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The Neo-gothic Provincial Court In The Grote Markt In Bruges (Belgium)

Belgium: Bruges – Historical centre

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.

Below are 6 great things you can do in Bruges in one day.

Beautiful building are everywhere in Bruges' historic centre
The old waterways are an excellent way to see the architecture of Bruges

1. HISTORIUM BRUGGE

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

2. THE CHOCOLATE MUSEUM

No trip to Belgium is complete without tasting chocolate!

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.

Location: Wijnzakstraat 2, 8000 Brugge
Website:https://choco-story-brugge.be/en/information/
Telephone:T: +32 50 61 22 37
Hours:The Chocolate Museum is open every day from 10 am till 5 pm (last tickets at 4 pm). Closed Christmas and New Years Day
Entry Fee:Adults: 11,00 €
Students, 65+: 9,50 €
Children (3-11 year): 6,50 €
Children under 3 year: Free

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.

3. 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 centre 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 fairytale-style architecture; the 1887 neo-Gothic Provincial Court building is especially impressive. The row of gabled guild houses adds charm and colour.

The neo-gothic provincial court in the Grote Markt, Bruges

4. BELFORT (BELFRY AND CARILLION)

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 tower of the Belfort in the Grote Markt
You can climb to the top of the Belfort tower if you so wish

5. BASILIEK VAN HET HEILIG-BLOED

The Basiliek van het Heilig-Bloed (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 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.

6. CANAL EXCURSIONS

One of the must-do things in Bruges is to 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. There are plenty of operators to choose from. Don’t expect to have the canals to yourself – things get busy out on the water with all the tourist boats!

7. 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.

Planning your visit to Bruges

By plane:

A large number of carriers offer direct flights to Brussels. Belgium’s main airport has its own railway station. Bruges can easily be reached through the airports of Brussels, Charleroi (Brussels South) and Lille, so getting to Bruges by train is by far the easiest way. Direct trains from Brussels Airport every hour. From Charleroi Airport : expressbus to Bruges station.

By train:

Travelling to Bruges on Belgium’s excellent rail system is a natural choice. Trains to and from Brussels leave every 30 minutes during the day. The journey from Brussel-Zuid (a.k.a. Bruxelles-Midi if you prefer French to Dutch) to Bruges takes about 50 minutes. Brugge is not the terminus, look for trains going to Oostende or Blankenberge.

By car:

There is a perfect parking place on the south side of the city with a newly designed gangway bringing you directly into the heart of the town. It is, in general, a bad idea to venture inside with a car, as parking is limited and finding your way difficult. There are multistory car parks a five-minute walk from the city centre. Nice city mini-buses cruise the town with high frequency, and in any case, the historical centre must be traversed on foot, by bicycle, by horse-drawn carriage or by boat to enjoy it.

Getting around:

The historical centre is not so big and thus quite walkable. For getting into the city, there are buses, car taxis and bicycle taxis. 

Bicycles are easy to rent and make getting around the city very speedy. 

Cycling in Bruges is the perfect way to discover the historic centre. Bruges citizens make fanatical use of their bikes. Up to 60% of all incoming traffic in the city centre are cyclists.

Best time to visit Bruges

Even by Belgian standards, Bruges has a poor reputation for its weather. Compared to other western European cities like Paris, the weather in Bruges is colder and more damp. Even in July and August, average daily maximum temperatures struggle to exceed 21° C (70° F) and rainfall averages 203 mm (8 in) a month. After October, temperatures drop off quite rapidly and winter months are damp and chilly.

The summer visitor should always be prepared for rain in Bruges and that warm and sunny weather is not constant during that season.

Also, note that the daily and monthly temperature variations are quite small. Daily differences between average highs and average lows don’t exceed a range of 16° F (9° C)

Where to stay in Bruges

1. HOTEL DUKES’ PALACE BRUGGE

This 5-star superior hotel is located in a unique 15th-century former ducal residence in Bruges and only 900 feet from the Markt. Hotel Dukes’ Palace Brugge includes a spa and rooms with classically elegant décor and luxurious 5-star facilities.

The rooms in the main part of the castle include high ceilings and original features.

During the summer guests can enjoy a high tea out on the terrace overlooking the extensive garden.

2. BOUTIQUE HOTEL SABLON

Located in the heart of Bruges, in between the Market Square and the Zand area, this characteristic hotel adds classic elegance to your stay in this historical town.

Renovated completely in April 2019, the Hotel Sablon is uniquely located in the lively area of one of Bruges’ most beautiful shopping streets. A breakfast buffet is available at a surcharge.

3. HOSTEL 28

Located right in Bruges’ historical centre, D28 is ideally located for an unforgettable stay in Bruges. D 28 offers budget accommodation with free WiFi throughout the property. The property has recently renovated private double rooms. There is an indoor terrace and a public area with a bar and coffee machine.

D 28 is ideally located in the centre of Bruges. A variety of cafés, bars and restaurants serving Belgian and international specialities are located in the immediate surroundings of the accommodation.

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