1. The Markt
The Markt, located in the center of Bruges, was a bustling trading center in the Middle Ages. Townspeople gathered in the two and a half acre cobblestone square for festivals, public executions, and competitions. In the middle of the square stands the statues of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, heroes of the Flemish resistance.
The Gothic City Town Hall building (left) occupies the square among medieval shops, restaurants, and cafes (right). The Town Hall, built in thirteen seventy-six, is adorned with statues of biblical figures and Counts of Flanders. 2. Belfry
The Belfry, standing two hundred seventy-two feet tall with forty-seven bells, is a landmark in the Markt. The tower built from sand, lime, and bricks was used as a warehouse and market hall in the middle ages. In nineteen ninety-nine, the Belfry became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can climb the three hundred and sixty-six stairs, passing the middle ages treasury on the way to the top of the tower for a beautiful view of Bruges.
At night, a soft light illuminates the Market. The glowing Belfry (left) and once meeting place of the provincial government building, Provinciaal Hof (right), shine among the cafes and restaurants.
No visit to Bruges is complete without a photo with Donatello the Suricat. Looking closely while exploring the town of Bruges, the photo ready suricats can be found posing in a residential window. 3. De Halve Maan Brewery
Brugse Zot, the beer of Bruges, is brewed at De Halve Maan Brewery. With an overwhelming bottled beer selection, Brugse Zot Blond and Bruges Zot Dubble are the only beers on draft at the brewery.
The jester on Bruges Zot beers arose from a legend dating back to the middle ages. Maximilian of Austria inherited the Netherlands after the passing of his wife. After six years of reigning, Maximilian returned to Bruges. The people revolted against his government’s high taxes and Maximilian was imprisoned for four months. Upon release, the people organized a celebration for Maximilian, before asking permission to build a mental hospital in Bruges. Maximilian responded, the gates of Bruges should be closed because the town is already filled with fools. Since that comment, the residents have been known as the fools of Bruges.
Beer literally flows through the streets in Bruges. Enough beer to fill twelve thousand bottles an hour passes below the town’s historic streets from Halve Maan Brewery to their bottling plant through a two mile long pipeline.
4. Madonna of Bruges
On display until December of 2015, we were just in time to view the marble statue of Madonna of Bruges. Differing from other sculptures by Michelangelo, Jesus is ready to step away from Mary as he loosely holds her hand. Mary glances not down at her son, but ahead of him with a look suggesting she already knows her son’s fate. 5. Church of our Lady
Madonna of Bruges is proudly displayed in the Church of our Lady, the world’s second tallest brick building standing three hundred and seventy-seven feet tall. Construction began in the thirteen hundreds. The church wasn’t finished until two hundred years later in the fifteen hundreds. Other works of art on display include various paintings and wood carvings, The Crucifixion of Christ by Anthony Van Dyck, and the tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold . 6. Belgian Waffles
Waffles originated in the Middle Ages as street snacks sold outside of church. The waffles were inexpensive, made from readily available ingredients, barley and oats. Originally known as the Brussles Waffle, the creator, Maurice Vermersch, discovered many people did not know Brussles was the capital of Belgium and changed the name to Belgian Waffle. This delicious waffle pictured right is from Au Petit Café in the Markt. 7. Belgian Chocolate
In nineteen twelve the praline, a chocolate with a hard outer shell and soft center, was created in Belgium. Home to two of the world’s largest chocolate factories, Callebaut and Puratos, over one hundred and seventy thousand tons of chocolate is manufactured in Bruges each year. 8. Quay of the Rosary
Rozenhoedkaai, the meeting point of the Groenerei and Dijver canals, was a popular port for imported salt from Germany and France in the Middle Ages. The name The Quay of the Rosary, originated from shops selling ivory and amber rosaries along the canal.
Today, visitors can take a boat ride through the canal passing under more than fifty stone bridges to view the fairy tale town. Some of the homes have no windows or bricks where a window once was as a result of window tax imposed on the city in the eighteen hundreds. 9. Canals of Bruges
There are five docking areas visitors can board and take a thirty minute cruise through the channels of canals. Visitors can also follow the sidewalks and stone bridges winding along the water for a walking view of the enchanting town.
Crow stepped gable, a staircase design at the top of the front and back of a building, was an easy way to finish building the brick walls. This is a very common design of Dutch and Flemish houses. Although decorative, it is difficult to keep water from leaking inside.
The detail throughout the buildings in Bruges is incredible. Sculptures frequently can be found above windows, atop buildings, on corners, and hiding among the bricks.
Charming cafes, shops, and restaurants are tucked away among the winding cobblestone streets. Chocolates, beer steins, lace, tea pots, and other souvenirs are for sale within the small, welcoming shops.
The ornate architecture is beautiful, and looking closely the whit of Belgians is revealed in the small statues adorning the buildings. Next stop, the capital of Belgium, Brussles!