Situated in the heart of Belgium’s West Flanders province is the city of Bruges. Not only is it the largest city in the province, but it is also the capital of Belgium. The city is a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a population of over 100,000 thrive in this metropolitan area.
Historically, Bruges has been called ‘the Venice of the north’, and just like many other water-based cities it has a number of canals within its walls. Thanks to these waterways, Venice was once the chief commercial city of the world; its port continues to be of significant economic importance.
Bruges was first fortified after Julius Caesar conquered Menapii in the first century BC, and this was to protect the coastal area from pirates. There is very little evidence of human activity in Bruges before the Roman Gaul era, and over the years it has undertaken a number of inhabitants, from the Franks to the Vikings.
Millions of tourists visit Bruges every year, and with its medieval rooftops and beautiful scenery it’s easy to see why. There are a number of things in Bruges that will keep even the most hardened tourist entertained for hours, from Flemish masterpieces to chocolate shops. Take a look at some of the must-see attractions!
The Market Square
The market square is in the heart of Bruges, and is situated around a statue celebrating heroes of Battle of the Golden Spurs Pieter de Coninc and Jan Breydel. In 1302, French Belgium was forced to recognise the Flemish emancipation and the period houses that surround the market square reflect the stunning architecture of the time.
The Provincial Court lies to the west of the market square, and this enchanting building was built in a neo-gothic style reflecting 19th century architecture. The rest of the square is surrounded by boutique hotels, cafes, restaurants and stalls, where tourists flock to taste the home-cooking of the locals and the sweetness of the city’s beer.
The Belfry Tower
The Belfry Tower was originally built in 1220, but underwent a number of reconstructions because of fire and weather damage. The final stone to complete the reconstruction was added in 1821, and other than a bell tower, the structure has also been used as a watch tower and a market in the 13th century.
The 366 step climb to the top offers an amazing view of the city, and you’ll be able to catch your breath in a number of historical rooms along the way. If you can stand the sound of the extremely loud bells, they provide an excellent backdrop for the beautiful view at the top. On a clear day, you can even see the North Sea!
The Saint John Hospital
This historical and famous hospital was built in 1188, and was used by passers-by and pilgrims in need of medical assistance or religious blessing before death. Run by nuns and monks, the hospital was in use all the way through the 19th Century until a new one was built. Thankfully however, this old structure still remains enacted, and there are even audio guides to help you on your tour!