Bruges, sometimes referred to as The Venice of The North, it is a world heritage site. Only about 180 miles from London, you can reach it in under five hours by car using the Channel Tunnel. It’s well worth the drive. If you prefer to travel by Eurostar, the connection from Brussels takes about one hour.
Although there were Roman settlements in the area, the modern city can be dated to the 11th century. It grew as an important trading centre thanks to direct access to the sea. Being centrally situated in Europe, merchants from across the continent met to trade a broad range of merchandise from British wool to Italian wines. Gradually it lost importance to Antwerp as the waterways, it’s link to the sea silted up.
It’s renaissance as a modern tourist centre are thanks to it’s location and the amazing survival of so many beautiful ancient buildings. It was fortunate to have escaped 19th century “improvement” and bombing raids in World War II. Tourism though is not new, Charles II lived in exile here before the re-establishment of the UK monarchy.
Today it welcomes around two million visitors a year, a sizeable portion from the UK. As in other Flemish areas, English is widely spoken.
Bruges is a treat just wandering around the squares, narrow streets and canals, visiting some buildings is a bonus. Few cities have views to compare. Here are some sights not to miss:
- The Market place is the central square overlooked by the Belfry Tower, standing nearly 300 feet tall. It’s carillon comprises of 35 bells. If you are feeling energetic you can climb to the top. Nearby is the equally impressive Burg Square, the oldest part of the city. Smaller Tanners square is now a place to eat.
- St. Saviour’s Cathedral is the oldest religious site and worth a look. St. James (or St. Jacobs) Church is recommended visit for art lovers. St. Walburgha is the grandest.
- The City Hall and Guild Houses are classic examples of Flemish architecture.
- Bruges canals underpinned the cities prosperity and today provide beautiful peaceful areas to explore, boat trips are worth taking to take in the views.
- For a picnic and to get away from crowds, the pretty Minnewaterpark overlooking the Minnewater is good place to go.
Eating and Sleeping
Wherever you visit in Belgium, it’s a good place for lovers of fine food, beer and chocolate, Bruges is no exception. There are many fine restaurants, leading hotel chains and shops offering tempting cakes. As a tourist honeypot, it is not cheap but worth it. The Belgians are proud of their fries, usually served with mayonnaise, try them if you hungry.