When I first arrived into Bruges (by train from Brussels for the day), I came upon its beautiful canals while walking from the train station and into town. Then I noticed these little boats, carrying around 25 passengers cruising the canals and going under scenic stone bridges. It seemed the perfect way to enjoy this town.
The first pier I passed had a long line of people waiting for their turn. I decided to first explore the town by foot and wait until the afternoon in hopes of shorter lines. By around 3pm, the skies had darkened and rain was threatening to fall. Needless to say, there were no more lines and I stopped at the first ticket booth. The fare was about $5 and after a 2 minute wait, the few of us were allowed to board the small boat.
The boat itself is medium sized, with wooden benches around the edge and rows of seats in the middle. I decided to sit towards the back to get the best view. After a couple more minutes, the boat filled up and our "captain" hopped abroad. He was an older man who spoke an impressive number of languages. He asked our group which languages we needed and then proceeded to give a short history in German, French, Spanish and English. The narrative continued with interesting tidbits and stories along the way.
The view from the boat was beautiful. I remember thinking how my gondola ride in Venice was ridiculously overpriced. I enjoyed the churches, schools, buildings, museums, numerous bridges, the trees, even an old brewery, all from a front row perspective. Our captain pointed out things like the smallest window (a tiny glass opening at the side of a building) and gave us many canal measurements and numbers of bridges to contemplate. The sky had cleared by the time the boated started, just in time for the light to break through. It was so picturesque I found it hard to stop taking too many photos.
The canals of Bruges are not as long nor intricate as those in Venice, Italy. However, they are so pleasant and in hindsight, well worth the long lines. The further you go away from the town center, the less people there are at the ticket booths. Try to pick an off-center site and try your luck.