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 Burg is also home to the contemporary Toyo Ito pavilion, which sits on a shallow circle of water in the ruins of St. Donatius Church, built in the 10th century and destroyed during French occupation in 1799. The Toyo Ito pavilion was built to commemorate Bruges’ appointment as Cultural Capital of Europe in 2002.
Breidelstraat, a short street that connects the Burg to the Markt, is lined with souvenir shops and restaurants.