Bruges is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The city was neither destroyed by wars nor by conflagrations and has a completely preserved medieval old town. The old town of Bruges has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In addition to the historic old town, Bruges has numerous sights, great churches and idyllic canals.
The city of Bruges was a medieval trading metropolis that flourished between the 13th and 15th centuries and was by then one of the richest cities in Europe. When the connection to the North Sea silted up at the end of the 15th century, the city quickly declined. Hardly anything was rebuilt, so the medieval townscape was preserved.
One of the most beautiful photo opportunities in Bruges is the view from Rozenhoedkaai (photo).
The landmark of Bruges is the 83 m high belfry. The mighty tower stands on the market square (Grote Markt) and towers over the entire city. On the square is the narrow side of the block, with representative architecture and the tower, behind which there are market halls. This commercial complex was built from 1240 onwards. The original spire was made of wood and burned down several times. It was replaced in 1822 by a neo-Gothic stone tip. Today there is a carillon and a viewing platform on the top of the tower.
The Belfry of Bruges, along with other belfries in Belgium and northern France, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Provincial Palace (Provinciaalhof) is a building on the "Grote Markt" but is not half as old as it looks. The neo-Gothic building was completed in1921. It was built back then as a courthouse, today it is used by the city of Bruges for representative occasions. The red brick building on the right is the post office.
In the middle of the market square is a memorial to the Flemish freedom fighters Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, who massacred the French soldiers in 1302 during the "Bruges morning massacre". Through this attack, other Flemish cities took part in the uprising against France. On July 11, 1302, the Flemings defeated the French in the "Battle of the Golden Spurs". This day is celebrated as the national holiday of the Flemings to this day.
The oldest house on the market square is the Huis Boechoute (Grote Markt 15) from 1477. The English King Charles II lived in this house from 1656-1657 during his exile.
The town hall of Bruges (Stadhuis) is not on the market square but on the Burg square. The castle that protected Bruges from the Vikings once stood here. The late Gothic town hall was completed in 1421 and is one of the most beautiful and oldest town halls in Flanders. It served as a model for many town halls in what is now Belgium. The facade figures were reassembled after the French Revolution. The richly decorated Gothic Hall was also extensively restored around 1900. The large wall paintings and the wooden vaulted ceiling are particularly worth seeing.
The Holy Blood Basilica is on the right-hand side next to the town hall. Here an ampoule is kept with the blood of Jesus Christ, which the crusader Dietrich von Alsace brought with him from Jerusalem. The Holy Blood procession, which is part of the intangible world heritage of mankind, is held on Ascension Day. The oldest church in the city of Bruges is also worth seeing from the inside. The originally Romanesque church is a prime example of Gothic interior design.
To the left of the town hall there is a small passage into the "Blinde Ezelstraat". The name comes from an inn. Back then, donkeys (Ezel) were blindfolded when they constantly had to run in circles to grind barley for beer production. Above the Blinde Ezelstraat there is a neat building of the city archives with gilded roof figures.
The Gothic Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady) is the most famous church in Bruges. The construction of the church began in 1210 and in 1335 the naves and the bell tower were completed. The 116 m high tower is not in the west of the church but in the north. This is very unusual, but there was probably just more space available here. Another longhouse was added later in the north and south. The five-aisled Church of Our Lady was finished around 1480.
In the Church of Our Lady there is the sculpture of the "Bruges Madonna" by Michelangelo, which the famous sculptor made for the Sienna Cathedral in 1503. The French and Germans had stolen the sculpture during the wars, but the Madonna always kept coming back to Bruges.
Bruges is not by the sea, but the city is connected to the port of Zeebrugge (a district of Bruges) via a 14 km long canal. In the Middle Ages, Bruges was connected to the North Sea by the Reie River. There are many canals in the old town, which in Bruges are called "Reien". You can take boat trips on these canals today. The jetties are on the corner of Dijver and Wollestraat. On the boat trip you get to know the city from a different perspective and there are many beautiful photo opportunities on the way.
Jan van Eyck square used to be the port of Bruges. Ships from all over Europe arrived here and the town's merchants did good business. The largest building on the square is therefore the Poortersloge. A Gothic traders' guild house from 1417, where merchants met and did business. The high tower bears witness to its former wealth and served as a lookout tower to watch the ship traffic of the port. Today there is an exhibition hall for art in the old Poortersloge.
Another building worth seeing at Jan van Eyckplein 2 is the Tolhuis. The late Gothic customs house was built in 1477 by Pieter von Luxemburg, whose coat of arms can be seen above the entrance.
Jan van Eyck square is named after the Flemish painter who was born in Maaseik in 1390 and died in Bruges in 1441. He is considered one of the most famous Dutch painters of his time. His paintings hang in the Louvre, theMetropolitan Museum of Art and other major museums around the world. In Bruges, 2 of his pictures hang in the Groeninge Museum (see link).
The construction of St. Salvator's Cathedral began in 1280. The three-aisled basilica in Gothic style was completed in 1527. It only became a cathedral in 1834 after the French destroyed the Sint-Donaas Cathedral in 1799. From this original cathedral in Bruges, St. Salvator received the relics and the minor patronage of St. Donatian of Reims. After St. Salvator became a cathedral, the bell tower was rebuilt in the Romanesque style. The new church tower was completed in 1877 and has been one of the most distinctive towers in the silhouette of Bruges ever since.
The Gothic interior was refurbished with Baroque elements in the 17th century, as the Gothic interior was destroyed in the Eighty Years' War.
The Bruges flea market is right on the banks of the Dijver Canal. The flea market usualy takes place on Saturday and Sunday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The flea market does not take place in winter between November 15th and March 15th. You can browse for interesting objects under the trees by the water. The Bruges flea market is very close to the Church of Our Lady and the Groeninge Museum.