Bruges, the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium, is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Its port, Zeebrugge, is an important center for fishing and European trade. In the city center’s Burg square, the 14th-century Stadhuis (City Hall) has an ornate carved ceiling. Nearby, Market square features a 13th-century belfry with a 47-bell carillon and 83m tower with panoramic views. Bruges every year, the historic merchant city witnesses a tourist invasion from March until about October, and the coldest of months still see travelers braving its slightly crooked Belfry.
With beautiful squares surrounded by gingerbread houses and cobbled alleys running alongside pretty canals, Bruges is a city adored by lovebirds. They flock to the Belgian town for its picturesque parks, old world hotels and sentimental legends. The Minnemeer (Lake of Love), for instance, was named for the romance between Mina and her warrior sweetheart, Stromberg; their folkloric tale ends tragically with the girl’s death, but Stromberg buried her underneath the little lake, and now every couple that kisses on its bridge is promised everlasting love.
Every day, a vial carrying a cotton pad is trotted out on a fanciful pillow in Bruges’ Basilica of the Holy Blood. It’s 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, 12,000 bottles worth of Brugse Zot and Straffe Hendrik flow beneath its streets from an underground pipeline at city brewery De Halve Maan, Half Moon Brewery).
One of the best ways to explore Bruges is by boat ride on its web of canals, providing unique vantage point on the picturesque historic core. Float by the Jan Van Eyckplein and its Burgher’s Lodge, once the kow-tow place du jour for the city’s rich and influential. It’s a tourist classic, of course, but there’s no place like Bruges to embrace the corny.
While Bruges is technically a city, any local will tell you the atmosphere is much more than that of a village – one swimming with tourists. Its main square echoes what seems like every language under the sun at times, and locals know that despite its many attractions, Bruges is really a nostalgic town at heart.
Being the cosmopolitan home to the region’s bourgeois and elite, Bruges also attracted a great number of the day’s most gifted artists. The skilled oil painters with an eye for realism would later become known as the ‘Flemish Primitives’