A Tourist Guide to Bruges, Belgium : the Venice of the North
Bruges can be considered as a crown jewel in Belgium and is located in the northwestern part of this small country of Europe. This beautiful city is the capital and largest city of West Flanders and attracts yearly more than 2 millions of tourists from all places over the world. Bruges is one of the most popular medieval cities all over the world and its historic center of is recognized by the UNESCO as world heritage center since 2000. Het Brugs beertje (the little Bruges bear) is the symbol of Bruges and represent, according to a legend, the oldest inhabitant of Bruges.
Bruges is also called “the Venice of the North” because this city has plenty picturesque canals which flow together in the River Reie. A boat trip on the Reie will show you why Bruges is called the Venice of the north and may never be missed if you visit Bruges. It is a boat trip of 30 minutes where you pass many bridges and you can view the most important buildings and places of Belgium. You will surely enjoy such boat trip because the driver informs you about the history and tells funny anecdotes which even many habitants of Belgium don’t know.
Traveling to Bruges can best be done by train because it is difficult to find a parking in this beautiful city of Belgium. The streets are narrow and often covered with cobblestones and it is already an art to drive with your car in Bruges. From the station, you can start your walk through the square‘t Zand which is located close to the shopping streets and the historical buildings. It is only a 5 minute walk from the station and you view as first the new concert hall which is built in red and a little bit further the fountain with sculptures by Stefaan De Puydt and Livia Canestraro.
From there; you can take the bus to the Market square to start your tour in Bruges. The market square in Bruges can be called the heart of this medieval city and you can already view from there the Belfry, which is likely the most famous monument in Bruges. The tower of the Belfry which dates back from the 13th century has a height of 88 meters and you need to climb 365 steps to reach the top and to view the impressive clock mechanism. From there, you have a breathtaking view of the entire city Bruges.
The Market square is surrounded by Guild houses, the Provincial Court (built in neo-gothic style), terraces and other beautiful houses.
In the middle of the market place, you can see the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter De Koninck which remind us the battle of Golden Spurs.
The Minnewater (Love Lake) and its lovely Minnewater Park can be considered as the most romantic place in Bruges. Most tourists will certainly visit this lovely park. No matter, when you visit this park you will always see some swans and ducks on the lake. The swan is also called the symbol of Bruges.
The Minnewater Park is a peaceful place in Bruges where you can take a rest and for lovers the place to be for some moments romantic. You will often meet lovers who kiss each other in this beautiful Minnewater Park. It is the perfect place to be if you search a destination to celebrate Valentine's Day.
Behind the Minnewater Park, you can view the Beguinage. The Beguinage of Bruges (also called Beguinage “Ter Weyngaerde” was founded by Margaretha of Constantinople, the Countess of Flanders in 1245. It is peaceful and quiet place in Bruges and reflects a group of white houses surrounded with large trees. The Beguinage became a monastery in 1937 with Benedict sisters. The most beautiful period of the year to visit the Beguinage is April when daffodils are blooming. The beguinage is one of the most photographed places in Bruges.
Bruges is also a city of many churches and cathedrals. The Church of Our Lady is the most impressive one and has been built from the 13th until the 15th century. The exterior of this church is built in a gothic style while the interior is in a baroque style. The tower of this beautiful church has a height of 122 meters. One of the most famous art treasures in this gothic church is the sculpture of Madonna and child made by Michelangelo in Carrara Marble. The splendid tombstones of Mary von Burgundy are another reason why so many tourists visit this impressive gothic church in Bruges.
The Saint Salvador Cathedral in Bruges is another important church in Bruges and originally not built with the intention to become a cathedral in Bruges. Saint Salvador was originally built as a paris church in 850. Nowadays the Saint Salvador Cathedral is a gothic cross church.
Bruges has also many museums and the Memling Museum (nowadays called Saint Jan Hospital) is likely the most impressive one. This museum exhibits 6 works of Hans Memling and the Shrine of St. Ursula is the most admired masterpiece. The other masterpiece which is exhibited in this museum is “the Altarpiece of Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the evangelist”. The Groeninge museum is another important museum and known as the museum of fine art. This museum collects arts work from the 14th until the 20th century.
It is also worthwhile to visit the Chocolate Museum: Choco Story. Belgium is well-known for its excellent chocolate and they inform you in this museum about the history of the chocolate and the process of making chocolate. You can also taste some chocolate and it's certainly the place to be for chocolate lovers. Bruges is the only city in the world where you have more than 50 shops of chocolate in such a small area.
Bruges is also a city of beautiful statues. The most famous statues are these of Jan Breydel and Piet De Koninck, Hans Memling, the Apocalyptic Rider, Albert I, Jan Van Eyck, the “Brugs Beertje (the Bruges little bear), Guido Gezelle, Madonna and Child, Jacob van Maerlant and many others.
An often forgotten place to visit in Bruges is the side along the channel where you can view windmills. You can make a riverside walk to the east and visit the two windmills which are left. It is a quiet area and you can enjoy some beautiful sights. When you walk a little bit further, you can visit the Guido Gezelle museum where you can view documents, books, souvenirs of the Flemish poet Guido Gezelle. The Guido Gezelle Museum in Bruges is located in the house where the poet Guido Gezelle was born.
Many popular events, which attract visitors from all places of the world, are organized in Bruges. The Holy Blood Procession is an annual event which is organized in the month May on Ascension Day. It is a colorful parade where almost 1500 habitants of Bruges show the history of the relic of the Holy Blood. This parade memorizes the relic of the Holy Blood which was brought to Bruges by the Count of Flanders in 1149. The Parade of the Holy Blood shows as well scenes from the Bible as the relic of the Holy Blood to Bruges through the Count of Flanders.
Every 5 years, the Pageant of the Golden Tree takes place in August. This Parade commemorates the marriage between Charles the Bold and Margaret of York in 1468. This popular event, organized in the center of Bruges, the Venice of the North, represent the history and origin of the houses of Flanders and Burgundy. Many actors, dancers, singers show as well the romantic scenes of the marriage as the medieval scenes.
The Festival of Flanders is a musical event which takes place every year in the months July and August. This musical event is organized in cathedrals, churches, abbeys, concert halls and belfries. The festival of Flanders in Bruges is especially famous for its international Musica Antiqua competitions.
Bruges is a wonderful place in Belgium and can be considered as a city for all seasons. You best spend a few days in Bruges to discover all the beauties of the Venice of the North. It is not only a place for sightseeing but you also can enjoy the excellent cuisine and everyone will certainly enjoy the best Belgian chocolate. Bruges has many hotels for every budget and you may never forget to drink a Brugge Tripple, a typical beer of Bruges. Bruges is a popular travel destination for travelers from all places of the world. This city, well known as the Venice of the North, can be considered as the number one in your top ten places to visit in Belgium and many will choose this destination certainly in their list of top ten places to visit in Europe.
Willy Lustenhouwer, an habitant of Bruges made a song of the beauty of Bruges. This song "Brugge die scone" and sung in the Westflemish dialect describes perfectly how beautiful Bruges is. You can enjoy the video with a tour of the beauties of Bruges with the voice of Willy Lustenhouwer and the song : Brugge, die scone (The beauty of Bruges).
Bruges is beautiful from the morning until the evening. It is charming, lovely, romantic and has many popular places of interest. Everyone can enjoy Bruges; there are attractions for everyone. Bruges has always kept the medieval image of the city. The cobblestones streets, the medieval buildings, the canals make Bruges unique and the quantity of tourists proofs that Bruges a top travel destination is in Europe.