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  9. Belgium: Bruges

A an attractive city that can be easily explored in a day. 6 great things you can do.

Bruges (Brugge in Dutch)) is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the northwest of the country.

Bruges is one of the most visited medieval cities in the world. Beautiful, historic and famed for its chocolate for its production of expertly hand-crafted pieces of silk lace.

The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO.

Also known as the Venice of the North, Bruges gets its name from the multiple canals that surround the city centre with more than 80 bridges, making it easy to explore on foot or by bicycle as well as on one of the boat tours. In the middle ages, the wealth of waterways made Bruges the world’s ‘chief commercial city’ and was considered to be the wealthiest city in Europe.

Here are 6 great things you can do in Bruges in one day:

Historium Brugge

A fabulous way to start your journey is Bruges is to visit the Bruges Historium; a one hour virtual reality extravaganza that takes you back to experience the Bruge of medieval times.

The Chocolate Museum

The Choco-Story, the Chocolate Museum is a great place to continue your day in Bruges.

If you like chocolate this museum this is the place for you. Set out on four or five floors you need to be aware of lots of stairs. This is a great place to learn about the history of chocolate. There are lots of opportunities to taste chocolate from different countries throughout the visit. There is also a demonstration at the end.

Beyond the Choco-Story there are plenty of chocolate shops to chose from. Even though Bruges boasts more than 50 chocolate shops, mostly in the main square, not all of them stock their own sweets. To get your local fix, be sure to look out for a ‘handmade’ sign in the chocolatier’s windows.

Market Square – Grote Markt

The historical heart of Bruges is framed by guild buildings and the Provincial Court. Presiding over the square is the imposing Belfort.

Since 958, the Grote Markt has been at the center of Bruges life. Once packed with merchants and buyers, today the Markt is a hub for tourism. Put aside some time to experience the restaurants, cafés, gift shops, guided tours and enchanting architecture of this lively part of the city.

Though it covers only 2.5 acres (1 hectare), there is much to see in Bruges’ Grote Markt. First, climb to the top of the majestic Belfort and take in the spectacular views. With your feet back on the ground, take pictures of the Markt’s quaint fairy tale-style architecture; the 1887 neo-Gothic Provincial Court building is especially impressive. The row of gabled guild houses adds charm and color

Belfort (Belfry & Carillon)

The Belfort is the tallest of  Bruges’ towers, standing at 83 metres (272 feet). It houses, among other things, a carillon with 47 melodious bells. In the lobby there is a small exhibition area that explains the history and working of this unique world-heritage protected belfry. Those who take on the challenge of climbing the tower can pause for a breather on the way up in the old treasury, where the city’s charters, seal and public funds were kept during the Middle Ages, and also at the level of the impressive clock or in the carillonneur’s chamber. Finally, after a tiring 366 steps, your efforts will be rewarded with a breath-taking and unforgettable panoramic view of Bruges and the surroundings.

The impressive Belfort

Basiliek van het Heilig-Bloed – The Church of the Holy Blood

The Church of the Holy Blood holds a treasured relic of Christ, the blood of Jesus. Legend has it that Christ’s blood was collected in a cloth by Joseph of Arimathea following the Crucifixion. The cloth stayed in Jerusalem until Crusader King Baldwin II gave it to his brother in law the Count of Flanders who brought it to Bruges. However the true story is probably that the blood came from Constantinople where a large collection of religious relics were kept until the city was attacked by the Crusaders in 1204. The Holy Blood is thought to have been obtained during looting by Baldwin IX’s troops and sent to Bruges. The first mention in historic texts of the blood arriving in Bruges occurred in 1256.

The Basiliek van het Heilig-Bloed – located on Burg Square



Canal Excursions

One of the must do things in Bruges is take a ride on one of the many small boat cruises that run along the canals of the city. This is simply the best way to appreciate what Bruges has to offer.

Bonus: Church of Our Lady Bruges

The Church of Our Lady in Bruges is worth a brief visit if you have the time. It dates mainly from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, and the tower, at 115.6 metres (379 ft) in height, remains the tallest structure in the city and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world (the tallest being the St Martins Church in Landshut, Germany).

The altarpiece of the large chapel in the southern aisle enshrines the most celebrated art treasure of the church, a white marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child created by Michelangelo around 1504. Probably meant originally for Siena Cathedral, it was purchased in Italy by two Brugean merchants, the brothers Jan and Alexander Mouscron, and in 1514 donated to its present home. The sculpture was twice recovered after being looted by foreign occupiers; French revolutionaries in 1794 and Nazi Germans in 1944.

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