A daytrip to Brugge/Bruges took us to see many interesting sights, historic buildings, beautiful architecture, and delicious local fare. Known as the Venice of the North, Bruges is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe! It was a justified motive that prompted UNESCO in 2000 to include the entire historical city centre on the World Heritage list. Walking along the maze of winding cobbled alleys and romantic canals, you imagine yourself to be in medieval times.
The central location of the Market square indicates that this was the medieval heart of the city. The market place (Grote Markt) is free from traffic since October 1996. It has been completely refurbished and is now one of the most attractive parts of the city. The main monument is of course the belfry tower and the cloth hall. On the Northern side of the Market is the Provincial Court. It stands on the site were the medieval ‘water halls’ used to stand.
Right in the middle of the square the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck can be seen. The other sides of the market are occupied by restaurants and shops located in former private houses as well as in guild houses. A close up of the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck (left), and the belfry tower (right) below.
The Provincial court is the best example of how Bruges was renovated in neo-gothic style during the second half of the 19th century. After the destruction of the water halls in 1787 a new complex of houses was built there in classicist style. This style was considered very modern in a town that was basically built in late-gothic style. In 1850 the provincial government bought the complex, enlarged it and made it the seat of the provincial institutions. The members of the catholic and traditionalist political parties rejected the building as ‘unfit for the beautiful gothic Bruges’. In 1878 a fire destroyed most of the building. Different groups took their chance to have it reconstructed in neo-gothic style, the ‘house’-style of the catholic party. On the left side of the complex is now the house of the Governor of the Province of West-Flanders. The red brick building on the right side is the Post Office of Bruges.
Everywhere we turn, we spotted fountains of all shapes and sizes. the two below are both found in and around grote markt and seem fully functional.
The other sides of the market are occupied by restaurants and shops located in former private houses as well as in guild houses. Finally, on the Southern side of the Market several medieval-looking houses can be seen. They are not really medieval because a lot of them are modern reconstructions of the medieval styles.
You can choose to walk, take a cruise along the canals, or even sightsee on a horse and carraige. One of the most familiar sounds of Bruges is the clatter of horseshoes on cobbles as parties of tourists take a tour of the old town in this popular, old fashioned style of transport. Alternatively, the canal boat tour covers most of the city in half an hour and you get a lot of information about the city from the boat driver. We chose not to go on either and walk instead, so that we could stop by any place that piqued our interest at our own time.
This ceremonial arch forms the entrance to the Kartuizerinnenstraat. The sculpture by J. Fonteyne, was founded in 1929-1930, after the 1927 war memorial officially adjoining chapel of Bruges was transformed. The arch bears the inscription “Pro Patria” or “For One’s Country” in latin on the frieze. On top of the arch is a carved shield with the Belgian crown between two lions rampant, and the inscription reads “Eendracht Maakt Macht” meaning ”Unity is strength”.
We couldn’t help but notice the interesting facade of a bike rental company on Niklaas Desparsstraat. We just had to get a picture of the rusting steel fretwork lace and the roman numerals MCMXCVII (1997) next to it.
Walking along the cobbled streets, we came accross numerous shops selling crafts and lace. Brugge is a home land of the famous lace. Brugge’s crocheted lace imitates lace, which is done on the bobbins, – it’s a special kind of decorative crochet. Though this lace mostly serves as decoration for the curtains, table-cloth and pillows – it a true lace! In the true sense of the word, because this filigree hand technique has always been a symbol of the precious Flemish laces, which were done on the bobbins.
Brugge is also a sweets paradise with many candy and chocolate shops scattered all around town. The links between Brugge and cocoa go way back: it all began in the late Middle Ages, when some of the city’s families started to look for new products in which to trade. They already traded in sugar cane from Madeira, and when the Spanish brought cocoa from the New World in the sixteenth century, they soon learned to mix it with sugar. And so began the first chapter of a long story to which new pages continue to be added today as master confectioners create new treats for the sweet-toothed and new ways are discovered to enjoy and use the age-old delight.
All the walking and tempting delicacies got us hugry and we headed back to grote markt for lunch. We were surprised that the food there was resonable and we had a two course meal each with a few belgian beers to boot. We had to try all the local fare which included ensalade conarenque o (salad of herring), caracoles del jefe (smails of the chef), conejo a la flamish (rabbit flemish style), and estofado a la flamish (flemish beef stew). All for less than forty euros.
The Gruuthuse and Arentshuis Museums are next to each other and are open from 9.30am to 5pm. Close to theDijver channel you can admire the Gruuthuse Museum. The museum lies inside a big medieval palace, once residence of the merchant Gruuthuse, who was charged with the collection of the fee onGruit. Next door is the Arentshuis or Arents House has a collection of lace, together with the Groeninge museum where the Fine Arts from the 15th to the 21st century housed. We didn’t enter the museum but did take a walk around the compound.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are a Set of 4 bronze sculptures by Rik Poot and can be found in the garden of the Arentshuis.
We were lucky to have caught the Meifoor Brugge while we were there. This is Brugge’s main annual funfair which runs from the middle of April to the middle of May. It is held on ‘t Zand and in the adjoining park. My favourite to watch was the Polyp attraction, acting like an octopus with it’s long arms on which there are seats that spin around at high speed and go up and down on music (also called Spin of Octopus).
This post is one of an 10 part entry of our trip to Netherlands and Belgium. See all the places we visited on this trip below:
- Zaanse Schans – Windmills & Cheese
- Volendam & Marken – Seafood & Clogs
- Lisse – Keukenhof & Flowerfields
- Amsterdam – Flowers, Food, Culture
- Amsterdam – Buildings, Places, Waterways
- Amsterdam – Graffiti, Marijuana, Prostitutes
- Brussels – Mussels & Manneken Pis
- Antwerp – Grote Markt & Surrounds
- Brugge – Museums, Chocolates, Lace
- Gent – Korenmarkt, Architecture, Waffles