Bruges is the prized jewel of Belgium, without a doubt the city to visit if you could only pick one. The site of many movies and historical events, Bruges wins you over with its amazing landmarks, canal ways, and UNESCO World Heritage city center.
Bruges is our favorite place in Belgium, the city is cut through by various canals remnants of ancient trade routes, which has earn it the nickname of the Venice of the North. The city's name comes from an Old Dutch word for bridge: brugga. Which is very appropriate since the many canals cutting through the city have created many bridges.
Like all cities in Belgium, there are more than one spellings for the city name. In this case two, since the French and English names are the same, Brugge and Bruges. You will see these spellings used interchangeably depending on where you see the signs or where you read it. Bruges is in the northern part of Belgium, where Flemish (a variation of Dutch) is spoken and Brugge is the Flemish spelling. Bruges is the French and English spelling.
Bruges was established in the first century BC and has been of great importance ever since. The city's access to the North Sea and its location made it an important trading port on the Northern Trading Route covering from the North to the Baltic Seas. Its location made Bruges an important point for the Hanseatic League, a commercial alliance of merchants from Northern and Central Europe.
Commerce, trading, opportunity, and its international environment made Bruges a fast growing immigration port from the beginning, and continues to be one. It's population is very international, and Bruges is known as a very welcoming and accepting society.
The Belfry is most historically prominent building in the city. Its located in the Markt (Market Square) and its tower stands at about 85 meters. The Belfry has stood tall since about the year 1240, and has served to house records and as s watch tower, providing early warning about invaders, fires, approaching ships, etc.
The Church of our Lady is the tallest building in Bruges and you can see it from different points of the city. This 13th century church holds the record for being the second tallest brickwork structure in the world. Its tower provide the background for many beautiful scenes as its peaks break the skyline.
The Provincial Court is another architectural jewel adorning the Markt. This building served as the meeting place for the West Flanders Provincial Government. In congress with the Belfry and the other buildings in the Markt, the Provincial Court makes the city center which earned the UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Belgium is known for its chocolate and beer. You can experience both in local shops and restaurants. The Beer Wall has one of the biggest beer collections I've seen. You can enjoy a beer in the bar or buy a six-pack in their shop.
You can find local chocolatiers and national chains throughout the streets in Bruges. My personal favorite thing to buy is a cup of hot chocolate. Most shops will warm up milk and hand you a chocolate pop that you can melt into a hot cocoa cup.
When you visit Bruges make sure you take a boat tour in one of the many businesses that provide them. The tours are a great way to experience the city and learn about what history and the people who make this city so great.