CRUISE BRUGES’ CANALS FOR A UNIQUE POINT OF VIEW:Bruges is sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North”. Why? The city is circled by canals and some of the most picturesque images of Bruges are set against its waterways. Touristy it may be, but one of the must-do things in this city is to go on a canal cruise to discover some hidden sights of Bruges from water level.
What’s Along the Canals
Between the 12th and 15th centuries when Bruges was a major port, its canals played an important role in the transportation of goods that were traded here. Bankers and wealthy merchants established themselves in this city and along the canals are interesting and well-preserved medieval houses and buildings such as the Poortersloge (Merchants’ Lodge) and the Old Tollhouse, that remind of Bruges’ prosperous trading past.
Today, Bruges’ canals carry trade of a different kind – its canal tours are hugely popular, especially during the summer months.
Taking a Canal Tour
There are five locations where you can hop onto one of the canal tours and we chose the one at Rozenhoedkaai as it seemed to do a bustling business. When we saw that a large number of organized groups had gathered and were waiting for their cruise, we had second thoughts about the canal tour. Luckily the groups were soon whisked away in boats that were reserved for them and we didn’t have to join any huge queues to board our canal boat.
The canal tours are conducted in modern fibreglass boats – sorry no gondolas here – and the driver of the boat provides the commentary as well.
Rozenhoedkaai is one of the most photographed spots in Bruges and this was a good place to start our canal tour. It is believed that in the middle ages, this was the area where ships used to unload their salt shipments. The quay only got its name Rozenhoedkaai in the 18th century because there were stalls selling rosaries here.
A little further along we passed many medieval canal houses and saw historical monuments like the Belfort and Church of Our Lady from a different perspective. One of the hidden views was the 1776 doorway to the Princely Beguinage of the Vineyard which can only be seen from the canal. For architecture fans, there is a wealth of different building styles, especially the stepped gables, to admire.The half-hour cruise, which costs €7.60, showed us views of Bruges from a different perspective than when we were exploring on foot. The relaxing cruise also gave our tired feet a half hour break. What would have been nice to have is a map showing us the route and sights along the way as there were just too many buildings to remember … and some blue skies would have been nice too. But for €7.60, we really can’t complain.