Bruges, the capital of West Flanders, is one of the most popular and romantic city break destinations in Belgium. For years, thousands of tourists have been visiting the historic city center, which has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2000. The historic city center with its canals, the old streets, and medieval buildings take you straight away to another era.
The habitation in this city started in the 9th century, although there are indications that it was a coastal settlement a long time before the early medieval ages. Bruges already had its golden age in the 14th century and soon grew into an important trade center in western Europe due to its port and its strategic location at the crossroads of the northern and southern trade routes.
The decline of the city started around 1500 when their important Zwin channel started silting. Antwerp became the dominant city of the Low Countries and Bruges gradually fell behind it. In the 19th century after some restorations on the historic monuments and churches, international tourism has boomed in the city.
This square is clearly the center of Bruges. It has been the heart of the city since the Middle Ages; in the past because of the market and nowadays because of the beautiful buildings and the various sights around the Markt. There are also plenty of cafeterias and restaurant with terraces where you can enjoy the local beers and other delicacies. The square has also horse-drawn carriages, which are waiting to offer you a pleasant ride in the historic city center.
The Belfry of Bruges
The Belfry of Bruges is a medieval bell tower and it is the tallest building on the Markt. Formerly it was used to store the municipal archives or as an observation point in case of fires for example. At first, you might think that it is a church because of the clock, but it has no religious character actually. In Belgium or Netherlands they used to built such towers next to the town hall and some times the towers were separated from the municipality building. You can climb the narrow and steep staircase of 366 steps and enjoy the view over the city.
The tower is accessible to the public for a fee; take a look at the website:
The Church of Our Lady
The brickwork tower of this church is the tallest building in Bruges (115m.) and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world after the St. Martin’s Church in Landshut, Germany.
The interior of this church has some art treasures, such as the sculpture of the Madonna and Child created by Michelangelo around 1504 and among the paintings one which was ascribed to Caravaggio.
The scenery outside the church is picturesque; the exterior of the church, the canal, and the bridge look like the scene is taken from a fairytale.
If you need to know more take a look at their website:
The Basilica of the Holy Blood
It is a Roman Catholic church which houses a venerated relic of the Holy Blood. In the interior of the Basilica a beautiful staircase and an even more beautiful gothic façade with gold-colored decorations lead you to the upper chapel: the Holy Blood Chapel. The enormous reliquary shrine of the Holy Blood is kept here, which consists of no less than 30 kilos of silver, gold and precious stones. The 17th-century reliquary accommodates the relic that is at the heart of the very well attended Holy Blood procession every year during Ascension Day. Thousands of people come to this ritual every year.
Check their official website for more info:
The Groeningemuseum is the municipal museum of Fine Arts and it is one of the most important museums in Bruges. There you can enjoy a chronological exhibition of six centuries of Flemish and Belgian painting. The exhibition includes works of Jan van Eyck, Gerard David, Hieronymus Bosch, Adriaen Isenbrandt, Hugo van der Goes, Nicolaes Maes, Jan Provoost, Dirk Bouts, Fernand Khnopff, and René Magritte.
If you want to plan your visit to the museum take a look at their website:
This square is one of the most beautiful areas in Brugges; it consists of an ancient cobblestone park surrounded by grand Gothic buildings, stores, bars, and restaurants. During the Middle Ages, it was a walled fortress that could only be reached through the entrance gates. Nowadays, only one of these entrances is visible, the entrance at the Blinde-Ezelstraat.
It is a very nice spot for pictures, especially during the afternoon.
The Ten Wijngaerde beguinage is the only preserved beguinage in Bruges. Beguines were single women, in some cases also men, who lived their life in a religious way. They were not nuns as they did not take eternal vows and they could return to their normal life if they chose to. These women were living at this beguinage since the life there was less strict than in a monastery. Nowadays the Bruges beguinage is managed by a monastery community and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors are welcome, but there is an explicit request to respect the silence within the court. The houses are still inhabited.
After your visit there the road will lead you to the Minnewater lake where you can relax and enjoy nature.