Antwerp vs. Bruges

Deciding between a trip to Antwerp or Bruges can be challenging, as both Belgian cities have their unique allure. Antwerp is renowned for its vibrant atmosphere and rich history, while Bruges captivates with its charming medieval architecture and picturesque canals. What exciting experiences await you in these two destinations? Let's find out!
Antwerp vs. Bruges

Table of Contents

Belgium is a country that offers countless treasures for travelers to explore. As you delve into this article, you’ll discover the distinct characteristics and attractions that make Antwerp and Bruges such fascinating cities. Curious about which destination is the perfect fit for your next adventure? Keep reading to unveil the hidden gems of Antwerp and Bruges!

History & Culture

Delving into the history and culture of Antwerp and Bruges, you’ll quickly see how each city has its unique stories to tell. Both destinations boast impressive pasts, but the ways they showcase their heritage differ significantly. Let’s dive into the rich historical tapestry of Antwerp and Bruges.

Antwerp’s past is steeped in wealth and power. As a significant European port, the city prospered and became a center of trade, art, and culture. Walking through the streets, you’ll feel the echoes of its golden age in the stunning architecture that surrounds you.

Antwerp’s vibrant art scene can be traced back to its most famous resident, Peter Paul Rubens, whose influence is still felt today.

In contrast, Bruges presents a more serene and romantic atmosphere. The city’s medieval heritage is remarkably well-preserved, making you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. Its charming cobblestone streets, winding canals, and striking Gothic buildings create a magical backdrop for exploring the rich cultural history.

Bruges was once a prominent center for commerce and art in medieval Europe, and this legacy is evident in its captivating museums and galleries.

While Antwerp’s history and culture are characterized by its bustling port and thriving art scene, Bruges enchants visitors with its fairy-tale-like charm and medieval splendor. Your choice between these two destinations will ultimately depend on whether you prefer the vibrant energy of Antwerp or the tranquil beauty of Bruges.

Whichever city you choose, you’re sure to be captivated by the rich history and culture that await you.

Attractions & Activities

When it comes to attractions and activities, Antwerp and Bruges each offer a distinct experience. These cities are rich with memorable sites to visit and engaging things to do. Let’s compare the highlights of Antwerp and Bruges.

Antwerp is a bustling city that doesn’t disappoint. The Cathedral of Our Lady is a must-visit, showcasing stunning Gothic architecture. Inside, you’ll find some of Peter Paul Rubens’ most famous works. The Grote Markt, Antwerp’s central square, is perfect for admiring the beautiful guild houses and the Brabo Fountain.

The Antwerp Zoo, one of the oldest in the world, delights visitors with its diverse collection of animals and picturesque gardens. For art lovers, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts houses an impressive collection of Flemish and European masterpieces. In addition, the city offers plenty of opportunities for cycling and walking tours, allowing you to explore at your own pace.

Bruges, on the other hand, exudes charm and tranquility. The medieval Belfry Tower is an iconic symbol of the city, offering panoramic views from the top. A boat ride along the picturesque canals provides an enchanting way to explore the city’s hidden gems.

The Church of Our Lady is a stunning example of Gothic architecture and houses Michelangelo’s sculpture, Madonna and Child. The tranquil Minnewater Park, often called the “Lake of Love,” is a romantic spot to relax and watch swans glide by.

For those interested in history, the Groeningemuseum showcases an impressive collection of Flemish and Belgian art, including works by Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling. Exploring the city by foot or bike allows you to fully appreciate the beauty of Bruges’ well-preserved medieval streets.

In conclusion, both Antwerp and Bruges have their unique attractions and activities. Antwerp’s vibrant atmosphere is perfect for those who enjoy a bustling city with an array of cultural experiences. Bruges, with its serene ambiance and fairy-tale charm, caters to those seeking a more tranquil escape.

The choice between Antwerp and Bruges will depend on your personal preferences, but either city will leave you with unforgettable memories.


While not known for their beaches, Antwerp and Bruges each offer waterfront experiences. Let’s compare the beach options near these cities.

Antwerp isn’t a beach destination, but it does have a unique city beach, Sint-Annastrand. Known as “St. Anneke Beach,” it’s situated on the left bank of the River Scheldt. This sandy stretch offers a relaxing spot for sunbathing and playing beach sports. You can enjoy panoramic views of Antwerp’s skyline from here.

For more beach options, you can travel approximately 62.1 miles (100 km) to the Belgian coast, where you’ll find several seaside towns like Ostend, Knokke-Heist, and De Panne, each with its own sandy beaches and lively atmosphere.

Bruges, being further inland, doesn’t have direct access to the beach. However, the Belgian coast is only a short drive away. The closest beach town is Blankenberge, approximately 9.3 miles (15 km) from Bruges. Blankenberge offers a wide sandy beach and a vibrant seafront with numerous cafes, restaurants, and shops.

Additionally, the picturesque town of De Haan is about 10.6 miles (17 km) from Bruges. De Haan boasts a charming atmosphere and a pristine, quiet beach perfect for a more relaxing experience. For those seeking more beach variety, the entire Belgian coast offers over 40 miles (64 km) of sandy shores, each with its own unique character.

In conclusion, neither Antwerp nor Bruges are traditional beach destinations, but they still provide access to coastal experiences. Antwerp has its city beach and is close to the Belgian coast. Bruges, while inland, is a short drive from several beach towns. Your choice will depend on whether you prefer a city beach experience or proximity to a variety of coastal towns.

Eating, Drinking & Nightlife

Antwerp and Bruges both offer a diverse culinary scene, vibrant drinking culture, and lively nightlife. Let’s dive into the differences between these two cities.

When it comes to eating, Antwerp boasts a variety of international cuisines. Here, you’ll find everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to casual eateries. On the other hand, Bruges offers a more traditional Belgian dining experience, with its focus on local dishes and a cozy atmosphere.

For drinks, Antwerp has many options. The city is known for its lively bars and pubs, where you can sample Belgian beers and other drinks. Bruges, while smaller, has its own charm with historic bars offering a selection of local brews.

Regarding nightlife, Antwerp is a bustling city with an energetic vibe. It has a thriving club scene, as well as numerous live music venues and late-night bars. In contrast, Bruges offers a more laid-back atmosphere, with cozy pubs and a few late-night venues that cater to a more intimate experience.

Antwerp’s drinking scene offers something for everyone. From trendy cocktail bars to traditional beer cafés, you’ll find a wide variety of places to enjoy a drink. Bruges, while more limited in scope, focuses on its charming and historic bars, perfect for sipping a Belgian beer in a cozy setting.

For those seeking nightlife, Antwerp stands out with its array of clubs and music venues. You can dance the night away or catch a live performance at one of the city’s hotspots. Bruges, on the other hand, provides a quieter night out with its selection of pubs and wine bars, ideal for conversation and relaxation.

In conclusion, Antwerp and Bruges each cater to different tastes when it comes to eating, drinking, and nightlife. Antwerp is perfect for those seeking a diverse culinary scene and a vibrant nightlife, while Bruges offers a more traditional Belgian experience with a focus on history and charm. Choose the city that best matches your preferences for dining, drinks, and evening entertainment.


Antwerp and Bruges each offer unique shopping experiences. Let’s explore what you can expect in each city.

Antwerp is a shopping hub. You’ll find big-name brands and trendy boutiques here. Bruges, on the other hand, is known for local shops and charming markets.

In Antwerp, you’ll discover designer stores. The city is famous for its fashion scene. Bruges offers a different vibe, with artisan shops selling handmade goods and souvenirs.

Antwerp has several shopping districts. Meir Street is the main shopping area. Bruges’ shopping is centered around its historic center, with cobblestone streets lined with shops.

Antwerp’s fashion scene is world-renowned. Local designers showcase their creations in stylish boutiques. In Bruges, you’ll find unique items that reflect the city’s rich history and culture.

Antwerp is also great for vintage shopping. The city has many secondhand shops and markets. Bruges is the place to find traditional Belgian products, like chocolate and lace.

In conclusion, Antwerp and Bruges offer distinct shopping experiences. Antwerp is perfect for fashion lovers and those seeking big-name brands. Bruges is ideal for those looking to explore charming local shops and purchase traditional Belgian items. Choose the destination that best suits your shopping desires.


Antwerp and Bruges provide various accommodation options. Let’s see what each city has to offer.

Antwerp has a wide range of choices. You’ll find luxury hotels, budget-friendly hostels, and Airbnb rentals. Bruges, being a smaller city, has fewer options but offers unique stays.

In Antwerp, you can choose from modern hotels. Many are located near the city center. Bruges has charming boutique hotels, often set in historic buildings.

Antwerp’s accommodations cater to different budgets. You can find affordable hostels and mid-range hotels. Bruges has a smaller selection, but still offers budget-friendly stays.

Both cities have family-friendly accommodations. Antwerp has spacious hotels and apartments for families. Bruges features cozy guesthouses and B&Bs suitable for families too.

In conclusion, Antwerp offers a diverse selection of accommodations, from luxury to budget options. Bruges has fewer choices but focuses on unique, charming stays. Both cities have options suitable for families, solo travelers, and couples. Choose the city that best matches your accommodation preferences.

Family-Friendliness & Children’s Activities

Choosing a destination for family trips is essential. Let’s compare Antwerp and Bruges for family-friendliness and children’s activities.

Antwerp has many family-friendly options. You’ll find kid-friendly museums and parks. Bruges, on the other hand, offers a more relaxed atmosphere. It has picturesque canals and cobblestone streets.

In Antwerp, visit the zoo near the Central Station. Kids will love the animals and play areas. In Bruges, Minnewater Park is perfect for family picnics and leisurely walks.

Antwerp’s Aquatopia is an aquatic wonderland. Children can explore marine life in this fascinating aquarium. Bruges doesn’t have a similar attraction but offers boat tours on its charming canals.

The Comics Station Antwerp is an indoor theme park. It features beloved comic book characters and thrilling rides. Bruges has no equivalent, but the Historium Bruges offers interactive, history-themed experiences for kids.

Antwerp has a large pedestrian shopping area. Kids can enjoy street performers and indulge in Belgian waffles. Bruges, with its quaint streets and squares, is ideal for leisurely strolls and family-friendly cafes.

Both cities have family-friendly accommodations. Antwerp offers spacious hotels and apartments. Bruges has cozy guesthouses and B&Bs that cater to families.

In summary, Antwerp boasts a variety of family-friendly activities, such as the zoo, Aquatopia, and Comics Station. Bruges offers a more relaxed, picturesque environment for families to explore, with boat tours, parks, and interactive history experiences. Both cities have family-friendly accommodations, making them suitable for a memorable family vacation.

Consider your family’s preferences and interests when deciding between Antwerp and Bruges.

Getting There & Getting Around

Traveling to and navigating through Antwerp and Bruges is essential information. Let’s compare the two destinations regarding transportation.

Reaching Antwerp is relatively easy. Brussels Airport is the closest international airport, 28 miles (45 km) away. Alternatively, Bruges is accessible through the same airport, 60 miles (97 km) away.

Antwerp has a central train station. High-speed trains connect the city to major European destinations. Bruges also offers train connections, though fewer high-speed options are available.

Within Antwerp, public transportation is efficient. Trams, buses, and bikes are popular options for getting around. In Bruges, the compact city center is best explored on foot or by bike.

Antwerp’s Velo bike-sharing system is convenient. You can rent bikes for short trips across the city. Bruges also has a bike-sharing program, Blue-bike, which offers similar services.

Both cities have a well-developed network of buses and trams. Antwerp’s public transport system, De Lijn, connects the city’s major attractions. Bruges’ system, operated by the same company, serves the city center and surrounding areas.

Taxis and ride-sharing services are available in both cities. Antwerp has a more extensive network due to its larger size. Bruges has fewer options, but taxis are still readily available.

In summary, reaching both Antwerp and Bruges is relatively straightforward, with Brussels Airport being the main gateway. Antwerp has better high-speed train connections, while Bruges is more compact and walkable. Both cities offer efficient public transport systems and bike-sharing programs, ensuring you can get around with ease.


Understanding the weather in Antwerp and Bruges is important for planning your trip. Let’s compare the climates of these two destinations.

Antwerp experiences a temperate maritime climate. Summers are mild, with average temperatures around 70°F (21°C). Winters are chilly, averaging 36°F (2°C).

In contrast, Bruges also has a maritime climate. Summer temperatures are similar to Antwerp, averaging 69°F (21°C). Winter temperatures are slightly milder, averaging 39°F (4°C).

Rain is common in both cities throughout the year. Antwerp tends to have more rainfall, with an average annual precipitation of 33 inches (840 mm). Bruges receives slightly less rain, with 31 inches (790 mm) annually.

Both destinations can be quite windy. Antwerp, being a port city, experiences more wind, particularly during fall and winter. Bruges also has its share of windy days, but it is generally less windy.

In summary, the weather in Antwerp and Bruges is quite similar, with mild summers and cool winters. Antwerp is slightly rainier and windier than Bruges. Pack accordingly to stay comfortable during your visit to either city.


As a traveler, it’s important to consider the safety of Antwerp and Bruges when planning your trip. Let’s explore the safety aspects of these destinations.

Both Antwerp and Bruges are generally considered safe for tourists. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and bag snatching, can occur in crowded areas, but these incidents are relatively rare. Staying vigilant and aware of your surroundings can help keep you safe in both cities.

Antwerp, being a larger city, has some areas with higher crime rates. However, these areas are typically not frequented by tourists. Bruges, on the other hand, has a lower crime rate overall and is known for its peaceful atmosphere.

Regarding non-crime safety concerns, both cities have well-maintained infrastructure and public transportation systems. Traffic can be busy in Antwerp, so exercise caution when crossing streets and navigating the city. Bruges, with its pedestrian-friendly streets, is generally easier to navigate on foot.

In summary, both Antwerp and Bruges are safe destinations for travelers. While Antwerp has a slightly higher crime rate, it is still a secure city if you stay in tourist areas and remain vigilant. Bruges offers a serene and safe environment, making it an attractive option for those seeking a tranquil experience.


When planning a trip, the cost is always an essential factor to consider. Let’s compare the expenses you may encounter in Antwerp and Bruges.

In Antwerp, accommodation prices range from €80 to €200 ($90 to $225) per night for a mid-range hotel. Meals at restaurants can cost around €15 to €30 ($17 to $34) per person. Public transportation is affordable, with a day pass costing €8 ($9).

In Bruges, a mid-range hotel room will set you back between €70 and €180 ($79 to $203) per night. Dining out at a restaurant, expect to pay around €20 to €40 ($23 to $45) per person. Public transportation is slightly cheaper than in Antwerp, with a day pass costing €6 ($7).

While both destinations offer a variety of options for different budgets, Antwerp tends to be slightly more expensive in terms of accommodation and dining. However, the difference in cost is not substantial, and with proper planning, both cities can be enjoyed without breaking the bank. Remember to always research and compare prices to ensure you get the best value for your money during your visit.

Which Is Better – Antwerp or Bruges?

In terms of history and culture, Antwerp boasts a vibrant art scene and a rich historical heritage. Bruges, on the other hand, charms with its well-preserved medieval architecture and picturesque canals.

Regarding attractions and activities, Antwerp offers a diverse mix of modern attractions and traditional experiences, while Bruges captivates with its romantic atmosphere and leisurely pace. Both cities provide a range of options for all interests.

When considering beaches, neither city is renowned for its sandy shores. However, if you’re looking for a coastal escape, Antwerp is closer to Belgium’s coastline, making it more convenient for a day trip.

In the realm of eating, drinking, and nightlife, both Antwerp and Bruges offer mouthwatering cuisine and lively nightlife scenes. Antwerp’s cosmopolitan atmosphere leads to a more varied and international selection, while Bruges caters to those seeking traditional Belgian fare and cozy pubs.

For shopping enthusiasts, Antwerp presents a more extensive range of options, from high-end designer boutiques to local artisanal shops. Bruges maintains a more quaint and charming shopping experience with its picturesque streets lined with local stores.

Concerning accommodation, both cities offer a variety of choices to suit different budgets. However, Antwerp tends to have slightly higher prices for lodging than Bruges.

If traveling with family, both destinations are family-friendly, but Bruges might be the better choice for a more relaxed and laid-back vacation. Children’s activities are abundant in both cities.

In terms of getting there and getting around, both cities are easily accessible by train or car. Antwerp boasts a more extensive public transportation system, while Bruges is smaller and more walkable.

Weather-wise, both cities share similar climate patterns, with mild summers and cool winters. It’s essential to pack accordingly and be prepared for rain in both destinations.

Safety in Antwerp and Bruges is generally not a significant concern, with both cities maintaining low crime rates. However, it’s essential to remain vigilant and follow general safety precautions at any destination.

Finally, regarding cost, both cities can cater to different budgets, but Antwerp is generally slightly more expensive than Bruges, especially in terms of accommodation and dining.

In conclusion, the choice between Antwerp and Bruges ultimately depends on your personal preferences and the type of vacation you desire. Antwerp is ideal for those seeking a bustling, cosmopolitan atmosphere with a rich art scene, while Bruges is perfect for travelers looking for a romantic, charming, and more leisurely-paced getaway.