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138.40 km2 (53.44 sq mi)
Bruges is a fascinating tourist city in Flanders. The city lies along the banks of a number of canals, forming an oval shape inside a medieval wall. Four gates, belonging to this ancient wall, dating back to 1326, are still intact. Bruges has conserved its Gothic and Pre-Renaissance character, which it acquired in the 13th and 14th century, when the city was one of the most important commercial and financial areas in the world. Grand Place forms the centre of the city. This ancient medieval heart of Bruges is the city's historic commercial centre and site of a typical Flemish market square.
Markt is a large open square, practicable only in horse-drawn carriage or on foot. The square is lined by artistic medieval buildings including the Belfort, symbol of the city and site of famous carillon concerts. The beautiful Burg square is located nearby and is linked to Markt via a narrow lane lined with shops selling lace. Burg is the site of the Stadhuis, the Gothic Town Hall, the oldest in Belgium and the Heiligbloed Basiliek, which stands at the south-west corner of the square and which takes its name from the reliquary of the blood of Christ. From Burg, passing through the interesting Blinde Ezelstraat( Blind Mule Street)Gallery, the visitor arrives at the 1821 Vismarkt ( fish market). The Steenhouwersdijk ( Sailor's Way), leads to Groenerei, one of the most famous corners of the city. Huidenvettersplein, located immediately west of Vismarkt, is a fascinating small square surrounded by popular restaurants. This area is the start of Dijver, home to the city's most important museums including the Groeninge, the Arenthuis and the Gruuthuse.
The Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk, which houses Michelangelo's Madonna with Child, is located nearby. On the opposite side to this church, in Maraistraat, there is the prestigious Memling Museum, which houses six masterpieces from the German painter Brugge. From the museum it is possible to follow the Sint Katelijnestraat and the Wijngaardplaats, until finally arriving in Begijnhof . This square is linked by means of a hump-backed bridge to the 17th century gatehouse of the monastery.
The monastery, one of the oldest in Flanders, a true cornerstone of worship within the city, comprises forty white-walled houses situated around a garden. A group of Benedictine monks still work and pray even today in this oasis of peace and tranquillity. Minnewater, the lake of love, is located south of the monastery Bruges possesses numerous civil and religious buildings of great interest, which have managed to maintain their magnificence, bestowed upon them six hundred years ago.
The canals which flow through the city give it a fascinating air, the same air that is derived from walking along the city's cobbled streets. Every angle is different and rich with unusual sights. The city's splendid past is still present in the rich Gothic-Brabantine architecture, the numerous Medieval buildings, the monuments, churches and the various residences of the Duke of Burgundy and the Palace of the Gentlemen of Gruuthuse, which today is a museum, which displays the symbols of the old upper class.
Hotels and lodging
- The Groeninge museum is specialised in the early works of the great Flemish masters from Hieronymus Bosch to Van Eyck. The 15th century Stadhuis collects rare paintings and furniture. Those wishing to immerse themselves in the city's glorious 14th and 15th century past, should visit the northern and eastern districts and the Sint Jacobstraat, where it is possible to stroll among the historic buildings linking Markt to the Saint James Gothic church. The area boasts the Palace of the Duke of Burgundy, the lodges of the Genovese, Florentine and Venetian merchants, the rich upper class residences, the Bladelin Palace and the ancient port with its customs house. Departing from Woensdagmarkt, along Genthof in a north easterly direction towards the canal, the traveller enters the St Anna district. A quiet and unexplored area with a number of interesting museums and remarkable places to visit including St Jannshuismolen a 17th-century Convent for English ladies.
- Other interesting places to visit in this zone include the Guido Gezellemuseum, the Kantcentrum and the Jerusalemkerk which stands in a street traditionally inhabited by lace makers.
- At only 7 km from Bruges, it is possible to visit Damme. This marvellous village has wonderful monuments including the 1464 Stadhuis, which houses a museum dedicated to the art and literature of the anti-Spanish hero Tijl Uilenspiegel. The Zeevaar Museum is also worth a visit. The museum houses models of boats, furniture and pottery. One of the finest seaside villages in Flanders is Lissewge, situated 11 km north of Bruges, with its characteristic white houses with green shutters.
- Following the coast for a further 20 km along the 371 road, brings the visitor to the seaside town of Blanknberge, a lively summer location, with festivals, flower competitions and celebrations held around the port.
- The Classic Music Festival is held in Bruges during early February.
- Mid March is the period of the New Cinema Film Festival, with films from Asia and South America.
- During Ascension in mid May, Bruges celebrates the Heilig-Bloedprocessie, a festival that honours the drops of blood of Christ, conserved in the city's Basilica.
- The Cactusfestival of ethnic music, takes place in Minnewater, the second week-end in July.
- Every five years, during August, the city holds the Gold Tree Parade, which celebrates the wedding between Charles the Bald and Margaret of York, which took place in 1468.
- The Christmas market, held every year in the squares of Simon Stevinplein and Markt, is well worth a visit. The market offers the best of the local handicrafts. Steenstraat is the main shopping centre in Bruges. Lively market stalls can be browsed every Saturday in 't Zand.
Maps and transportation
Getting to Bruges
It is possible to visit Bruges using whichever public transport best suits the occasion: bus, bicycle, boat or horse-drawn carriage. A small bus network covers the city and the surrounding area. The buses depart from the railway station 1.5 km from Markt in a southerly direction and call at Woolestraat and Kuiperstraat. The service operates from 6am to 11pm. Bicycles are however, probably the best means of transport to travel around Bruges. One of the best ways to appreciate the appeal of Bruges is to take a canal trip on one of the boats, which leave every ten minutes from the quay, south of Bruges. The service operates from March to November, from 10am to 6pm every day. Markt is the site for those wishing to take a 35-minute carriage tour of the city. There is also a horse-drawn tram (Peerdentram) which departs from 't Zand every day at 10am and tours the city. The tour lasts around 45 minutes. For those arriving by car, it is advisable to leave the car in one of the car parks at 't Zand or 't Pandreitje.
Practical information and resources
Currency : Euro Electric supply: 220 Volts, 50 Hertz. Two pinplugs are used Climate : mild sea climate, subject to winds from the west and south-west in winter and summer. The average winter temperature is 8 °C during the day and 5 °C at night. July and August are the warmest months, but can also be rainy. May and September are the best months to visit. Opening hours : Post offices are open from 9am to 5pm on weekdays and from 9:30am to 12:30pm on Saturdays. Shops are open from 9:30am to 12.30 pm and from 2pm to 6pm, from Monday to Saturday. Banks are open from 9am to 12 pm and from 2pm to 4pm on weekdays and Saturday mornings Telephones : to telephone Belgium from Italy, dial 0032, followed by the area code without the initial zero and the private number. To telephone Italy from Belgium, dial 0039, followed by the area code including the initial zero and the private number.
- The monthly publication Exit Light, available from the tourist office, details what's on and what the city has to offer.
- The more interesting shops, craftsmen's workshops and ancient beer houses, are to be found in the Medieval suburbs of the city. In the zones of 't Zand, Eiermarkt and Kemelstraat, it is possible to find numerous pubs and bars.
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