Zeebrugge Cruise Port – Where to go and what to see

Make the most of your time ashore with my guide to some of the things you can do in Zeebrugge and beyond.

The Port of Zeebrugge is a popular stop on mini and Northern Europe cruises from the UK and beyond. A coastal town in the north of Belgium – it’s name means Bruges-on-Sea – Zeebrugge is a port full of possibilities.

Ships usually arrive in the morning and depart late afternoon/early evening. Occasionally, there might be an overnight stay in port. Over the last couple of years I have done cruises with both these options and either way, there is usually plenty of time to explore this part of Belgium.

Whether you visit the nearby coastal town of Blankenberge, take a trip to magical Bruges or head to the Belgium capital, Brussels, there is more enough to keep you busy here.

So, I’ve put together this guide to Zeebrugge cruise port based on my experiences to help you make the most of you day in port.

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At A Glance: Things to do from Zeebrugge

All cruises lines that call into Zeebrugge will offer many different excursions to help you see the best of the region. Or you can easily visit most of these independently, giving you more flexibility and freedom.

Popular places to visit include

  • Bruges
  • Ghent
  • Ypres
  • Brussels
  • Blankenberge

As well as sightseeing tours, there are often also options for experiences like beer tasting and chocolate making. Well, we are in Belgium, probably the chocolate capital of the world!

Zeebrugge Cruise Port

Located on the North Sea coast of Belgium, the Port of Zeebrugge is the country’s second largest port. While it is largely a commercial port handling cargo, there is also facilities for cruise ships to dock.

Once docked, there is no pedestrian access for cruise passengers at the port. So you can’t just get off the ship and go for a wander. However, there is a free shuttle bus that takes you from the gangway to the cruise terminal and vice versa. On my visits, these buses ran regularly and there was little wait so it didn’t take too long to get in and out of the port.

If you are taking a shore excursion with your cruise line then the tour coaches will come to the ship. A member of the shore excursion team or ship crew will usually be waiting for you dockside to direct you to the right coach. 

Tip | Before leaving the ship, make sure you have your shore excursion ticket. It’s surprisingly easy to leave it behind and you don’t want to have to get back on board to retrieve it. 

As there are likely to be multiple coaches heading off to different locations (and maybe more than one booked for the same shore excursion) you want to make sure you get on and off the right coach throughout the day. When boarding your coach, make a quick note of the number on the sign in the window or door. I jotted it down in my notes app on my phone just in case.

When you return from your excursion you’ll be dropped off at the cruise terminal. You then take the shuttle bus from the terminal to the ship once you have cleared security. 

image of large cruise ship docked in Zeebrugge Cruise Port
P&O Cruises Iona and Valiant Lady docked next to each other in Zeebrugge Port

Doing your own thing in port

If you prefer to do your own thing, you can reach Bruges, Ghent and Brussels quite easily using local transport options.

Your cruise line may offer a shuttle bus into Blankenberge, where you can pick up a train to Bruges, Ghent or Brussels. Alternatively, you can book a round-trip service to Bruges that will pick you up and drop you off outside the cruise terminal. The journey from Zeebrugge to Bruges takes around 20-30 minutes depending on traffic.

There is also a taxi rank outside the Zeebrugge cruise terminal. On my last visit, the shuttle buses were fully booked so we ended up using a taxi from Zeebrugge to Bruges. This cost us €50 each way.

Doing it yourself offers a lot of flexibility to your visit. However, please remember it is your responsibility to get back to the ship on time. The ship won’t wait if you are late. 

Places to visit from Zeebrugge

From coastal towns to fairytale cities, there are lots of things do near the port of Zeebrugge. You could easily spend an overnight there and not run out of places to visit. However, most cruises are only in port for a day so it’s best to pick one place and explore at a leisurely pace.


Just 15 minutes or so from Zeebrugge is Blankenberge, one of Belgium’s most popular coastal towns. Here you can enjoy a stroll along the sandy beach or promenade, sip a drink in one of the beach bars or wander along the pier.

If the beach isn’t for you, other things you can do in Blankenberge include visiting the local nature reserves, checking out the yachts in the marina or having a nose around the shops.

You can learn about the town’s culture and heritage at the Belle Epoque Center or discover more about Blankenberge’s maritime history with a visit to the oldest fisherman’s cottage on the Belgian Coast.

Find out more about Blankenberge here.


Beautiful Bruges is probably the most popular excursion from Zeebrugge. With its cobblestone lanes, winding canals and stunning architecture, a visit to Bruges is like stepping into a fairytale city for a few hours. 

The historic centre of the city is so well preserved it has been made a UNESCO world heritage site.

Some of the top things to do in Bruges include

  • Trying some Belgium chocolate and/or waffles 
  • Wandering around Market (Markt) Square (and maybe have lunch or a drink in one of the restaurants and bars that surround the square)
  • Climbing the Belfry Tower for a panoramic view of the city
  • Enjoying a canal ride (Bruges is dubbed the Venice of the north)
  • Exploring the old town

On my first visit, I just wandered around but in hindsight I should probably have had bit of a plan of what I wanted to see. It did end up being bit of an aimless wander with a stop for some waffles. An enjoyable afternoon but I think I could have seen a lot more of the city.

Tip | If you want to take a shore excursion to Bruges, book early as it is a popular choice and likely to get booked up quickly.

It is fairly straightforward to get from Zeebrugge port to Bruges. If you are not taking a ship run excursion you can pick up a taxi or a Zeebrugge to Bruges shuttle bus outside the cruise terminal.


If you’d like to explore further afield you can take a trip the Belgium capital, Brussels.

Your cruise line may offer an excursion or shuttle bus there or you can make your own way there by public transport or hiring a car. It takes between an hour an half to two hours to get to Brussels.

Despite its reputation as the most boring city in Europe, you’ll find plenty there to keep you busy for a day. None of them boring either.

Some of the things to do in Brussels include

  • Visiting the Grand Palace
  • Walking the comic book route
  • Taking in some of the city’s impressive architecture
  • Trying a Belgium waffle or chocolate (or maybe both!)
  • Enjoying a Belgium beer
image of medieval style buildings

On a previous trip to Brussels – not while on a cruise – I spent a great afternoon following the comic book trail. Over 50 comic strip murals are painted on buildings across the city. You can purchase a map from the city’s tourist office to help you find them.


While everybody heads off to Bruges, it’s easy to overlook Ghent. However, this vibrant city is also packed with incredible architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, bustling squares and scenic waterways. And far fewer crowds. 

Popular things you can do in Ghent include

  • Wandering around the city centre
  • Visiting Gravensteen – a 10th-century castle
  • Taking a boat trip along the canals and waterways
  • Visiting St. Bavo’s Cathedral 
  • Climbing the Belfry of Ghent

It is possible to do Bruges and Ghent in the same day if you’d like to get the best of both worlds.

However, you would only get a few hours in each place so it might be worth booking a return trip so you can give each city the attention they deserve. And save yourself a bit of rushing around.

image of medieval style buildings in lining canal


It seems hard to believe now but the region just an hour or so from Zeebrugge saw some of the bloodiest battles of World War I.

Today, you can visit the battlegrounds and pay tribute to fallen soldiers at the war cemeteries and memorials along what was the Western Front. 

Cruise lines often offer tours of Ypres and the surrounding area so you can learn more about World War I.

Stops on these tours usually include

  • Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial – the largest British and Commonwealth war cemetery in the world
  • In Flanders Fields Museum
  • Menin Gate

It takes an hour or so to reach Ypres by road. Unless you hire a car or book a private tour, it’s probably easier to take up a cruise line excursion as they will take to you all the main places to visit.

I did a shore excursion here on my last visit to Zeebrugge. While it was quite a long, draining day it was a thought-provoking look at this terrible time in history.

The Last Word

While at first glance, seeing Zeebrugge on your cruise itinerary might not seem that exciting, however, it is actually a great port to start exploring Belgium from.

I’ve been back twice on cruises so far with one more booked as I am still finding plenty of things I’d like to see and do.

So, don’t be surprised to find you might also want to plan a trip back as it so hard to choose where to visit from this port.

More Norther Europe Port Guides

2 thoughts on “Zeebrugge Cruise Port – Where to go and what to see

    • emmaonline says:

      Hi Josette, I don’t know the exact time but it should be shortly after the ship has docked and you are allowed off. Enjoy your cruise. Emma

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