Travel to Bruges
In my dedication to extensive travel research, I personally have arrived in Bruges by four routes from the UK. Ferry to Ostend and then coach, cruise ship, Eurostar and plane but here are my practical suggestions to make the journey as pleasant as possible.
From the London, you can take the Eurostar from St Pancras International Station to Brussels and then change to a regional intercity train but you can purchase a single ticket to cover the whole trip. The total journey is a little under 3.5 hours. Make sure you allow at least 30 mins before you board your train in London to clear passport control.
Bruges is a little over an hour by train from Brussels. Trains leave for Bruges 3 times every hour so you don’t need to worry about making your connections even if there is a delay on Eurostar. Your tickets are valid for the whole day.
There are frequent flights to Brussels from most major European international airports. Please be aware there are two main airports in Brussels. The main international airport is Brussels Airport Zaventem and is where most main airlines will land. Some budget airlines will also use Brussels South Charleroi Airport.
From Brussels Airport Zaventem to Bruges
The quickest and easiest route is by train. Take the lift or escalators down to the -1 level where the train station is located. Tickets can be purchased either from the ticket office or any of the machines. The machines will also take cards or cash and you may select transactions to be displayed in English.
I find it even simpler to purchase my train tickets online in advance at the official SNCB website https://www.belgiantrain.be/en. Tickets are valid for the entire day and all routes. You can pay by card and download the tickets to your mobile phone. There are weekend ticket deals that I only found on the official website. You can also check the train timetables and even the train platforms on the website. You can purchase either 1st or 2nd class tickets. 1st class gives you a wider seat and more room for your luggage but that’s all. At rush hour, the 1st class carriages are also fairly empty compared with 2nd class so you may want to take your arrival time into account.The quickest and easiest route is by train. Take the lift or escalators down to the -1 level where the train station is located. Tickets can be purchased either from the ticket office or any of the machines. The machines will also take cards or cash and you may select transactions to be displayed in English.
To go through the ticket barriers, scan either the barcode on your mobile phone or ticket. Direct trains depart hourly but there are 2 further trains each hour with short connections in Brussels Midi/Zuid. All train journeys are approximately 90mins.
From Brussels South Charleroi to Bruges
This airport is situated approximately 1 hour south of central Brussels. The Bus Line A will take you to Charleroi Train Station and then you can take an onward train to Bruges. The journey to the train station is approximately 20mins and you can purchase a combined bus/train ticket. The whole journey to Bruges is approximately 2.5hours including a bit of walking and change of trains at Brussels Midi Station so please take this into account if you choose this route.
The Eurotunnel is 35min from Folkestone to Calais with 4 departures per hour. Folkestone to Bruges would take 2.5hours . When you arrive, the best place to park is the underground carpark beneath the Concert Hall. They currently charge 8.5euros per day. Although there is some car access more centrally, the parking is exponentially more expensive and you won’t need your car to get around town. You also may not feel comfortable negotiating the cobblestoned streets or cyclists that can travel in any direction down any street (including one way streets!)
Travelling from the North of England? You could consider the overnight ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge operated by P&O Ferries. You can check in from 3-5pm for the once a day 6:30pm sailing, arriving in Zeebrugge just before 9am. Tickets are available for pedestrian and car crossings and prices start at £180 return for a pedestrian including overnight cabin berth. If you are not taking your car, then look up one of the bus shuttle services that go to Bruges. Most departures are timed to coincide with ferry and cruise ship arrivals and the transfer time is approximately 30mins.
Arriving in Bruges
However you arrive, whether to the train station or the coach stop, the best introduction to Bruges is on foot and will take you via the Minnewater Park to the south of the historic centre. The route to the city centre are well signposted and the Congress venue Site Oud Sint Jan is only a 10min walk from your arrival point. The central Market Square is only a further 10min away. Bruges is flat and cobblestoned and easy to negotiate. Do check with your hotel. Some might be more difficult to access by car. Want to arrive in style? There are horse carriages that can be picked up near the picturesque Sashuis!
BAPS Honorary Secretary