Nothing seems to have changed in Bruges since the Medieval Age. The capital of West Flander in northwest Belgium looks for all the world as though it has been plucked from the pages of a medieval fairy tale with picturesque cobblestoned lanes, beautiful canals, and marvelous centuries-old buildings.
The history of Bruges (or Brugge in Dutch) dates back to the first century when it was used as a fortification by the Romans to protect the coastal area against pirates. With its strategic location at the crossroads of the southern and northern trade routes, Bruges grew into a commercial metropolis in the heart of Europe during the medieval times.
Most of Bruges’ medieval architecture was left intact.
Apart from the religious wars in the 16th century and the French Revolution, Bruges refrained from the devastations associated with other conflicts in this part of Europe, including both World Wars. Most of its medieval architecture was left intact, making it one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Europe.
Bruges’s most popular landmark is Market Place where a 13th-century belfry is located. Named Béguinage, the 22-meter-high bell tower houses a municipal carillon comprising 48 bells. Other sights include the City Hall, hospitals, religious and commercial complexes, as well as the historic urban fabric. The city illustrates an exchange of influences on the development of art and architecture, particularly in brick Gothic, which is characteristic of northern Europe and the Baltic.
Tips for visiting Bruges
- The train from Bruxelles-Midi to Bruges takes less than one hour, making the city an ideal destination for day-trippers from Brussels. It costs around 15€ per ride, but you can opt for a Weekend Ticket which is 50% cheaper.
- Bruges’s old town is relatively small. You can either explore it by foot or by horse carriage. A canal cruise is also an option if the queue is not too long.
- Try visiting midweek, because the city is packed with tourists on weekends (and certainly on holidays). The crowd reaches its peak in the summer months.
- Belgian mussels and fries are a classical Flemish dish. Try it at Bruges or any fishing village and town along the coast.