Bruges at a glance
Moderate (4 of 5)
Level of costs
Bruges is often referred to as ‘The Venice of the North’ and you’ll understand why when you slip through its dream-like medieval streets, wander past swans in canals and admire the magnificent Burg central square. It is deservedly a very popular destination and hosts a variety of museums and other sites of interest.
In the 13th century Bruges was a thriving city, depending on river-borne trade for its prosperity. However, the silting up of its river and rivalry with Antwerp put an end to its expansion. Its decline was both rapid and irreversible. As a result, the medieval town is astonishingly well preserved with numerous impressive buildings and the original street patterns. Stroll between the town’s two medieval cores, the Markt and the Burg, admiring the Town Hall built in 1370. For spectacular views over the rooftops, climb the 366 stairs of the mighty central belfort and then saunter over to the Basilica of the Holy Blood also located on the square. Check out the impressive collection of medieval paintings at the Groeninge Museum and enter the atmospheric Onze Lieve Vrouwe Church which contains a wonderful Madonna and Child sculpted by the young Michelangelo. The Gruuthuse Museum holds an impressive collection of medieval artefacts and is a fascinating way to explore the town’s history. The 14th century Stadhuis Museum features both fine paintings and furniture. Be sure to admire St. Ursula's shrine by Hans Memling and the magnificent oak fireplace in the Old Recorder’s house on Burg Square.
Wander along the many canals that run through the town and catch the atmosphere of the religious, poverty-stricken town of the 19th century. Bruges is still home to a number of religious institutions for unmarried women. You might spot one of their mysterious, black-clad number stealing into a gateway or praying in one of the town’s many chapels. As you stroll down one of the narrow paths or slip into a melancholic alley you may understand why Bruges was known as ‘Bruges the Dead’. The modern-day town is certainly less sombre. The streets around the Burg have great shops. Search for fine Belgian lace or sample the wonderful local chocolate. Then relax in one of the splendid 19th century cafés on the square and sip a powerful Belgian beer. At that moment you’ll see why atmosphere, history and pleasure come together to make Bruges one of Europe’s most popular towns.
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