Literally Everybody Loves Bruges.
Bruges dreamily evokes a world long since gone. In the 14th century, Bruges was one of Europe's leading trade centres. But during the following century, the waterway linking the city to the sea silted up. Despite attempts to build a new canal, Bruges' economic lifeline was gone. Traders and townsfolk abandoned the city, leaving it suspended in time.
- Population of 255,844
- It's said that there's over 360 types of beer served!
- Declared a UNESCO Heritage site in 2000
Bruges’ nerve centre is the historic Markt, a large open square from which rises Belgium’s most famous Belfort. Squeeze up the 366 steps.
The nearby Burg features Belgium’s oldest stadhuis (Town Hall), along with the Basiliek van het Heilig Bloed, where a few coagulated drops of Christ’s blood are kept and cherished.
Bruges’ prized collection of art dating from the 14th to 20th centuries is housed in the small Groeningemuseum.
The Hospitaalmuseum Memling in St Jan (Mariastraat 38) is home to a handful of masterpieces by Hans Memling, one of the early Flemish Primitives, plus a wealth of other artworks. Seek out Memling’s reliquary of St Ursula – the attention to detail is stunning.
The Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady; Mariastraat) has one remarkable art treasure: Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. This small marble statue (1504) was the only work of art by Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime.
The Begijnhof (admission free; h6.30am-6.30pm) was home to a 13th-century religious community of unmarried or widowed women, known as Begijnen. A 10-minute walk south of the Markt, it’s a must visit.
Waffles & Frites
From cosy estaminets (taverns) to firstclass restaurants, Bruges has all bases covered. All of Bruges’ hostels have bars, and some have restaurants – you’ll find many travellers hang out at these.
Baggings (Kuipersstraat 17) Snack bar with a Lord of the Rings slant, and great for a late-night bite.
Medard (St Amandsstraat 18) Just one of many eateries on this quiet tree-lined square near the Markt. This little cafe is noted for its homey atmosphere and substantial plates of spaghetti (including vegetarian sauces).
Gulden Vlies (Mallebergplaats 17) Cosy latenight restaurant with old-fashioned decor and excellent Belgian cuisine. The threecourse menú is superb value.
I must have put on about a kilo in a day. Everything was so delicious!"