City of Bruges / Brugge

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Bruges / Brugge

Bruges (map) is a picturesque city in Flanders. Once Europe’s richest city, now both cosmopolitan and bourgeois in its compact size. It is mainly known for its exceptionally well-preserved historical centre (especially by Belgian standards).

In the 2nd century AD there was a Gallo-Roman settlement, but the city got its foundations in the 9th century when the Vikings landed. During the following centuries there were strong connections to the north, and Bruges became one of the trading points of the Hanseatic League.

The Industrial Revolution didn’t bring much industry to Bruges. Ironically, the poverty that characterized Bruges in the 19th century is one reason the town’s historic architecture is so well-preserved.

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Bruges was known as a “dead city” for centuries. The sanding of the harbour and the difficulties to dig canals in the sand caused heavy economical burdens on the city between the Middle Ages and the 20th century.

The Brugge City Card provides free admission to most of the major attractions.

As a result, once over the encircling canal and inside the city walls, Bruges closes in around you with street after street of charming historic houses and a canal always nearby. The newly cleaned houses and the small canals should however not confuse you; they are truly centuries old. And if you can get away from the chocolate shops, you can visit some more quiet areas such as St. Anna (map), and imagine what life in the late Middle Ages must have been like. The historic center of Bruges and its belfry are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

+ Museums of Bruges >> museabrugge.be

Ostend (Oostende, map) is the monumental beach resort, called queen of the coastal cities resort. King Leopold II (1865-1909) built before his attention turned to inner-city Brussels to build his new capital. The quintessential cosmopolitan 19th-century beach resort, full of endearing villas that have been classified as official monuments. Less than 15 minutes by train.

Grote Markt (map). The market square is the heart of the old town. It covers an area of 1 ha, and on its southern edge is the city belfry (Halletoren / Belfort), which is one of the city’s best known landmarks.

Groeninge Museum (map). Known as ‘The city museum of Fine Arts’, it houses a collection of artworks that span several centuries (14th-20th), focusing mainly on works by painters who lived and worked in Bruges.

Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilige Bloed Basiliek, map). A beautiful church on the Burg square. It houses a relic – a vial of blood that is said to be that of Jesus – and was built in the Gothic style. Try and get there early so you can view the chapel when it is quiet and not filled with tourists. And don’t forget to visit the chapel underneath.

Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk (map). A fascinating church with architecture from the Romanesque and Gothic periods. In the east end of the church are very fine tombs of Charles the Bold and his daughter Mary of Burgundy – in contrasting Gothic and Renaissance styles, despite their superficial similarity. The church also houses one of the few Michelangelo sculptures outside of Italy, the “Madonna with child”.

Choco-Story Museum (Sint-Jansplein, map). This museum is a must-see for chocolate enthusiasts as it describes chocolate’s transition from cocoa into chocolate. Its low-cost tasty exhibits make it well worth the time (and Belcolade’s gently overt marketing). Be sure to stay for the chocolate making exhibition to get some excellent samplers.

If you don’t want anything more than a sampling of the most famous Belgian beers, supermarkets (not night shops!) are probably your best choice.

If you are looking for a great place to eat in Bruges, it is extremely important to avoid all of the restaurants in the central market square (“Grote Markt”) at all costs. No matter how pleasant the view from there may look, all of these places will offer you low-quality. Find a street with more locals than tourists and ask somebody about a good place to eat at.

Public transport

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The only mode of public transport inside the city is bus. They are operated by the Flemish public transport company De Lijn.

Smart Mobility Planner | door-to-door routeplanner for the whole country, covering all forms of public transport (including train, bus, subway and tram).

+ Public Transport (belgium.be)

 BUS >   STIB/MIVB in Brussels • De Lijn in Flanders • TEC in Wallonia. Most tourists will not need the bus companies, as it is much more user-friendly to take trains between cities and go on foot inside them. There is also the Kusttram, running along almost the whole Flemish seaside from France to the Netherlands—definitely worth a trip in the summer.

 RAIL >   Belgiantrain.be – Use the official journey planner operated by the National Railway Company of Belgium to find train itineraries and prices. ThalysSNCFEurostarDeutsche Bahn

 AIRPORTS >   Brussels Airport, also known as Zaventem due to the town in which it is mainly located, is Belgium’s main airport. Brussels South Charleroi Airport, about 50 km (31 mi) south of Brussels, mostly serves low-cost carriers.

 WATERWAYS >   P&O Ferries operate a daily sailing every evening from Hull to Zeebrugge taking 12½ hr for the crossing. DFDS Seaways Ferries operates ferries from Dover to Dunkirk every 2 hr.

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