Visit Medieval Bruges On Your Next European Adventure!

To the average person, Bruges is hardly a city name that resides at the tip of the tongue.  In recent years, film buffs may recognize the medieval Belgian town from the Martin McDonagh film In Bruges, however, it turns out that the city is much more important historically than merely being the setting of a fantastic film.  Bruges is the capital of the province of West Flanders in Belgium, deep in the heart of the Dutch portion of the country.  Much like another ancient city in the region, The Netherland’s Amsterdam, Bruges is a canal city, and some have described it as the “Venice of the North.”

The area has been settled since prehistory, and fortifications were built during the time of the Romans to keep out pirates.  The Franks took over sometime in the 4th century and were beaten back by the Vikings in the 9th, who promptly reinforced the Roman fortifications.  The medieval history of Bruges starts around this time.  Bruges became staggeringly wealthy during the early medieval period, due to an inlet that gave it sea access.  This “Golden Inlet” unfortunately was prone to silting, and while storms fortunately cleared the inlet in the 11th century, by the 15th the silting had largely restricted Bruges’ ability to access the sea as it had in the past.  In the century that followed, man made channels to the sea were successfully created, but the prominence of the city was dwarfed by the rise of Antwerp, which had benefited greatly from the lack of competition from Bruges for over a century.

By the 19th century, Bruges was staggeringly impoverished, with a population that was a quarter of what it was at its medieval height.  The medieval structures that survived throughout the city, however, would ultimately be its salvation, and by the end of that century, wealthy French and British tourists were flocking to the city in droves.  Consequentially, the port of Zeebrugge was constructed in the early 20th century, and by the 60s, Bruges began focusing heavily on restoring the medieval architecture.  In 1949, the College of Europe was established in the city, and in recent decades the port has been greatly expanded, becoming one of the most important in Europe.

Like the other great canal cities of Europe, a mere walk along the canals on the ancient bridges and streets is a delight.  Bruges still remains a popular destination, but it is not hampered by the large volume of tourists like Venice or Amsterdam.  The city is home to many historic churches, and the Groeningemuseum has many masterworks painted by Flemish and Belgian masters over the last six centuries.  The central bell tower is also quite famous and its 47 bells are still in use today.  The Grote Markt is home to many sidewalk cafes, however, tourists are cautioned that food and even bread can be quite expensive here, so it is encouraged that tourists find food and beverages at less centrally located restaurants and bars.  Furthermore, much like most of Northern Europe, the weather can be quite damp and chilly, however, weather during the summer months is generally pleasant with highs in the low 70s and an average temperature of 63.



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