Belgium (actually Kingdom of Belgium) has three official regions – the Flemish region, Walloon region and the Brussels-Capital region. The Flemish region (originally Flanders) occupies the northern part of Belgium. This region has five provinces – Antwerp, Limburg, East Flanders, West Flanders and Flemish Brabant. The largest three cities in this region are Antwerp, Gent and Bruges (or Brugge in Dutch).
Bruges (Brugge), a port city, is the capital of West Flanders. In 2000 the historic centre of Bruges has been made a World Heritage Site of UNESCO. It has the College of Europe (College d’Europe), an independent university started in 1949 for the postgraduate European studies and affairs. It is the oldest institution for these studies. The other of the two campuses is in Natolin in Warsaw, Poland. Bruges (along with Salamanca in Spain) was chosen the European Capital of Culture for 2002.
The European Capital of Culture is a region designated by the EU for a period of one year. This gives them the opportunity to present their culture and heritage to the world. This has economic implications through increased tourism. There have been a number of cities in Europe that had been given this designation since 1985 when it was started – the first being not surprisingly Athens.
2008 European Capital of culture label has been given to Stavanger and Sandness in Norway as well as Liverpool in U.K.
Like a lot of Europe, this city is also seeped in history. And rightfully so – since the city dates back to 1128 AD and the earliest settlements here dates back to first century BC. From 9th century till middle of 14th century the town was under the counts of Flanders. Early 15th century it came under the dukes of Burgundy. This entire period saw tremendous prosperity and growth. Thus by the fifteenth century this had become a commercially and culturally thriving city. The city is famous for the Flemish paintings of this period. But from the 16th century onwards the decline started. It is only in the twentieth century that matters started improving again. The port was rebuilt and the city also became a major tourist attraction.
The notable aspect for a non-European visitor would be that the look of most parts of the city is so medieval. That is because much of the structures and edifices have their medieval designs unchanged. The red/brown/grey bricked, slanting step roofed edifices with frontages with some art work, towers and spires et al is amazing. The typical cobbled stone alleys and canals give the city a picturesque look. Many of these though built in fairly modern times adhered to the old designs to maintain uniformity and thus carry on the medieval look. Of course there are the Plain Janes of buildings and new construction here but then one tends to remember the splendid old ones. Given here is a map of the city. Its helpful for navigating the place. Bruges City Map – Source Toerisme Brugge.
This is comparatively a small city but there are number of places within this city that one can visit. The best way to explore this place is by through walking tours, through open top boats gliding through the canals, horse drawn carriages or bicycling. The canals have small stone bridges crossing them. Reminds one of Venice. No wonder it is called the “Venice of the North.” Walking gives a holistic perspective of this almost quaint city. For sightseeing outside Bruges taking a boat, bus or a mini coach is convenient. Another cruise one can take is the one covering Bruges, Antwerp and Gent (they are located like three points of a flat triangle).
Tourist Spots IN Bruges
Tourist places NEAR Bruges
How to get to Bruges (Brugge), Belgium – Transportation
Traveling within Bruges (Brugge), Belgium – Transport Information
The Markt (Market) Square-Bruges
Belfry (Belfort) of Bruges .
Church of Our Lady & Statue of Madonna and the Child – Part 1 ; Part 2
The Beguinage (Begijnhof) of Bruges
Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilige Bloed Basiliek)- Part 1 ; Part 2