The photography guide to Belgium Bruges
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Bruges photography guide

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Introduction

Bruges (or Brugge to the Flemish speaking locals) is a city both so humbly small and yet so rewardingly big to both locals and visitors, infinitely so for photographers.

A former center of marine shipping and trade in the middle ages, this intimate city offers a feast of neo gothic landscapes relatively untouched by time, with tiny details that make it as complex and satisfying as a fine Belgian beer and/or chocolate.

Spring and fall offer the best of the light and weather as well as the least busy sides of the tourist season, but don’t be fooled: this isn’t ever a city too-flooded by tour groups right to the edges of the city ring. The center is only one part of the Bruges story (although one definitely not to be missed!). Get beyond the main historic area and the quiet side of town is all yours for the taking.

Year round, you’ll find Bruges offers you something: summer brings crowds to the sights to mix up your landscapes with some street shots, spring and fall undoubtedly have the best light to show off the beauty of Bruges, then winter brings the Christmas markets followed by a period of absolute quiet after the New Year before it starts all over again.

Bruges is generally kind to photographers with moderate but reasonably fair restrictions: Churches have mixed policies on tripods (ask and you may just be allowed!), artworks are often subject to copyright for commercial purposes, and while Belgians are somewhat okay about candid street shooting, it doesn’t hurt to wave with a “Dankuwel!” (thank you!) and maybe even hello.

Most popular Bruges photo spots


Top Picks

It’s well worth considering a 2 to 3 night stay if possible, mainly for the changing light and somewhat erratic weather. It’s a small city to navigate so with such time you’ll easily get to all of the suggested locations. There is limited and fairly expensive paid parking in the city so travel by foot wherever possible.

It’s also well worth considering Bruges as your base for visits to surrounding areas, most notably the nearby village of Damme and Flanders Fields in the Leper region.

Visiting for just one day? Start at the train station (also a great spot for parking) and do the Lake of Love/Behijnhof directly to beat the crowds before heading in towards the Market Square. From there, pick any direction and you’ll have plenty to shoot; the windmills and surrounding area of St. Ana is the easiest to navigate.


Travel

Bruges is a safe city; bike theft is possibly the main issue. Saying that, make sure you use common sense for your camera and other valuables (pickpockets everywhere are looking for distracted photographers) and be sensible if going out on your own and especially late at night.

Belgium is like all mainland European Union members and uses standard EU 220v two pin plugs. You can often change the power cord on your battery charger and expect the voltage to adapt.

The main mobile networks are Belgacom or BASE, free public wifi is common in cafes. Paid wifi is generally available at airports and other such areas - have your credit card ready.

The parking situation in Bruges is both wonderfully straightforward and frustratingly annoying, especially as of 2017 with a new plan introduced to reduce parking congestion.

Within the city ring you’ll be able to park most anywhere unless indicated, as long as you work it out with the rather ugly gray parking meter of course. Within the city ring between 9am to 8pm it’s 4 hours maximum (from July 2017) at 4€ per hour before you have to renew or move, directly outside of the city ring (the “Blauw Zone”) it’s free with a blue EU parking disc for 4 hours maximum.

It’s overall recommended to leave your car in a paid parking spot, the one by the train station easiest to find and includes a return bus ticket to the city centre. Exploring Bruges by foot or bicycle is by far the best way to get around.

More details via www.brugge.be/parkeren


Events

Bruges is a city that knows how to enjoy life, so festivals and events are frequent and varied. You’ll also see a healthy share of street performers over the warmer months (especially summer) so keep your eyes open on the Market & Burg squares.

The most exciting yearly event for photographers is the Procession of the Holy Blood in late May where hundreds of locals dressed up in exotic period clothes parade the streets of Bruges. The Pageant of the Golden Tree is also excellent although only held every 5 years.

Since 2016 the local hotel association (Discover Bruges) has started the excellent Costumes de Venice in Bruges initiative in January. Watch the city truly become “Venice of the North” as these stunning masked visitors take over the otherwise quiet side of the year.

There are also a few free music festivals to consider, Moods Festival starts in late July for 2 weeks and Benenwerk basically turns the city center into a multi-stage party late into the night.

There are also odd-year events that quite suit photography, like De Triennale every 3 years, and look out for annual through-the-city sporting events like the Brugge Urban Trail.

We also have a lovely Christmas market here in the main square from late November until January, the streets are vibrant and alive, with many opportunities for photos and generous seasonal cheer.


Links


Curated By

Photo Tour Brugge Curator
The original daily photo tour for ALL photographers in Brugge (Bruges) Belgium since 2012. Open tours (4 photographers max) and private tours (treat yourself without blowing the budget!) with sample photos for ideas etc, advice as wanted for creative and technical inspiration, small groups and made for best light and getting the best photos.
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