Exploring the timeless charm of Bruges, or Brugge, a must-visit destination in Belgium

Tourists love Bruges in Belgium. This great city appears to have been frozen in time, and in fact, it was. About 500 to 600 years ago, Bruges was a bustling river port town. However, traders moved on when the harbour silted up, and this little walled city remained unchanged for centuries. Today, Bruges thrives as a major tourist destination because it is so well-preserved.

Brugge, known for its medieval Gothic design, is located in the Flanders part of Belgium. You might notice the spelling changes reflecting Belgium’s French/Flemish language-sharing arrangement. In French and English, it’s Bruges, while in Flemish (or Dutch), it’s Brugge.

Is it Brugge or is it Bruges in Belgium

Rozenhoedkaai, Bruges
Photo by Belén Martín

Is it Brugge or is it Bruges?

Market Square
Photo by Emran Yousof

Brugge-canal Is it Brugge or is it Bruges?

Bruges canal
Photo by Libby Penner

The historic centre of Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Remarkably, the current city boundaries coincide exactly with those of the medieval city centre, with well-preserved structures, squares, and canals. Your first stop should be Market Square, the heart of the town and the best starting point to get your bearings.

The city centre is closed to cars, so if you’re driving, you’ll need to find a parking lot on the periphery. Bruges is an easy city to explore on foot. Alternatively, since this is a tourist town, you’ll find horse-drawn carriages that can take you around the cobblestone streets.

Finding Market Square is easy because it is crowned by the Belfry Tower. This bell tower has been in place for 700 years, and if you’re lucky, you might catch a carillon concert. The carillonist plays a manual keyboard to ring the 47 bells, creating a delightful melody that echoes through the city.

Cruising the picturesque canals, you’ll discover hidden gardens and quaint bridges. This romantic city looks even more charming from a boat on the canals. It’s a unique perspective that allows you to appreciate the medieval architecture and tranquil atmosphere.

There are numerous museums in Bruges where you can see early Flemish paintings, many of which were created right in this city. Notable museums include the Groeningemuseum, which houses an impressive collection of Belgian art, and the Hospital Museum, which showcases medieval medical artifacts and paintings.

Visit the city’s historic churches, such as the Basilica of the Holy Blood and the Church of Our Lady, home to Michelangelo’s “Madonna and Child.” The 14th-century City Hall is another architectural gem worth touring.

If you are a chocoholic, you’ll love Bruges. According to the official Brugge website, there are 49 chocolate boutiques as well as a chocolate museum! You’ll be tempted by stores all over town. They are so serious about their chocolate that some family-run chocolate makers shut down if the weather gets too hot to prevent ruining the chocolate!

Bruges’ crocheted lace was famous in the 16th century, and you can still see artisans making it today. Shops are filled with lace-edged handkerchiefs, lace collars, lace mats – anything lace you can imagine.

No visit to Bruges is complete without sampling some Belgian beer. For a small fee, you can take a brewery tour and sample a beer at the end. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and is given in three languages. The De Halve Maan Brewery offers an excellent tour, providing insights into the brewing process and the history of Belgian beer.

Brugge is the little town that time forgot but tourists have found. Even though you might not feel like you discovered it for yourself, the Old World charm in Bruges will surely win your heart. From its medieval architecture and picturesque canals to its rich culinary traditions and vibrant cultural scene, Bruges is a city that captivates every visitor.

| The Frugal Traveller

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