Bruges, the capital of Belgium’s northwest territory, West Flanders, is distinguished by its canals, cobblestone streets, and medieval architecture. The port, Zeebrugge, is an important center for fishing and trade in Europe. The city center’s Burg square has the 14th-century (City Hall) Stadhuis, which has an ornately carved ceiling. Nearby, The Market square features a 13th-century belfry with a 47-bell carillon and 272 foot tall (83m) tower with panoramic views. Every year in Bruges, the historic merchant city witnesses a big tourist increase from March until almost October and is the coldest of months still see travelers braving its slightly crooked Belfry.
With beautiful squares surrounded by gingerbread houses and cobble-stone alleys running alongside The canals, Bruges is a city adored by couples all over the world. They flock to the Belgian city for its picturesque parks, old-world hotels, and sentimental legends. The Minnemeer (Lake of Love), for example, was named for the romance between Mina and her warrior sweetheart, Stromberg; their love tale ends tragically, unfortunately, with the girl’s death, but Stromberg had her buried under the little lake, and now the tale goes that every couple that kisses on its bridge is promised, everlasting love.
Every day, a vial containing a cotton pad is marched out on a fanciful pillow in Bruges’ Basilica of the Holy Blood. It is believed to have a dab of the actual Blood of Christ on it, brought back from a Jerusalem crusade in the 12th century.
Also, Bruges has Belgian beer running through its veins, and you can take that literally: every hour, more than 12,000 bottles worth of Bruges Zot and Straffe Hendrik flow beneath its streets from an underground pipeline at a city brewery De Halve Maan, Half Moon Brewery.
Best way to experience Bruges is on a boat ride through it’s web of canals, providing the best vantage point on the cities picturesque historic core. Floating by the Jan Van Eyckplein and seeing The Burgher’s Lodge, once the kow-tow place du jour for the city’s rich and influential citizens. It’s a tourist magnet, no surprise, but there is no place like Bruges to embrace the corny.
While Bruges is technically a city, any local will tell you that the atmosphere is much more like a small village, swimming with tourists. In its main square, it seems like every language under the sun can be heard at times, but again if you ask any local, they will tell you that despite its many attractions, Bruges is a nostalgic town at heart.
Being the cosmopolitan home to the region’s elite, Bruges has also attracted many of today’s most gifted artists. The skilled artists with an eye for realism would later become known as the “Flemish Primitives” instead.