Port of Zeebrugge is Flanders most important cruise port because it is centrally located and accessible. Zeebrugge offers good road and rail connections to all major destinations in continental Europe. It boasts an attractive marina that can accommodate up to 100 ships. In 2003, a record 1,577, 618 cars passed through Zeebrugge. Its town is a seaside resort with a pretty little sandy beach, connected to the historic town of Bruges by a 7.5-mile long canal. The popular seafront has many hotels and cafes.
Zeebrugge History. The origins of the port of Zeebrugge date back 10,000 years to a time when the warming of the poles has raised water levels and created a delta of large rivers (Rhine, Scheldt, Meuse). In the 9th century, after the sea had washed the coast and created creeks and channels so that ships could reach the land, the Count of Flanders built a castle to protect against Viking invaders. The town later began trading with England and Scandinavia, but the social disorder which followed in the next few centuries caused Bruges citizens to lose hold of the trade. The Flemings attempted to revive trade in the 17th century by digging an Ostend-Bruges-Ghent canal, with a dock in Bruges. Further expansion of the canal network between Bruges and Breskens (Damse Vaart) under Napoleon also failed due to the Belgian Revolution. Until the 19th century, Bruges was not prosperous its citizens mostly lived in poverty.
The publication D une communication directe de Bruges à la mer , written in 1877 by hydraulic engineer Auguste de Maere, was a turning point. De Maere s plan to reconnect his own city, Ghent, to the sea, was finally accepted, but in Bruges. In 1891, the Belgian government appointed the Mixed Commission of Seaport Bruges, which organised a contest for the construction of a seaport in Bruges and, as a result, several large-scale shipping companies opened new terminals in Zeebrugge. Since then and, after further expansion of the port of Zeebrugge between 1972 and 1985, the number of ships and traffic in Zeebrugge increased spectacularly. In July 1985, King Baudouin I officially inaugurated the new seaport. Zeebrugge has gradually evolved from a pure transit port into a centre for European distribution. Each year, more than 10,000 ships moor at the port and cargo traffic increased from 14 million tons in 1985 to 35.5 million tons in 2000, a record year.
Zeebrugge Attractions. In summer, Zeebrugge s beaches are popular with the tourists and locals. On the western dam, a promenade reaches far out into the open sea. The "St. George Memorial" celebrates the Battle of Zeebrugge, on the 23rd April 1918, when the British Royal Navy put the German U-Boot base out of action. The Fishermen's Cross honours the many fishermen who perished at sea. An authentic Russian submarine, 100 metres long, is a well know attraction at the seafront of Zeebrugge and is open to the public. The West-Hinder, or "floating lightship", gives visitors an idea of the life and work of the crew.
The building of the Former Covered Fish Market holds an indoor exhibition, extending over more than 5000 m², which is centred around the every aspect of life at, under and by the sea. The exhibition has hundreds of photographs, video presentations, lifelike décors, beautiful scale-models, authentic sounds and interactive computer programmes. The Zeebrugge wholesale fish market, recently installed in a new complex in the inner port, is one of the largest and most sophisticated of its kind in Europe.
Zeebrugge is the starting point for exploring other cities in Flanders, of which Bruges, often dubbed the Venice of The North , is the closest.
Zeebrugge Access. The Zeebrugge ferry port terminal is situated at the outer dock (Buitenhaven), Leopold II Dam (Havendam). From Zeebrugge follow the 'Zone 1', 'Car ferries' and 'P&O Ferries/Hull' signs.