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Bruges ( Dutch: Brugge; French: Bruges) is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the northwest of the country.
The area of the whole city amounts to more than 13,840 hectares, including 1,075 hectares off the coast, at Zeebrugge (from Brugge aan zee meaning "Bruges on Sea" ). The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Siteof UNESCO. It is oval-shaped and about 430 hectares in size. The city's total population is 117,073 (1 January 2008), of whom around 20,000 live in the city centre. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 616 km2 (238 sq mi) and has a total of 255,844 inhabitants as of 1 January 2008.
Along with a few other canal-based northern cities, such as Amsterdam and Stockholm, it is sometimes referred to as The Venice of the North. Bruges has a significant economic importance thanks to its port and was once the chief commercial city in the world. Bruges is well known as the seat of the College of Europe, an elite university institute for European studies regarded as "the EU's very own Oxbridge."
|TIME ZONE :||• Time zone CET (UTC+1)|
• Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
|LANGUAGE :||Dutch (official) , French (official) , German (official)|
|AREA :||138.40 km2 (53.44 sq mi)|
|COORDINATES :||51°13′N 3°14′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 49,1%|
• Female: 50,9%
|AREA CODE :||050|
|POSTAL CODE :||8000, 8200, 8310, 8380|
|DIALING CODE :||+32 50|
Bruges has most of its medieval architecture intact. The historic centre of Bruges has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.
Many of its medieval buildings are notable, including the Church of Our Lady, whose brick spire reaches 122.3 m (401.25 ft), making it one of the world's highest brick towers/buildings. The sculptureMadonna and Child, which can be seen in the transept, is believed to be Michelangelo's only sculpture to have left Italy within his lifetime.
Bruges' most famous landmark is its 13th-century belfry, housing a municipal carillon comprising 48 bells. The city still employs a full-time carillonneur, who gives free concerts on a regular basis.
Other famous buildings in Bruges include:
- The Béguinage
- The Basilica of the Holy Blood(Dutch: Heilig-Bloedbasiliek). The relic of the Holy Blood, which was brought to the city after the Second Crusade by Thierry of Alsace, is paraded every year through the streets of the city. More than 1,600 inhabitants take part in this mile-long religious procession, many dressed as medieval knights or crusaders.
- The modern Concertgebouw ("Concert Building")
- The Old St. John's Hospital
- The Saint Salvator's Cathedral
- The Groeningemuseum, which has an extensive collection of medieval and early modern art, including a notable collection of Flemish Primitives. Various masters, including Hans Memling and Jan van Eyck, lived and worked in Bruges.
- The City Hall on the Burg square
- The Provincial Court (Provinciaal Hof)
- The preserved old city gateways: the Kruispoort, the Gentpoort, theSmedenpoort and the Ezelpoort. The Dampoort, the Katelijnepoort and theBoeveriepoort are gone.
Theatres and concert halls
- Concertgebouw ("Concert Building")
- De Dijk
- De Werf
- Het Entrepot
- Joseph Ryelandtzaal
- Studio Hall
Bruges was a location of coastal settlement during prehistory. This Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement is unrelated to medieval city development. In the Bruges area, the first fortifications were built after Julius Caesar's conquest of the Menapii in the first century BC, to protect the coastal area against pirates. TheFranks took over the whole region from the Gallo-Romans around the 4th century and administered it as the Pagus Flandrensis. The Viking incursions of the ninth century prompted Count Baldwin I of Flanders to reinforce the Roman fortifications; trade soon resumed with England and Scandinavia. Early medieval habitation starts in the 9th and 10th century on the Burgh terrain, probably with a fortified settlement and church.
Golden age (12th to 15th centuries)
Bruges became important due to the tidal inlet that was important to local commerce, This inlet was then known as the "Golden Inlet". Bruges received its city charter on 27 July 1128, and new walls and canals were built. Since about 1050, gradual silting had caused the city to lose its direct access to the sea. A storm in 1134, however, re-established this access, through the creation of a natural channel at the Zwin. The new sea arm stretched all the way to Damme, a city that became the commercial outpost for Bruges.
Bruges had a strategic location at the crossroads of the northern Hanseatic League trade and the southern trade routes. Bruges was already included in the circuit of the Flemish and French cloth fairs at the beginning of the 13th century, but when the old system of fairs broke down the entrepreneurs of Bruges innovated. They developed, or borrowed from Italy, new forms of merchant capitalism, whereby several merchants would share the risks and profits and pool their knowledge of markets. They employed new forms of economic exchange, including bills of exchange (i.e. promissory notes) and letters of credit. The city eagerly welcomed foreign traders, most notably the Portuguese traders selling pepper and other spices.
With the reawakening of town life in the twelfth century, a wool market, a woollens weaving industry, and the market for cloth all profited from the shelter of city walls, where surpluses could be safely accumulated under the patronage of the counts of Flanders. The city's entrepreneurs reached out to make economic colonies of England and Scotland's wool-producing districts. English contacts brought Normandy grain and Gascon wines. Hanseatic ships filled the harbor, which had to be expanded beyond Damme to Sluys to accommodate the new cog-ships. In 1277, the first merchant fleet from Genoa appeared in the port of Bruges, first of the merchant colony that made Bruges the main link to the trade of the Mediterranean. This development opened not only the trade in spices from the Levant, but also advanced commercial and financial techniques and a flood of capital that soon took over the banking of Bruges. The Bourse opened in 1309 (most likely the first stock exchange in the world) and developed into the most sophisticated money market of the Low Countries in the 14th century. By the time Venetian galleys first appeared, in 1314, they were latecomers. Numerous foreign merchants were welcomed in Bruges, such as the Castilian wool merchants who first arrived in the 13th century. After the Castilian wool monopoly ended, the Basques, many hailing from Bilbao (Biscay), thrived as merchants (wool, iron commodities, etc.) and established their own commercial consulate in Bruges by the mid-15th century. The foreign merchants expanded the city's trading zones. They maintained separate communities governed by their own laws until the economic collapse after 1700.
Such wealth gave rise to social upheavals, which were for the most part harshly contained by the militia. In 1302, however, after the Bruges Matins (the nocturnal massacre of the French garrison in Bruges by the members of the local Flemish militia on 18 May 1302), the population joined forces with the Count of Flanders against the French, culminating in the victory at the Battle of the Golden Spurs, fought near Kortrijk on 11 July. The statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, the leaders of the uprising, can still be seen on the Big Market square. The city maintained a militia as a permanent paramilitary body. It gained flexibility and high prestige by close ties to a guild of organized militia, comprising professionals and specialized units. Militia men bought and maintained their own weapons and armour, according to their family status and wealth.
At the end of the 14th century, Bruges became one of the Four Members, along with Franc of Bruges, Ghent and Ypres. Together they formed a parliament; however they frequently quarrelled amongst themselves.
In the 15th century, Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, set up court in Bruges, as well as Brussels and Lille, attracting a number of artists, bankers, and other prominent personalities from all over Europe. The weavers and spinners of Bruges were thought to be the best in the world, and the population of Bruges grew to at least 125,000 and perhaps up to 200,000 inhabitants at this time around 1400 AD.
The new oil-painting techniques of the Flemish school gained world renown. The first book in English ever printed was published in Bruges by William Caxton. This is also when Edward IV and Richard III of England spent time in exile here.
Decline after 1500
Starting around 1500, the Zwin channel, (the Golden Inlet) which had given the city its prosperity, also started silting and the Golden Era had ended. The city soon fell behind Antwerp as the economic flagship of the Low Countries. During the 17th century, the lace industry took off, and various efforts to bring back the glorious past were made. During the 1650s, the city was the base for Charles II of England and his court in exile. The maritime infrastructure was modernized, and new connections with the sea were built, but without much success, as Antwerp became increasingly dominant. Bruges became impoverished and gradually faded in importance; its population dwindling from 200,000 to 50,000 by 1900.
The symbolist novelist George Rodenbach even made the sleepy city into a character in his novel Bruges-la-Morte, meaning "Bruges-the-dead", which was adapted into Erich Wolfgang Korngold's opera, Die tote Stadt (The Dead City).
19th century and later: revival
In the last half of the 19th century, Bruges became one of the world's first tourist destinations attracting wealthy British and French tourists. By 1909 it had in operation an association called 'Bruges Forward: Society to Improve Tourism.' After 1965 the original medieval city experienced a renaissance. Restorations of residential and commercial structures, historic monuments, and churches generated a surge in tourism and economic activity in the ancient downtown area. International tourism has boomed, and new efforts have resulted in Bruges being designated 'European Capital of Culture' in 2002. It attracts some 2 million tourists annually.
The port of Zeebrugge was built in 1907. The Germans used it for their U-boats in World War I. It was greatly expanded in the 1970s and early 1980s and has become one of Europe's most important and modern ports.
Even by Belgian standards, Bruges has a poor reputation for its weather. Compared to other western European cities like London and Paris, the weather in Bruges is colder and damper. 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. In autumn, 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. The daily and monthly temperature variations are quite small - average highs and average lows don't exceed a range of 9°C (or 16°F).
The municipality comprises:
- The historic city centre of Bruges,Sint-Jozef and Sint-Pieters (I)
- Koolkerke (II)
- Sint-Andries (III)
- Sint-Michiels (IV)
- Assebroek (V)
- Sint-Kruis (VI)
- Dudzele (VII)
- Lissewege (with Zeebrugge andZwankendamme) (VIII)
Prices in Brugge
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€1.25|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||€7.00|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||€34.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||€60.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||€|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||€8.00|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||€3.00|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€3.00|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||€10.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||€|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||€0.25|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||€6.00|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||€1.90|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||€90.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||€42.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||€91.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||€2.90|
34 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
103 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Bruges shares its airport with Ostend. The Ostend-Bruges International airport has a long runway and a seaside location providing for a picturesque approach, but unfortunately it sees limited passenger traffic, pretty much limited to seasonal flights to holiday destinations. It is also a major hub for cargo airlines, so planespotters may find it of interest.
More viable as a point of entry is the Brussels National Airport, Belgium's largest, as well as Charleroi (Brussels South) and Lille, so getting to Bruges by train is by far the easiest way. Only one change at one of the three main stations is needed and the entire connection takes about 1.5h.
Travelling to Bruges on Belgium's excellent rail system is a natural choice. Trains to and from Brussels leave every 30min during the day. The journey from Brussel-Zuid (Dutch) or Bruxelles-Midi (French) to Bruges takes about an hour. You can also travel from Brussels-Central or Brussels-North on the same line, and trains travelling to Bruges are travelling in the direction of any coastal station except La Panne / De Panne (so any train to Ostend / Oostende, Knokke or Blankenberge is fine). If you're traveling on the Eurostar that same day, this cost may be included in your ticket if it shows "Any Belgian Station". Otherwise, buy a ticket when you get to the station. Luggage lockers are available 06:00-22:00. For more information on schedules, prices, and services visit the website of the NMBS/SNCB. Note that there are first and second class seats. To identify them, look for a number next to a "no smoking" sign somewhere in the wagon. For groups of travellers under 25, a 10-rides card might be the cheapest, that offers 10 pre-paid rides between any Belgian train stations.
Be aware that trains are often full to and from Bruges, especially during rush hours, so if you or your colleagues have any problems with mobility you could be standing the whole trip or at best sitting in the entry area of the carriage. There isn't really any solution to this during the tourist season when Bruges is wall to wall people.
From Lille (France)
From the train station of Lille Flanders, there are hourly trains to Bruges. Though crossing the boundary might result in non-available reductions (s.a. the 10-rides card).
With a backpack nearly all hotels are reachable on foot. However, if you have a suitcase consider taking a taxi because the cobbled streets make the use of wheeled suitcases or carry-on bags very difficult. Also be sure to wear comfortable shoes, because of the cobblestones.
If you are planning a bus-tour: be aware buses and camping vehicles are not allowed within the city centre. There is a perfect parking place for them 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 multi-storey 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.
P&O Ferries operate a daily sailing every evening from Hull to Zeebrugge taking 12.5h for the crossing. The fares do not include the bus from the ferry terminal to Bruges railway station, which is currently GBP6.75 per person (each way).
DFDS Seaways Ferries operates ferries from Dover to Dunkerque every 2h. From Dunkerque, Bruges is only 75km away. This can only be done by driving as they do not take foot passengers. A DFDS ferry to Holland from Newcastle sails daily. From its port in IJmuiden, Amsterdam you can reach Bruges is less than 3h by car.
LD Lines sail daily from Ramsgate to Ostend. The journey takes 4h.
By cruise ship
Virtually all dock at the major harbor of Zeebrugge. In addition to ship's tours, most offer shuttles to Blankenberge...a nearby town offering economical, hourly train service to Bruge just 20 minutes or so away.
Transportation - Get Around
The historical centre is not so big and thus quite walkable (be sure to wear comfortable shoes). The only mode of public transport inside the city is bus. They are operated by the Flemish public transport company De Lijn. They frequent nearly all major points of interest plus the train station. Taxis on the market place and station cost about €10. Bicycles are easy to rent and make getting around the city very speedy, although the cobblestoned paths can make rides a little bumpy and uncomfortable.
- BEST RATED -
- BEST VALUE -
Chocolate shops are plentiful and the standard is always high. A fairly cheap option is Stef's on Breidelstraat (between Markt and Burg). If you are willing to spend a little more, Chocolatier Van Oost on Wollestraat is a must for high-quality artisinal chocolate. Just next to that is Het Chocoladehuisje where they sell chocolate breasts (large and small, used to be patented). Word on the street is, that you can get anything covered in chocolate and moulded. There is a particular vast amount of chocolate shops at the Kathelijnestraat. Another good option is The Chocolate Line. For the true gourmet, inform if the chocolate is artisan (hand-made) or industrial. This also explains differences in price.
For those who do not wish to buy chocolate in the chocolate shops, the localsupermarkets also sell a good variety of mass-produced chocolate at fairly low prices. For the frugal, you can buy 100-200g gourmet bars of chocolate for about €1 each. Good brands to buy are Côte-d'Or and Jacques, both are Belgian. 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. They even have gift packs with glasses. There are also many boutique-style beer shops that sell high quality gift packs of Belgian beer.
There are plenty of arts and crafts shops too, with some excellent local artists. The lacework is risky: if everything sold was produced locally, the entire town would be working in the lace industry! There is a school for lace though, where you can still get "the real thing".
Most European tourists come for the weekend, so shops are open Tuesday through Sunday, but many shops and museums are closed on Mondays. Be sure to plan ahead.
- Dumon, Simon Stevinplein 11. Excellent, very high-end chocolate creations. They also make chocolate drinks.
- Het Chocoladehuisje, Wollestraat 15, . Artisan chocolates. Place where you can buy the original chocolate breasts. Has a nice piece in their window on special occasions.
- The Chocolate Line, Simon Stevinplein 19, . Almost always has original and funny chocolate-art in their window. Run buy a (locally) famous chocolatier, Dominique Persoone
Restaurants are not always cheap or wonderful, although mussels and frites or fricadellen, frites with mayonnaise are outstanding here. Stay away from the central market place ("Grote Markt") and the Burg Square when eating. Tourists are easy victims here. One tactic used by tourist traps is to present items (e.g. bread) as if they were free with your meal, then charge you exorbitantly for them. Even water may be charged at an exorbitant €6 for a small bottle.
You will, however, find great food if you wander off the beaten track. Find a street with more locals than tourists and ask somebody. The locals will be glad to help.
- Books & Brunch, Garenmarkt 30, . Tu-F 8:30-18:00, Sa 09:00-18:00. An ideal combo of second hand book store and a brunch/dessert-eatery (but you can just have a cup of coffee or a tea too).
- Brasserie Forestière, Academiestraat 11. Nice and calm restaurant, good food, not too expensive. Good menu for vegetarians. Meal of the day (soup, main dish, dessert or coffee/tea) costs €11 although this is the cheapest menu it has little choice.
- De Drie Zintuigen, Westmeers 29, . Off the beaten track but not far from all the bars, this lovely restaurant does more than moules et frites. Prices are about €30 a head and the atmosphere is nice too.
- L'estaminet, Park 5, e-mail: [email protected]. Good food, nice terrace, cool bartender. Try the renowned spaghetti for €8 or the delicious croque monsieur.
- La Romagna, Braambergstraat 8. Excellent family-run Italian restaurant and pizzeria. Inexpensive. Good menu for vegetarians.
- In't Nieuw Museum, Hooistraat 42, . Belgian grill restaurant, well off the tourist track. Excellent steaks, reasonable prices.
- De Bottelier, Ezelstraat (close to Sint-Jacobsstraat). A favourite restaurant of many of Bruges' residents. Very reasonable prices and excellent food. Closed Sunday and Monday nights.
- Marieke van Brugghe, Mariastraat 17, , e-mail:[email protected]. Small but good restaurant that attracts the locals. Fixed menu for €19
- Tom's Diner, West Gistelhof 23. Fantastic upmarket take on satisfying, home cooked food. Prices are reasonable, as well.
- Kok au Vin, Ezelstraat 19/21. Memorable Kok au Vin (both the entrée AND the restaurant); the prices are reasonable for the high quality. Family owned and run. Reservations recommended.
- Restaurant Aneth. With only 7 tables, small and cosy, with a personal touch.
- Brasserie Medard, Sint-Amandsstraat 18. Huge deal for low budget just near the centre: a mountain of (tasty) spaghetti with tomato sauce, cheese, and mushrooms for €3. Two options on the menu: vegetarian, non-vegetarian - both at the same price. Double its size for just €2 extra. Unbeatable. Very cheap beer too (kriek at €1.50). Most tables order the spaghetti. Tourists aren't welcome until they sit - be sure to sit down and impose your presence to be served. Be warned that if you wait to be seated, you are likely to be sent away for no reason. Bring your own musical instruments.
- De Karmeliet, Langestraat 19, . High-quality restaurant with 3 Michelin stars
- t' Gulden Vlies, Mallebergplaats 17, . 7PM-3AM. An excellentnight restaurant. Small romantic restaurant east of the Burg with excellent food and reasonable prices. Menus from €16.
- Cambrinus, Philipstockstraat 19 (near the market place), .11:00-23:00 daily. This is a very popular place, and for a reason. They have some of the best selection of Belgian beers, more than 440 in total. Some beers have really odd names like Satan, Lucifer, Nostradamus, or the Brunette. It's primarily a restaurant though, as all their hearty food are prepared with a special kind of beer. It's really delicious. Mains go for €17-19, but they also have the €26 prix fixe "Menu van de Brouwer", which features several Trappist beers. Make a reservation in advance, as else they might not have any seats available. €25-30.
- Le Pain Quotidien, 21 Philipstockstraat. A sandwich chain founded in Brussels but now found in the US, France and a number of other countries. Most of the food is organic, and the sandwiches (in particular the Tartine Bouef Basilic) are delicious. Somewhat expensive.
- Maximiliaan van Oostenrijk, Wijngaardplein 16-17, .Midrange restaurant offering plenty to eat including oysters and meat cooked several ways plus, of course, frites. There is not much for vegetarians.
- Grand Cafe Passage, Dweersstraat 26, . Attached to the Passage hotel/hostel (see below) is the atmospheric Grand Café, serving traditional Belgian cuisine and beers. Prices are slightly lower than the tourist traps and well worth it. Try the beef stew (very tender) or the ribs.
- Trattoria Trium, Academiestraat 27, . This is a great spot to have a nice dish of pasta or pizza and is fully Italian. They also sell olive oil, pasta sauces and other authentic products. The decor has a warm home feeling. Try out their antipasto and the excellent house wine. €15-20.
- Bittersweet, St Amandstraat 27 (close to the Grote Markt and Belfry), . Tu-Sa 09:00-18:30. 'Cosy and Delicious' just like it says. Great for breakfast and indulgent afternoon teas. Reasonable prices, better quality and friendlier service than the tourist traps on the Markt, it's well worth the short walk down this quaint side street. Also serves the best coffee in the city!
- Den Gouden Harynck, Groeninge 25, . Gastronomic restaurant which offers three course meals at very reasonable prices.
- Laurenzino, Noordzandstraat 1, . Su-Th 11:00-20:00, F 11:00-22:00, Sa 10:00-22:00. This is a good place to try out freshly baked Belgian waffles. They have them with chocolate, caramel, whipped cream or basically anything you want on top of it. They also have traditionally prepared ice cream available. It's easy to find, as you can smell the flavour of the waffles around the shop. €2.
- Chocolaterie Spegelaere, Ezelstraat 92, . Bruges '"Best Kept Secret, a place for chocolate-lovers.
- The 57, Wollestraat 29a, . 11:30 - 22:00. The 57 is a romantic restaurant in Bruges
Sights & Landmarks
Bruges has been known as a "dead city" for many years. 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 population managed to survive, but did not grow as there was no new industrial activity during that period. 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, and imagine what life in the late Middle Ages must have been like. UNESCO has listed the historic centre of Bruges as a world heritage site.
The Brugge City Card provides free admission to most of the major attractions, and can be picked up at any of the hostels around town. The reduced rate cannot be used in conjunction with a student rate (both student and city card rates are identical) and hence is most useful for older travellers.
Several Youth Hostels (Bauhaus), and probably the train station and tourist information, offer a useful map with some very interesting, 'non-tourist' places to see during the day and some unique places to visit at night. It provides a good way of getting an authentic feel for the town whilst avoiding the tourist hotspots and allows you to find some hidden gems.
- Groeninge Museum, Dijver 12. Daily 09:30-17:00. 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. €8 / €6 (audioguide and ticket to Arents House and Forum+ included in the entrance).
- Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilige Bloed Basiliek), Burg 10. Apr-Sep 09:30-11:50 & 14:00-17:50, Oct-Mar 10:00-11:50 & 14:00-15:50. 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, in heavy Romanesque style - a contrast to the lovely light Gothic above. Free.
- Brewery De Halve Maan, Walplein 26, . Apr-Oct M-Sa 11:00-16:00, Su 11:00-17:00. This brewery is the only remaining city brewery that's actually still brewing beer inside the city walls. It's also a beer museum and offers a tour of the beer making process. A history of the brewery is provided, as well as an overview of the city from its tower. The tour lasts for 45min and is a good way to get a feel for Belgian beer making. The tours start at the exact turn of the hour, be at least fifteen minutes early as there is a maximum amount of people that can join. The entrance price includes one drink of Brugse Zot or Straffe Hendrik and is served after the tour at the outside terrace or indoor bar.€8.50 including 1 beer.
- 2-be Beer Wall and Bar, Wollestraat 53. On the court of a former major's house, "all Belgian beers" are exposed permanently. At the back of the wall, it's also possible to drink a lot of those beers.
- Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk, Mariastraat. 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". Free.
- Simbolik - Open Studio and Expo of Nathalie Beelprez, Katelijnestraat 139, . Th-Sa 10:00-18:00, other days by appointment. A house, an open studio where thoughts and ideas are born, a place where Beelprez can mix these thoughts and feelings in a symbolic language of forms, her soul, her calligraphy, her world, her language. While she works in her studio, her expo is open for anyone who wants to let time go, read forms and see letters. An open immersion in texts and forms that excite your senses. Selection of handmade letterwork, wall objects, light objects, painted on canvas, letters in ceramics, writing on walls, also work on demand. Also, every first Sunday of the month at 15:00 is Poëziene: a place where poets, musicians or performers bring their own work to Simbolik. Free entrance.
- Jerusalem church. In a quiet area of the city, a highly unusual church with octagonal tower built by the Adornes brothers, merchants of Italian extraction. It includes a fine black Tournai marble tomb, late Gothic stained glass, and a tiny and rather spooky chapel containing an effigy of the dead Christ. The entrance fee also covers the Lace Museum in the former Adornes mansion, where you can see local women and girls learning this traditional craft.
- The Beguinage (Begijnhof). In the history, many women couldn't find a man, as men were more likely to die in accidents or in a war. Those women could "marry God" and become a beguine. The beguinage, also known as the convent, offered protection for those single ladies. It lies between the centre of the city and the station, with white painted small houses and fine plane trees, is a quiet place to walk - groups are discouraged.
- The Hospital of St John. Tu-Su 09:30-17:00. Sint-Janshospitaal contains a museum of six paintings by Hans Memling, within the early medieval hospital buildings. €8.
- Choco-Story Museum, Wijnzakstraat 2 (Sint-Jansplein), .10:00-17:00. 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. €7.
- DiamantMuseum, Katelijnestraat 43, . 10:30-17:30.Diamond museum has a large range of exhibits ranging from mining all the way to polishing and all the history in between. Everyday at 12:15 there is a live polishing demonstration. Individuals €6, Groups €4.50, Students €3.
Bruges is visited by a huge number of tourists and it sometimes becomes quite annoying, especially around the Markt and Burg squares. The important thing to remember, however, is that very few tourists venture far away from the main shopping area, so if you want some peace and quiet you should simply explore the many small cobbled streets away from the main squares.
- Lucifernum (retsin's lucifernum), twijnstraat 6-8 (city centre). Su 18:00-21:00.An amazing (private) art gallery with a Gothic cemetery in a subtropical garden located in the old Freemasons temple (1756-1882). 1,000m² of art and mystery in Bruges' old city centre. €6.
Things to do
- Grote Markt and Belfry Climb, Grote Markt (the big square). Tu-Su 09:30-17:00. Climb the 366 steps to the top of the 83m high tower. Excellent views of the city, Grote Markt and hear the bells ring up close. €6 with Bruges card / €8.
- Tour boats. It's essential to take a ride on one of the tour boats around the canals - the multilingual guides provide a potted history of the city in just a few minutes - at only a few euros, it's the best introduction to Bruges. A boat tour will show you places which are otherwise unreachable, as not every canal runs next to a street. Advisable to get there at opening time to avoid the crowds. €7.60 plus almost obligatory tip to the driver/guide.
- Horse drawn carts, Grote Markt. Carriages can be hired for a romantic 30min trip around the old city of Bruge. Carts can carry up to 5 passengers. €39.
- Cycle, Burg Square. There are many rental shops near the main square, shop around for the best prices. You can also rent right at the train station and get to the city centre quickly; remember to return them by 19:30. Cycle 5km to Damme, a picturesque village on the river with a windmill and excellent pancakes, and optionally follow on to the coast (another 15km). €8 for 4h at most places, €12 for the day.
- Snow and Ice sculpture festival, Station Bruges. Every year from the end of Nov to Jan you can visit the Snow and Ice sculpture festival on the station-square of Bruges. The festival is built by an international team of 40 professional artists from no less than 300t of crystal clear ice and 400,000kg of fresh snow in a cooled hall where the temperature remains a constant -6°C. Don't forget to wear warm clothing!
- Running. If you are a runner, try running the 7km circle around the old centre. Walk along the canal and see all of the medieval gates that used to control the traffic in and out of Bruges. Simply stunning!
- Bruges Ballooning, Markt, . am & pm. Daily hot air balloon flights over the historic centre and its surroundings. The best way to enjoy the romance of Bruges, and its stunning views, from a few hundred metres up in a balloon basket. €170.
- Compare the real Bruges to the one depicted in the movie In Bruges.
Festivals and events
- De Garre, 1, De Garre (When walking from De Markt to De Burg via the Breydelstraat, find a small door between two shops on your right side to enter De Garre street. The pub itself is the only door inside that street.), . Hidden in a backyard, this pub offers a nice atmosphere and about 100 different kinds of beer, including home-brewed ones. The house beer is called 'Triple de Garre' and is 11% strong, a good way to start the night. The pub is very often full, but there's a limit of two drinks per person, which means that new places become available pretty quickly.
- 't Brugs Beertje, Kemelstraat. This excellent pub (recommended in the CAMRA guide to the Benelux region) has hundreds of different beers and an authentic beer-cafe atmosphere. Clientele is majority tourists. The front bar is crowded; what looks like the door through to the restrooms opens on another bar area. In 2005 it was closed for most of July - this might be an annual occurrence.
- Curiosa (just off the main square). A good place for a lunch as well as a beer.
- Herberg Vlissinghe (Cafe Vlissinghe), Blekerstrat 2 (on the way to the Jerusalem church), . closed Mondays and Tuesdays. One of the less touristy bars, with a nice selection of draught and bottled beers. It's probably the oldest pub in Bruges dating from 1515.
- The area just north of the performing arts center has various cafes, most with sufficient beer selections, such as Café Leffe.
- The Druid's Cellar, St Amandsstraat 11/b, . A very nice cosy place to drink a beer and listen to some good music. The bar is located underground and actually gives the impression of a cellar. Usually plays rock music. The bar has a wide selection of drinks, from simple beer to 16 year old Bushmills whiskey.
- Bean around the World, Genthof 5, . American coffee house in the center of Bruges - offers free American newspapers and Wi-Fi to its customers
- Délisa 'Délices & Saveurs', Jan van Eyckplein 7, . Just a short walk from the Markt, this place undoubtably has some of the best coffee in Bruges. With a genuine espresso machine, the Conti, and a passion for good quality, the owner Sabine, is great for a chat and a good coffee for only €2.
- De Bierbistro, Oude Burg 14 (1 min from market), . Beautiful cellar from the 15th century. Nice place to have a drink or eat homemade dishes made with beer. The prices are very reasonable and the location is excellent if you want to experience some history of Bruges.
Safety in Brugge