5 Gorgeous Places to Visit in Bruges
Gorgeous Bruges is a tourist’s dream. This is Belgium’s most perfectly preserved medieval town, and its jaw-dropping, beautiful architecture attracts more than two million visitors every year. If you’re short of time on your Belgium travels, Bruges should be your number one stop. With its wealth of interesting old buildings and its canals, Bruges still retains a distinct medieval air. Anyone taking a walk through the narrow streets or a boat trip on the canals falls immediately under its spell, charmed by the atmosphere of, what is for many, the most delightful of all the cities of Flanders (the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium). Because the center of Bruges is comparatively small, even those with only a day to spend sightseeing can expect to take away a good idea of all the major attractions.
The south side of Bruges’ Markt (the main square) is dominated by the Halle with the belfry-Bruges’ most distinctive landmark-soaring above it. The Halle was begun in 1248 and twice enlarged, first in the 14th century and then again in the 16th century, and once functioned as the city’s main market place. The building encloses a picturesque courtyard, and the balcony above the entrance was once used by the city fathers to promulgate their statutes to the populace assembled beneath.
Basilica of the Holy Blood
The Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilig-Bloedbasiliek) presides over the central plaza known as the Burg or Burg Square. The church is famous for the crystal vial kept inside that is reputed to contain a drop of Christ’s blood brought back from the Holy Land by Dietrich of Alsace in 1149 on his return from the Second Crusade. Each year in May, this sacred relic is carried through the streets of Bruges in the Procession of the Holy Blood.
On the southeast side of the Burg is Bruges’ Town Hall (Stadhuis), one of the oldest in Belgium, having been constructed between 1376 and 1420. The facade of the delicate Gothic building displays the strong vertical emphasis characteristic of the style, with soaring pilasters, three of which end in octagonal turrets, separated by tall Gothic arched windows.
Liberty of Bruges
On the east side of Burg Square, the Bruges Tourist Office occupies part of what was, up until 1984, the Law Courts, built between 1722 and 1727 on the site of the former Liberty of Bruges (Paleis van het Brugse Vrije) from where independent magistrates exercised jurisdiction over the region. Some fragments of the older building have survived, including the pretty 16th-century facade overlooking the canal at the rear.
Head to the Dijver Canal to visit the Groeninge Museum (Stedelijk Museum voor Schone Kunst), which holds Bruges’ best collection of art. In addition to its excellent endowment of Old Flemish paintings, the museum also incorporates a gallery of modern art and a superb collection of views of old Bruges. However, the first five rooms of the museum are the ones most likely to claim your attention as they contain quite exceptional paintings by Old Flemish masters.
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