Bruges, Belgium is a magical town with narrow cobblestone streets, medieval buildings and ornate houses lining intricate canals. It’s a well-preserved medieval town that draws more than two million visitors a year and offers plenty to see.
As you plan your itinerary, start with the Bruges’ Markt (the main square) where you’ll find Bruges’ most distinctive landmark – the Halle with the 83-meter high belfry. It’s considered one of the finest bell towers in Belgium and can be entered via the Halle’s inner courtyard.
Today 47 bells still hang in the belfry, and if you are up to walking 366 steps up you’ll be able to see them for yourself.
Art lovers won’t want to miss the Memling Museum which showcases six exquisite Flemish art masterpieces by Hans Memling (ca. 1430-94). Among the pieces on display, the Reliquary of St. Ursula(1489) recognized as one of the master’s most important works.
The museum itself has an interesting history, too. Built in 1188, the building was once St. John’s Hospital until 1977. Learn about the unique history of this building and enjoy an exhibition of medical objects, furniture, archives, and paintings.
For more art by old Flemish masters, visit the Groeninge Museum located on the Dijver Canal.
Basilica of the Holy Blood
The Basilica of the Holy Blood is famous for the crystal vial kept inside which is said to contain a drop of Christ’s blood brought from the Holy Land in 1149. Each May this relic is paraded through the streets of Bruges in the Procession of the Holy Blood.
The architecture of the basilica entrance includes three Flamboyant-style arches and gilded statues erected between 1529 and 1534. On each Friday, the vial containing the Holy Blood is brought out and shown to those in attendance.
On the southeast side of the Burg is Bruges’ Town Hall which is one of the oldest buildings in Belgium. Built between 1376 and 1420, the Town Hall’s facade features a delicate Gothic style with a strong vertical emphasis complete with towering pilasters, three of which end in octagonal turrets which are separated by tall Gothic arched windows.
Whether you walk through the streets of Bruges or take a boat trip along the canals, you’ll fall in love with this medieval town’s charm. If you visit for more than a day, there is plenty more to see and do.