The Historic Centre of Brugge represents a medieval town built in mostly brick Gothic, which also has been the birthplace of the Flemish Primitives painting school.
From the 13th century onwards, Brugge became an international trading center. The produce of cloth and the role of Hansean wharehouse brought the city its wealth. The heydays resulted in the construction of numerous Gothic buildings and churches.
Also, the Flemish Primitive painting school could flourish here. Notable artists from here include Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling.
Already in the 16th century, Brugge's wealth had vanished. But this sorry state is the main reason that the whole town has preserved its medieval character so well.
Visit October 2001
On a sunny Saturday I drove to the town of Bruges, about 2 hours from my home. My preparations (websites and a travel guide) left me with high expectations for "The best preserved medieval town in Europe". I wasn't disappointed, but I rate Talinn (that I visited a few months ago) higher - probably because Belgian towns are so familiar to me.
My first stop in town was the Church of Our Lady , with a delicate statue of Mary and her child. It was made by Michelangelo, and it's the only work of his that can be seen outside Italy. Inside (or beneath) this church there are also impressively decorated graves of Burgundian Kings.
In the center of Bruges, at the large Market Square, the enormous Belfry Tower and Cloth Hall dominates the scene. The Tower just seems to be too high for the building underneath that has to support it. Other interesting places to visit are the Beguinage and the Gruuthuse-museum (in a lovely building, see picture at the left).
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
I've visited Bruges 6-7 times at least and I was never let down. A boat trip through the canals is well worth IMO as it gives you an overall view of Bruges. My favourite visit was in Winter when everything was covered with snow - every photo I took was like a Xmas card!
| Date posted: September 2012|
|Pavel Matejicek (Czech Republic):|
It is worth-visiting Brugge for everybody who wants to enjoy a medieval urban landscape. The historical center is so large that one can find picturesque places without crowds of tourists. Nevertheless, I have some doubts on the medieval authenticity of the site, because I would expect half-timbered houses instead of brick neo-gothic.
| Date posted: December 2010|
|Barbara Holm (Canada):|
My husband and I visited Brugge in December 2008. He had recently watched the movie "In Brugge" and suggested we add the city to our European vacation itinerary. I am so pleased that we did. From the very second you enter the historic city centre you are taken back in time, you just feel your very soul relax. Our hotel was a small one located around the corner from one of many cathedrals, well within an easy walk of the town centre. Brugge is in a word "breathtaking". Christmastime was especially lovely - although everything is beautifully lit, nothing is too commercial and nothing detracts from the history of the place. Everyone we spoke with while there were extremely pleasant and helpful. All spoke at least a little English. Not to be missed is a horse and buggy ride through the charming city. Not only is it lovely, but also very informative. Most individuals we've talked to before and since our trip knew very little about this hidden treasure - we encourage anyone visiting Europe to add this special place to your trip - it is well worth it.
| Date posted: January 2009|
|Lourdes Vicente (Canada):|
Growing up I've never been interested in travelling to Europe...until I was sent to Belgium by my former company in 2005 for a Canadian/ EU seminar. If not for that company I wouldn't have had the opportunity to taste and see a part of Europe. After 5 days of being in Brussels, I have decided to explore other cities/ towns and be left behind by my group for another extra day. I went for a day trip (on a tour bus) to Ghent and Brugge ( a co-worker encouraged me to visit these places). I was not disappointed..it was worth the trip. My favourite was Brugge...what an AMAZING place. I was so excited to see castles and to walk in cobblestone streets Being there felt like that the world stood still. The place has it's character-very charming and magical...It's like being in another world. I enjoyed the scenery, the people and the culture. I fell inlove with the place and from someone who's disinterested in Europe in the first place...I am now totally converted. I promised myself that one day I will come back again to continue exploring Belgium and who knows maybe other European countries.
| Date posted: May 2008|
It was a crisp, clear day in the early fall and the church steeple at Brugge was clearly visible from the bridge of the ship. It was about 1400 and we were finally "all-fast" at the dock in Zeebrugge after a long transit in. As we weren't scheduled to work cargo until the following day, a group of us decided to go to the local seaman's center to see if we could catch a ride into Brugge. Our plan was simple as always, a typical night on the town with eating and drinking being our top priorities (not necessarily in that order.) Normally, we were in and out of port too quickly to be able to make the trek to Brugge. Today however, was to be different.
Within an hour, the kind host at the Zeebrugge seaman's club had dropped us off in the heart of old Brugge. Being well versed in the arts of drinking and eating, we immediately set out in search of fun and adventure. Somewhere though, between getting out of the seaman's club van and enjoying a hearty meal of mussels and beer at an outdoor cafe, we came to the realization that we had landed someplace very special. Everywhere were people dressed in period costumes playing hauntingly beautiful music on ancient instruments. It was as if we had been transported back to medieval times. Captivated by these sights and sounds, we wandered around this beautiful city in an almost dreamlike state, completely in awe of our surroundings.
Perhaps our senses were heightened by the fact that we had been at sea too long or maybe this city does in fact have a magical quality; whatever the reason, these rough-and-ready seamen, who have been everywhere and seen everything, were tamed by this fairy-tale city.
|Ingemar Eriksson (Sweden):|
Fantastic town. The only negative factor might be the weather. Go there!.
| Date posted: June 2006|
Brugge, which I visited in the summer of 2004 is one of the most beautiful Belgian and even European towns. Most buildings are very well preserved and make you feel as if you were in a very rich medieval city. A feeling that's underlined by all the horse carriages in the city. The city is full of tourists, but I think it's a proof that this town is worth more than one visit!
| Date posted: July 2005|
|Klaus Freisinger (Austria):|
I agree that it´s very hard to determine whether Brugge is Europe´s best-preserved medieval city, but it certainly ranks very near the top. The fact that after the city´s Hanseatic League/trading empire heyday, its economic fortunes plummeted was bad news for its people at the time, but a real boon for today´s visitors. The many canals and the chance of a pleasant boat ride give Brugge a Venice-like feel, and the many quiet spots (despite the big number of tourists) really do give the impression of a medieval town. Brugge is today no more one of Europe´s major trading ports (nearby Antwerp has taken over this role, since Brugge isn´t even on the sea anymore), but it still is one of the most interesting tourist destinations - certainly No.1 in Belgium.
|Ian Cade (England):|
I had heard a lot about Brugge before I went there and was not disappointed in what I saw. There were a lot of other tourists there but if you just go off and find some little back roads and canals and you seem to have the place all to yourself.
The medieval centre is well preserved and contains some fantastic buildings, including the bizarre looking Belfort (which incidentally is part of another UNESCO site, Belfries of Flanders and Wallonia) but it does offer some of the best views over the city.
I was a little disappointed in the main churches, the Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk contains the only sculpture by Michelangelo outside of Italy but this was made a little hard to stomach by the large crowds and piped ambient music that really detracted from the atmosphere. The Heligbloed Basiliek again was filled with tourists and a continues announcement asking for donations which made it feel much more like a tourist trap not a place of pilgrimage!
On the plus side the Groeningemuseum was very impressive for its collection of Flemish Primitive works! Also the beginhof is quite nice and yet another separate UNESCO site so that is three for the price of one!!
|Robert Natarelli (American living in the Gulf):|
Today I remembered that in a few months it will have been 20 years since I visited Brugge. I arrived there on July 3, 1984 and spent the first night in the youth hostel. It was my first trip to Europe and I had just spent the previous 3 weeks travelling through England and Scotland.
On the next day, I went into the delicatessen in the Market Square, which is (was) next to Cafe Cranenburg (sp?) to buy some cheese for my lunch. I was waited on by a tall, raven haired woman with whom I flirted. She was decidedly unimpressed with me, so I took my cheese and left.
Later that day, I had just walked out of the post office on the other side of the Market Square when I saw the woman from the deli go past. I went after her and caught up to her as she was looking at a store window display. I began a conversation and within a few minutes, we went to a cafe to have a drink.
We hit it off quite well this time and made plans for dinner that evening. Well, to make a very long story short, I spent the next two weeks with her. Everyday that she had to work, she would finish at 2 pm. I would be waiting for her in the Cafe. Then we would spend the day seeing the city. There's really not a whole lot there, as it's quite small, yet I never tired of walking around the lovely canals, admiring the buildings.
Every evening we went out to a different restaurant and then we would go to 3-4 bars. I developed a taste for Stella Artois and French wine in those two weeks. On her days off, we visited other cities. The most memorable for me was Ipres.
After a few days with her, I was in love and she as well. It was the most intense period of my life. I felt as if I had lived two years of wonderful experiences in such a short time. I acquired an intimate knowledge of the city and I came to love it almost as much as I loved her.
After 10 days, I had to leave, as I had to see more of Europe before the summer ended. Leaving her was so difficult, that we both were crying the night before. The next day, she went to work in the morning and left me sleeping, not wanting to wake me for she knew I was leaving. We had said our goodbyes the night before. That day it was raining lightly. I walked to the edge of town and began hitching. It was a good thing it was raining, because I was crying on and off most of the day.
When I reached Brussels, I called her at home. Unfortunately, I had written down the wrong number. Dejectedly, I continued on. By 7pm that night, I was in Liege. My pain was so great, that I couldn't stand it any longer and I went to the train station and bought a ticket to Brugge on the very next train.
I arrive back in Brugge about 9:30 that night. I went to her apartment but she wasn't there. I went to her mom's house and her car was out front, but there wasn't any answer at the house. So, I left a note on her car telling her that I had returned and was waiting at the Cafe.
After sitting there for about 30 minutes, she came walking around the corner with her brother Josef. When she saw me, she broke into a run and said, "I can't believe it. It's a miracle. You've come back to me." After 20 years, I can still see her reaction as her face lit up with joy and she broke into a run almost yelling those words. I can still hear her voice say, "It's a miracle."
We went back to her place that night. For four more days I stayed with her. But finally I had to leave, without any doubt this time, as the Tour De France was ending and someone better left unidentified was returning to Brugge.
The second time I left the weather was better, a beautiful summer day. Josef had volunteered to give me a ride to Frankfurt, Germany on the back of his 850 Moto Guzzi. Our departure this time wasn't so sorrowful, yet it was just as painful. She stood there on the sidewalk by her mom's house and waved to us as we pulled away. She was so beautiful. I wish...so many things.
So here it is, twenty years later. I'm a university professor, sitting in a computer lab letting my students do as they please because I have this incredible need to tell someone this story. It's been twenty years since I fell in love with Hilde, and though I stopped loving her a very long time ago, I've never forgotten her. The periods in which I go without thinking about her have gotten longer over the years, but when I do remember her, the intensity of the memories is still as strong as if it had happened last year.
I just had my 46th birthday last week and I'm feeling extremely melancholy today. I wonder what has become of Hilde. I wonder if she's happy, if she's had a decent life. I wonder if she met a man that respected and truly loved her. I wonder if she's a mother. I wonder if she's still alive. I wonder if we would have anything to say to each other now, if we would have anything in common beside the past.
I was thinking of going to Brugge this summer. I'm finished with work in June and I could be in Brugge for July 4th. Would I be able to find her? Is it a big assumption to think she's still living in Brugge? I believe it was Thomas Hardy that said that you can never go home again. I've asked myself what is it I want. I'm happily married now, but it's not a sexual desire or one of passion. It's more about finding someone who played a short, but important role in my life and seeing how they are. To say hello, to look her in the eye and tell her that I've thought about her thousands of times over the years. To hold her hand and let her know that our lives were once intertwined and the mark it left was indelible. If I were to live for another 40 years, I doubt it would disappear. I want to know if she feels the same way, if she's thought about me again and again over the years. I want to know if she's aware that it's been twenty years this July. Does she have a small desire, unexpressed, that maybe, beyond all reasonable possibility, that some day we'll meet again. When I think of how simple it is for me at this point in my life to get on plane and be in Belgium, I wonder why I don't. Maybe I will. Maybe this summer, I'll be sitting in the Market Square in Brugge on a beautiful day watching for her. Then I'll see her walking past. I'll hesitate because I won't be sure it's her. But, like the first time, twenty years ago, I'll be bold and run after her and call her name. If it is her and she stops and turns, what will be her reaction when she recognizes me?
|Jim Humberd (USA):|
In 1980 as we walked toward downtown Brugge, we found hundreds of people in costume and medieval dress, and many horses and sheep waiting for a parade to start. Brugge puts on this pageant every five years, and it tells the history of the town in about 90 scenes depicting various incidents. There were dancers, singers, horses, flocks of sheep, and hundreds of people in costumes. It was very interesting, although we learned more than we needed to know about Brugge’s history.
I enjoyed this city, here I learned to love the spirit of Belgium - yes, to my mind you have it! Don't underestimate this fabulous place. Is it the best preserved medieval town in Europe? I have doubts, but definitely among the best. Numerous channels make it very special.
History is quite interesting here - its hard to imagine now, that rather recently sea was right at the city.
|JADE KNOWLES (England):|
Up until a year ago, i hadnt done alot of travelling. My now ex boyfriend was fairly well travelled and he was living in the Netherlands. The 1st time he brought me to NL, we stopped off in Brugge for the nite and spent the following day there. I have never fallen in love with a place so easily and deeply before. Brugge is one of the most beautiful places on earth and i cant wait to finish my photography course, leave England and get back there next summer. What a place, fabulous people, architecture, food. Everything about Brugge is amazing.
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