Excursion of one day with private car and guide from Paris. Bruges history stretches back to the 9th century when it was founded by Vikings. The river Zwin linked the settlement to the North Sea and it very quickly became an important international trading port. In the 14th century, Bruges developed into the warehouse of the North-European Hanseatic cities. Several countries, such as Italy, Germany and Spain, had their own representation in Bruges, making it a truly European center where different languages could be heard daily and where exotic products could be found. Bruges wealth started to decline in the 15th century, when the larger harbour of Antwerp came to dominate and the cloth industry fell into decline. Art and architecture continued to flourish, however, with the construction of splendid late-gothic buildings and churches, and the Flemish painting school (including Anthony Van Dyck and Hans Memling) producing great works.