Every European country seems to have one: a city that thoroughly encompasses all that the nation holds dear.
Brugge is such for Belgium, sitting there all proud and pretty, epitomizing the grandeur and perfection otherwise relegated to storybooks. With canal boats, horse-drawn carriages and bicycles, the ethnic spirit swallows visitors whole.
It is difficult to sum up the magic of Brugge placid bottle-green canals with steeped-roofed medieval houses, market squares and slumbering parks in just a few words. The city’s impressive cultural and artistic heritage is famed throughout the world and has turned Brugge into one of Europe’s major tourist destinations for family vacations and romantic getaways. Its medieval streets, its winding canals and its green ramparts charm hundred of thousands of visitors each year and in 2000 its historic city centre was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Its classic buildings and excellent, well deserved reputation for gastronomy and a wide range of interesting things to see and do, this fascinating and cosmopolitan city fully deserves its status as a congress and holiday centre par excellence.
The name Brugge first appeared in our history books in the 9th century. It was the most prosperous city in Europe, but the silting up of the River Zwyn and changing political circumstances made it literally a backwater, and for 500 years, whilst other cities grew and were endlessly transformed, Brugge remained forgotten and untouched.
Brugge is a city you’ll need to explore thrice over – the first tour should be on your own in order that you can walk around freely with your mouth hanging open, agog at all around you. Like the domed ceilings of St Saviour’s Cathedral – Brugge oldest parish church dating back to the 12th century; and the neo-gothic palace; the old fish market beside the canal, trading fresh seafood from the nearby North Sea; the Groeninge Museum displaying great masters of the 15th century; and the Beguinage, its courtyard lawns swimming in daffodils. Every building in Brugge has a long history; to list them all here is near impossible.
Brugge is tagged as the ‘Venice of the North’, so it makes sense that your second tour should be by boat – you will be astounded at the concentrations of pure perfection and discover Brugge from a surprisingly different angle.
Your final tour should be with a guide who will overdose you on the city’s remarkable history.