on a weekday and book at least 7 days in advance. Your ticket gives you access to any Intercity train on the chosen travel date.
LUGGAGE LOCKERS AT THE BRUGES TRAIN STATION
Tourists often wonder if they can leave their luggage at the train station: yes you can! There are lockers, small ones and large ones that can fit large suitcases. The lockers are accessible from the main station hall, the entrance to the locker room is at the left side of the ticket booths. The small lockers cost 4,5 euro and the large lockers 5,5 euro per 24 hours. You need coins to pay for the lockers ( it does not work with a credit card). You can always get small change at the ticket booths. There are two ATM machines in the hall to the train platforms.
WITH THE BUS FROM AMSTERDAM OR PARIS
If you are on a budget, the shuttle busses from Amsterdam or Paris to Bruges are offered by Ouibus and Flixbus. Travel times come close to that of the train on certain departure times, but may vary due to traffic. You have to book a fixed departure time, while the train gives you the flexibility to take any train on the date of travel if you travel by IC train. The train ticket can be booked on the day of travel. Flixbus gives the best options for travel from Paris to Brussels, they offer direct routes with shorter travel duration than the Ouibus. And they also offer shuttle busses from Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris to Bruges. They drop you of at Bargeplein in Bruges. Tickets can be booked online.
From Amsterdam Ouibus and Flixbus offer similar itineraries, prices and travel time. They both leave outside Amsterdam city centre, at Sloterdijk. So you will have to take public transport to Sloterdijk first from Amsterdam city centre. They both drop you of very close to Bruges centre, Flixbus drops you of at Bargeplein, Ouibus drops you of just behind the Bruges train station. Prices are not that much cheaper than the IC train connection, especially if you can book early bird tickets for the IC train Amsterdam-Bruges, but you will have to change trains twice.
ARRIVE BY FERRY OR EUROTUNNEL
If you arrive by P&O Ferry in Zeebrugge it takes twenty minutes by car to Bruges. The P&O Ferry company offers a coach service that brings you to Bruges (the coach service is included in the mini-cruise). The bus stop in Bruges is on the ‘Bargeplein’, from where it is an easy walk into the centre.
PARK YOU CAR IN BRUGES
If you arrive by car you can best leave your car at the car park next to the train station: Centrum-Station. It costs only 3,5 euro for 24 hours, the hourly rate is 0,70 euro. From here you can walk into the city, take a regular bus or take a free shuttle bus .
Behind the Centrum-Station car park you find a large covered bicycle parking and a motorcycle parking area. It is one of the few covered motorcycle parking areas in Bruges.
ARRIVE BY CRUISE
If you arrive by Cruise, you can book one of the tours offered by the cruise company to Bruges. Or you get on the free port shuttle, which will bring you outside the port area. From here you can organize you own excursion by using public transport (tram and train) or taxis. From outside te port area there is a shuttle service that takes you to Blankenberge station where you can take a train to Bruges station (see: With the train from the seaside), from where it is a 10 to 15 min. walk into the centre. Outside the terminal you can also use private operators offering bus transfers to Bruges, which will drop you of at Bargeplein (cruise-express.be/en/), from where it is also 10 to 15 min. walk into the centre.
BUSSES IN BRUGES
Bruges is covered by busses run by the company ‘De Lijn‘. From the train station several busses go to the centre and to the surrounding areas of Bruges. If you come by train or by car and park at the train station (parking Centrum-Station) you can take the following busses to the centre: nrs 14, 4, 13, that stop at the Markt. (central square) the nrs. 6, 16, 12 or 11 that stop at the Katelijnestraat (Church of our Lady), the Groeningsmuseum and the Vismarkt (Fishmarket). From the Bargeplein where the coaches and shuttle busses stop you can take bus nrs. 12 and 11 to the Beguinage, the Church of our Lady and Groeningemuseum. A bus travels between the Station and the City Centre and back every five minutes.
This year Bruges has launched small electric shuttle busses free of charge:
Every day from 7:20 AM till 7 PM at intervals of 20 min. a free shuttle bus operates from the train station to North of the city centre (at the crossing of Lodewijk Coiseaukaai and the Havenstraat) with stops at the Zand (concertgebouw and shopping streets), Hof van Watervliet (Simon Stevinsquare and Sint-Salvators church and shopping street), Markt (main square), Jan Van Eyck square, Langerei and on its way back it has stops at Biekorf, Zilverpand (shopping street), and the Concertgebouw at the Zand. The bus does not stop at the Bargeplein where the tourist busses stop as long as they are working in the Katelijnestreet. (which may be for quite some time) This shuttlebus is handy if you park your car at a low cost at the Station or free of charge at the Park and Ride at the Lodewijk Coiseaukaai. The shuttle is wheelchair accessible and there is space for prams and luggage.
WHERE TO BUY TICKETS FOR THE BUS
A ticket allows you to change bus services as many times as you want for a period of 60 minutes. The ticket price is 3 euro if you buy a single ticket with the bus driver. One ride on a Lijn card (ten ticket pass) costs 1,6 euro. You can also buy digital tickets if you install the app of De Lijn: a single ticket costs 1,8 euro (by sms). Unfortunately the app is only in Dutch.
You can buy bus tickets at the automated ticket machines or the ticket booth (Lijnwinkel) at the bus stop just outside the train station. The ticket booth is open Mon. to Fri. from 7:30 AM to 5:45 PM, Sat. 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sun. from 10 AM to 5:10 PM. Here you can buy single tickets and a Lijn card (ten ticket pass).
Each time you get on a bus or transfer, you must validate your ticket (single ticket or Lijn card) in on of the yellow machines on the bus. If you insert the ticket in the yellow machine near the driver, you do not have to do anything else. The driver will validate it for you. If you use the yellow machine on the left when getting on or at different doors, you must validate the ticket yourself. Select 1 on the machine. If you are travelling with several people, you must validate the ticket for each person.
WALKING OR BIKING
Bruges is a really small city, and you can easily visit it on foot. It takes only 10 to 15 minutes to reach the centre coming from the train station or the coach stop at the ‘Bargeplein’. So no need to buy a bus ticket. Another possibility is to rent a bike to visit the city. (see my blogpost here on seeing Brugge by bike)
There are many places to park you bike, and there are three large covered bicycle parking lots. One next to the train station, behind the car park, a second one under the Zand ( next to the concertgebouw), and a third one under the Markt (main square, entrance in the Sint-Amandsstraat). Always lock your bike!
HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE RIDE IN BRUGES
A popular way to visit Bruges is to take a horse-drawn carriage ride that starts at the ‘Markt’ (main square). It costs 50 euro per carriage for a half an hour tour, so it is best if you are with 3 to 5 persons to share one carriage since it is quite expensive if you are alone. The route brings you past the main tourist sites. Half way it makes a stop at the Beguinage and the Lake of Love, where you can get of and visit the Beguinage. The horses get to rest here, and get something to eat and drink. You can also book night tours if the weather allows. Payment only in cash, they don’t accept cards.
BOAT RIDE IN BRUGES
A tour with a boat is a real interesting way to discover Bruges. Bruges has many canals, and you see the city from a whole new perspective. It only costs 10 euro per person, 6 euro for children up to 11 years old. Boat-trips take about 30 minutes and you will see beautifull places that you can only see by boat. The boats run 7 days a week from March till mid-November: daily 10.00 a.m.-6.00 p.m. (last departure at 5.30 p.m.). In winter time the canal boats also run on weekends depending on the weather conditions. The boats are not covered, in the case of rain they offer umbrellas. Payment only in cash, they don’t accept cards.
There are five landing stages where you can board:
– Michielssens, Huidenvettersplein 13, tel. 050/33.00.41
– Coudenys, Rozenhoedkaai, tel. 050/33.13.75
– De Meulemeester, Wollestraat 32, tel. 050/33.41.20
– Gruuthuse, Nieuwstraat 11, tel. 050/33.32.93
– Stael, Katelijnestraat 4, tel. 050/33.27.71