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Avoid Crowds in Bruges

I noticed that the four and a half days that we will be in Belgium, Bruges will have a cruise ship scheduled to dock on each of the days. My question to the forum is are there areas where we can go to and visit or walk around to avoid some of the cruise passengers? I understand we won't be able avoid crowds in general, and to be quite frank, I don't think it will deter us from visiting Bruges but I wondered if we had some alternate places to visit and still get the "feel" of Bruges.

Thank you!

Posted by
4864 posts

Stay overnight if possible. I found Bruges to be very pleasant in the evenings.

Posted by
6649 posts

Are you going on a day trip? From where? I went as a day trip from Brussels and took an early train so I was there around 8:00 am so the crowds weren't horrible yet. I think most of the day trippers from Belgium start coming around 9:00 and the cruise ship passengers around 10:00. So, see the main sights of the old town center early and take a canal boat cruise fairly early if that's something you want to do.

I enjoyed wandering away from the worst of the crowded areas and I especially loved the Beguinage area, there weren't many other tourists there. I also escaped into the museums for a couple of hours and, surprisingly, they weren't that crowded.

If you're spending the night, you won't be bothered by the cruise shippers before 10:00 or after 4:00.

Posted by
6135 posts

As mentioned above, the "trick" to beating (well, mostly avoiding) crowds in places that are being loved-to-death is simple: do your best to be there when the crowds are elsewhere. Most places that suffer from over-tourism are over-crowded between late morning and early afternoon. Get up early -- maybe painfully early -- and you will probably find the place quiet, nearly empty, and retaining all the charm that made it a tourist magnet. During the mid-day crush, go somewhere else. Return in late afternoon, and smile as you watch the day-trippers and cruisers melt away. Savor those quiet, uncrowded evening and early morning hours (it's the best time to get photos, with dramatic lighting, and few strangers in your shots).

This works almost every place that's very crowded. You just have to get over that whole "I'm on vacation so I wanna sleep in" thing.

Sleep on the plane on the way home! Get up with the roosters and the city is yours!

Posted by
11099 posts

I did a Rick Steves Belgium and Holland trip in 2019 and our assistant guide had been a Viking guide for years so he knew all the folks leading the Viking tours. We noticed that they all seemed to be heading in the same direction around lunch time and he said that almost everyone returns to the boat for lunch as it is already paid for. I was shocked because ... who would take the time out of a tour day to do that? Well, plenty apparently. Anyway, I thought that was good to note that there might be a let up in visitors during midday when some return to the ship for lunch.

When are you going to visit? And it sounds like you are going on a day trip?

I concur with the other recommendation to stay the night there if you can...that is the best way to avoid others!

I will add that many of the museums in Bruges are closed on Mondays so I would certainly visit on another day if they are on your wish list.

Posted by
835 posts

Most tour groups concentrate in Bruges’ Burg Square where the City Hall and Belfort Tower are located. That is the center of Bruges— “Ground zero” for tour groups— and, although it can be crowded from 11am to 4pm, it’s only a small portion of the old city that is crowded for a small portion of the day. By overnighting in Bruges you can enjoy the Belfort’s views from the tower (Open 9am-8pm) and the inside of Bruges’ city hall ( 9:30am-5pm) before 10am and after 4pm and avoid the crowds. . As you venture away from Burg Square and get past the Groeninge Museum you start to lose the tour groups. The Begijnhof, Minnewater Park and the Gentpoort gate in the south, the old windmills and
the Kruisport gate in the east of Bruges are spots that have never seemed crowded to me. The northern half of Bruges above Burg Square is practically devoid of tourists.
Two tips: If you want to visit Bruges when it is less busy, go on weekdays. If you want to avoid cruise ship crowds, look at a site like www.Cruisemapper.com which shows what ships are in port on any day and what that ship’s passenger capacity is. A ship with a 500 passenger capacity is not going to impact Bruges nearly as much as a ship with a 3,000 passenger capacity.

Posted by
1465 posts

I just left Bruges a few days ago. We were there Fri, Sat, Sun & Mon. Saturday was by far the busiest. By Sunday evening it was almost empty and Monday evening was the quietest.

Posted by
2 posts

Hello all,

Thank you for all your input, it is much appreciated. :)
I think we will take the train to Bruges on a Monday and spend the evening.

Thanks again!!

Posted by
539 posts

As previously mentioned above by Pam, a lot of the museums in Bruges (and in the rest of Belgium) are closed on Monday’s. The same for shops and to a lesser extent also for restaurants. Make sure to check what’s open before you head out to Bruges.

Posted by
6113 posts

I was in Bruges last weekend. Most restaurants and shops are closed Sundays and Mondays. It was only busy around Saturday lunchtime but we easily managed to avoid others by heading a couple of streets away.