Bruges is the largest city of the West Flanders province of Belgium. It covers an area of one hundred and thirty-eight kilometers and has a population of ove one hundred and seventeen thousand people. The first settlement in the area were erected after Julius Caesar’s conquest of the Menapii during the first century BC. This fortification was used to defend the coast from pirates. During the fourth century, the Franks took over the area and called it Pagus Flandrensis. It continued in this capacity until the ninth century when Baldwin I reinforced the city to protect it from Viking invasions.
During the twelfth century the city was incorporated and immediately walls and canals were constructed. New life was breathed into the city during the twelfth century and the city vamped up its manufacturing activities, producing textiles and devoloping a woollens industry. The newfound wealth of the city produced not only prosperity, but also its fair share of problems however. They were a few social uprisings, but these were short lived and easily contained. The Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, establish a court in Bruges and this attracted artists and bankers from all over Europe. The population of the city soon topped two hundred thousand people and from there kept growing exponentially.
Today, Bruges is a city that is learning to reclaim its former glories. Most of monuments in the Middle Ages remain intact and the city is listed as a World Heritage Site. This in turn has sparked a health tourist trade which is driven by the city’s many attractions. One of the most important attractions in the city is the Church of Our Lady. Church of Our Lady was founded in the thirteenth century and is the tallest building in the city, as well as being the second tallest brickwork building in the world, with a height of over four hundred feet. The altar piece contains a white marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child sculpted by Michelangelo in the sixteenth century. This sculpture was probably meant to be used in the Siena cathedral, but it was bought by two merchants who donated it to Church of Our Lady.
The most famous of all Bruges attractions is the Belfry of Bruges. The Belfry of Bruges is a bell tower from the thirteenth century that rises two hundred and forty-nine feet into the air. The tower was originally used as an observation post to watch for incoming invaders and it also housed the archives of the city. Today, visitors willing to pay the fee, can traverse the three hundred and sixty-six stairs to the top of the tower and get an absolutely perfect view of the city.
The Beguinage is another famous attraction in the city of Bruges. It consist of a courtyard surrounded by several small buildings. It was used to house women who wanted to serve God in the Roman Catholic Church without having to become nuns. Also in the city is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. This was a minor basilica in the Roman Catholic Church that was erected in the twelfth century. The building consist of an upper and lover chapel. The lower chapel is done in the Romanesque architectural style and is dedicated to St. Basil the Great. The upper chapel is done in the Gothic Revival architectural style and was renovated during the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. The chapel of Saint Basil consist of three naves, two lateral and one central. Above the entrance to the chapel is a representation of Saint Basil being baptized. In one of the naves is a wooden sculpture of the Madonna and Child.
Another prominent attraction in Bruges is St. Salvator’s Cathedral. St. Salvator’s Cathedral was founded in the tenth century and wasn’t meant to be a cathedral but only a parish church. In the early nineteenth century, a new bishop was placed in the city and this church was elevated to the status of cathedral. The church was kind of small to be a church, so massive renovations were done to it. This was done by the addition of several features, including a new tower. This church contains many impressive works of art. The wall carpets are from the eighteenth century and the church has many paintings by various artist. Even the podium is a work of art that was crafted in the sixteenth century.
A prominent museum in Bruges is the Groeningemuseum. This museum contains a collection of Flemish and Belgian art that covers over six centuries. Works located in this museum include The Madonna with Canon van der Paele, Portrait of Margareta van Eyck, Portrait of Paulus de Nigro, Triptych, Portrait of Four Children, Last Judgment for the Bruges town hall, Crucifixion and Triptych of the Martyrdom of St. Hippolytus. A beautiful park in Bruges is the The Minnewater. The name of the park actually refers to the lake in the park. Because of the beautiful scenery it is most commonly referred to as ‘the lake of Love’, the Dutch word ‘Minne’ means ‘love’.
The city of Bruges contains way too many attractions to list in one place. The city is full of restaurants, pubs and cafes. The city also has many beautiful historic hotels and hostels.
And of course the city is rich in history, with attractions that include:
- The Gruuthuse house and museum
- The Godshuizen, The Beguinage
- St Johns Hhospital, The Jerusalem Church
- the Archeological Museum, Brangwyn Museum
- The City Hall on the Burg square
- Provinciaal Hof
- the Kruispoort, the Gentpoort
- the Smedenpoort and the Ezelpoort
Theaters and concert halls in Bruges include:
- De Dijk
- De Werf
- Het Entrepot
- Joseph Ryelandtzaal
- Cinema Lumiere
- Cinema Liberty
- the Kinepolis Bruges