Bruges is one of the most picturesque cities in Belgium. It's one of Belgium's best preserved cities, and its medieval architecture escaped destruction from both World Wars. More than 1,000 years ago, Brugge was an important trade city due to its location near the coast. But in the 11th century, waterways that had direct access to the sea began to silt up. Although the walls of the city no longer stand, four old gates mark the boundaries of the old town and what is today the city center. Cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and a series of canals add to the charm of this small city.
Start your visit in the Grote Markt, Brugge's main square. Here you'll find the Belfry with its 272-foot tall tower, which you can climb for fantastic views of the city. Another great way to enjoy the city is from a boat tour of the canals. At the Basilica of the Holy Blood, you can see a vial of what is said to be the blood of Jesus.
The birth of the city of Bruges was heralded by Baldwin Iron Arm’s (Count of Flanders I) construction of a fortified castle on top of a hill in the 9th century. The castle was originally built to protect the area from invading Vikings and Normans and remained the seat of the Counts of Flanders for more than 500 years. The castle is now gone, but the charming public square which replaced it, known as the Burg, has been the heart of the city for centuries.
The Burg is just a short stroll from the Markt (Bruges’ other town square) and is home to a collection of historic buildings, which together represent almost every era in Bruges’ history. The most impressive buildings include the late medieval town hall, the Renaissance-style old civil registry and the neo-classical court of justice.
The soaring 400-foot (122-meter) spire-topped brick steeple of the Church of Our Lady – the city’s tallest structure – lends itself to commanding views of Bruges. The spire dominates the Bruges skyline and can be seen from all over the city, while from inside the tower, on a clear day, you can see across Belgium as far as the Netherlands.
The church was built over two centuries (13th-15th) and houses a substantial collection of artworks. The most celebrated of the church’s art collection is a white marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child, created by Michaelangelo in the early 16th century – it is one of the very few Michaelangelo pieces that can be seen outside of Italy. The Church of Our Lady also holds an oil painting depiction of the crucifixion by the Flemish Baroque artist Anthony van Dyck, and a rococo pulpit by Bruges artist Jan Antoon Garemijn.
With a name that translates into English as "Lake of Love," you might be tempted to dismiss Minnewater as a little clichéd. That would be a mistake, however, as this canalized lake is genuinely charming and can even create the feeling of traveling back in time to Bruges’ medieval heyday.
The lake is surrounded by trees and old brick houses and the adjacent Minnewater Park is often the site of live musical performances during the summer months. You will likely spot many swans on the lake, they are one of Bruges’ symbols, but be warned that they can be known to be quite territorial. The best views of the Minnewater can be had from the 18th-century bridge that crosses the lake. Minnewater is certainly a romantic place to stroll around with someone special, but anyone can appreciate the peacefulness and scenery and it can make a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of the nearby city center.
The Town Hall (Stadhuis) is Belgium’s oldest building and arguably Bruges’ most beautiful. The Flamboyant Gothic-style building was constructed between 1376 and 1420, and was one of the first grand town halls in the Low Countries. The city has been governed from this building for more than 700 years.
The town hall’s front facade features Gothic windows and the town weapons of the cities and villages that were under Bruges’ administrative rule. The statues of biblical figures and Counts of Flanders that sit in the niches of the façade are 20th-century replacements for the originals. Those were painted by Jan van Eyck and destroyed by pro-French rebels in the 1790s. In the entrance hall, a large staircase leads to the ornate Gothic Hall, which was decorated in 1895 with neo-gothic wall murals that illustrate events from Bruges’ history – pick up an audio guide for detailed information.
De middeleeuwse kades van Graslei en Korenlei liggen tegenover elkaar aan de grachten van de rivier Leie en waren oorspronkelijk onderdeel van de levendige stadshaven Tusschen Brugghen. Aan de oevers staat zeldzame architectuur, namelijk de mooiste gilde- en pakhuizen met geveltjes van België, uit de periode 1200 – 1600. Ze werden gebouwd door rijke kooplui, die hun geld verdienden met handel. De straten worden verbonden door de Sint-Michielsbrug, waarvandaan u de gevelhuizen het beste kunt bekijken. Hoewel de huizen flink gerenoveerd zijn hebben ze altijd hun allure behouden.
Aan het Graslei liggen veel restaurants aan het water met op de achtergrond die schitterende gevelhuizen. De oudste daarvan is Het Spijker op nummer 10. Andere sierlijke gevels zijn die van de gildehuizen van de beeldhouwers, de vrije bootsmannen, de graanweegschalen en voormalige douane.
Aan de Botermarkt in Gent staan de Sint-Baafskathedraal, het UNESCO-werelderfgoed Belfort en de Lakenhal zij aan zij. Ze zijn het bewijs van de grote welvaart van Gent in de 14de eeuw. Ze zijn uitgevoerd in prachtige Brabantse gotiek en betaald met geld van de wol- en textielgilden in die tijd. Het Belfort heeft een vergulde koperen draak op de top en een carillon van 54 klokken die al zes eeuwen hun geluid laten horen. U kunt met een lift naar het uitkijkpunt op 66 meter boven het Sint-Baafsplein, waar u naast de klokken ook een prachtig zicht heeft op de puntgevels, de Sint-Baafskathedraal en de gotische versieringen van de Sint-Niklaaskerk. Een klein museum herbergt modellen van de kerk, een aantal wapens en de originele draak die vroeger op de top van de toren stond.
The Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilig-Bloedbasiliek) is a church in Brugge, Belgium that has what is believed to be the blood of Jesus Christ. The basilica was once a chapel built in the 12th century, and it has been added to and rebuilt over the centuries. The lower chapel was built in a Romanesque style and has little decoration. The upper chapel, though originally Romanesque, was rebuilt in a Gothic style with plenty of colors and details.
Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea wiped blood from the body of Christ after the crucifixion and preserved the cloth. Supposedly the cloth remained in the Jerusalem until the Second Crusade. At that time, the King of Jerusalem gave the relic to his brother-in-law, Count of Flanders, Diederik van de Elzas. The Count took the relic back to Brugge in April 1150, and had it placed at the chapel he had built on Burg Square.
Gent is het best bewaarde geheim van België, een wereldse universiteitsstad met imposante kerken, topmusea en een aantal van de mooiste middeleeuwse bouwwerken van Europa. Neem daarbij de levendige cultuur, de vele late-night bars, restaurants, clubs en luxe hotels, kortom deze stad mag u niet missen.
De voetgangerszone van de stad is gecentreerd rond de Korenmarkt, die in de middeleeuwen het marktplein was. Hier staan de belangrijkste bezienswaardigheden als het sierlijke Stadhuis, de Sint-Baafskathedraal, de Sint-Niklaaskerk en het Belfort, allemaal op kleine loopafstand van elkaar. Iets ten noorden van de Korenmarkt vindt u de rivier de Leie. Deze is als gracht omgebouwd en heeft middeleeuwse kades aan de Graslei en de Korenlei. Deze stroomt door Gent op weg naar de rivier de Schelde en een netwerk van grachten in de richting van de haven. Dichtbij ligt het geduchte kasteel Gravensteen op een splitsing in de Leie met daarachter Patershol, een wijk met smalle straatjes vol met 17de-eeuwse ambachtelijke huisjes.
One of Belgium’s best fine art museums, the Groeningemuseum, holds a collection that covers around 600 years of Flemish and Belgian painting, from the 14th through the 20th century. Notable pieces include the 15th-century Flemish painter Jan van Eyck’s Madonna with Canon Van der Paele. This piece was completed in 1436 and features highly sophisticated techniques such as fine detailing and the use of multiple layers of oil and varnish to achieve texture and depth. This painting is regarded as one of Van Eyck’s most ambitious works.
Other works on display include Hans Memling’s Moreel's Triptych; Hieronymus Bosch’s The Last Judement, Gerard David’s Judgment of Cambyses, which depicts the corrupt Persian judge Sisamnes being flayed alive, and other pieces by early Flemish painter Rogier van der Weyden and the surrealists Magritte and Paul Delvaux.
The Kantcentrum, or Lace Center, is a lace museum and learning center in Brugge, Belgium. It is located in the Apostoline Sisters' former lace school, which is a renovated building from 1899. The building is part of the estate of the Adornes family who were originally from Genoa, Italy in the 14th century. The Lace Center museum explores the origins of lace and its early developments. Different displays show basic techniques and movements, types of lace and their geographic origins, the lace industry's history and what the industry is like today, and lace teaching in Brugge. The traditions of lace are honored here along with more contemporary forms. While visiting the museum, you can also watch the center's bobbing lace-making demonstrations. Visitors can also explore different techniques and aesthetics, as well as learn about the lace industry itself, in an interactive way.
Bruges is often referred to as the Venice of the north due to its many canals. Though the city is located inland, it is close enough to the coast that several floods resulted in the formation of these waterways. This gave Bruges access to the sea, and the city became an important trading center. By the Middle Ages, the canals had to be enlarged so the cargo ships could reach the city. However, as the main connections to the sea began to silt up, Bruges began to decline as a trade center.
Today commercial ships no longer sail through the waterways of Bruges. Instead the canals are used only by tourist boats. Five families, each with four boats, have exclusive access to provide tours along the canals. Bruges has had a strong connection with the water for centuries, and taking a boat tour on the canals is one of the best ways to learn about this connection and the city's history while taking in the sights.