Bruges in the Flemish region of Belgium is one of the most mystical, fairy-tale cities in Europe. But don’t get fooled by its apparent century-old houses, pebble stone alleys or beautiful bridges. The most of the city’s architecture is not as old as it seems.
Bruges is not an almost-perfectly preserved Medieval city, even though it still looks like it did when it was the most important commerce centre north of the Alps. According to earlier maps and drawings, the main building materials until late in the 17th century, was wood and thatch.
Because of the high risk of fires, it became compulsory to break down houses with wooden facades or to cover it up with stone. Only the wooden houses at Genthof 7 and Vlamingstraat 90 is reminiscent of Bruges’ true Medieval dwellings.
There are plentiful beautiful “antique” statues in the façade of the Stadshuis (City Hall) which are all only 40 years old. Before 1960 the impressive City Hall (that was completed in 1400), looked completely different.
Even most of the buildings around the Markt (market), Bruges’ “Medieval” market square dates from between 1920 and 1930. The same with the Rozenhoedkaai, which is popular on the boxes of decadent chocolates the city is known for.
This does by no means take away from the stunningly beautiful city, sometimes referred to as “The Venice of the North”, with its 54 bridges, breathtakingly interesting statues dotted all over the city and magnificent (although not as old as most people think) architecture.
It is a city of lace, canals and castles, of spirals and spires and a lake known as the “Lake of love” – a popular place for the city’s elegant swans to congregate. With tree-lined avenues, hushed cobbled streets, narrow alleys, huge squares for events and intimate, characterful corners, Bruges is full of squares and special streets.
Since time immemorial, Bruges and lace have been inextricably linked.
The deft hands of thousands of women and girls earned Bruges lace worldwide fame. At one time, a quarter of all the women in Bruges were lacemakers. Even nowadays, it is still possible to see traditional Bruges lacemakers at work in some of the lace shops.
With so many impressive sites and the fairy-tale feeling you get from walking in the streets, Bruges is well worth a picture-perfect visit! As a UNESCO world heritage site, unashamedly exuberant Bruges is a city that will capture your heart.