4-4-19 Bruges Belgium – A UNESCO Heritage Site

Bruges, located about 62 miles west of Brussels, and thus much closer to the North Sea, is one of the most enchanting cities of Belgium. UNESCO declared the entire city a cultural heritage site in 2000. Bruges received its City Charter in 1128 – so it’s been around a while.   As with all cities it has had its ups and downs over the last 1000 years or so, being under control of French dukes, Spanish/Dutch masters and German/Austrian incursions. After 1965 the original medieval city experienced a renaissance. Restorations of residential and commercial structures, historic monuments, and churches generated a surge in tourism and economic activity in the ancient downtown area. International tourism has boomed, and new efforts resulted in Bruges being designated ‘European Capital of Culture’ in 2002. It attracts some eight million tourists annually but, according to our guide, we had arrived during a quiet time so there were not the crowds she usually encounters.

To start our tour, we gathered together with City Tours guide Jasmine and fellow tourists from Indonesia, South Korea and NYC. Seven of us were driven in a Mercedes van (with our guide) from Brussels to Bruges arriving around 11:00 or so to beautiful weather! It had been raining recently but the entire time we were on our tour it was lovely – some clouds but lots of sunshine and cooler temperatures.

Just starting out on our tour at the bridge over the canal.

First up was a walking tour across the Bridge over Lovers Lake and through the Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde – a community of pious women beginning in 1244 – now a priory of Benedictine nuns who live and work in the buildings.

Benedictine nuns live in the houses surrounding this area.

The entrance building was at one of the bridges and is dated 1776.

Here’s the building dated 1776.

From there we walked along various cobblestone streets and found ourselves at the dock for a 30-minute boat tour of the central city canals aka, Little Venice.

The fountain, with the horse head, was specially made for the horses in Bruges who pull carriage rides.

The boat went through several of the canals while the guide pointed out historic buildings along the way.

Our guide pointing out something.
These buildings have a wood face  since the 1920s- not typical for the area.
The Weather Van has different letters for the compass directions,  Z (S) O (W)
A selfie on the boat trip with my lovely wife.

It is clear there has been a lot of work done to preserve the area – evidence of cleaning, new paint and scaffolding activities were evident.

Buildings along the boat ride.
One more shot of that church tower.
We went under or over a number of bridges in this “little Venice”.
Nice coloring of the buildings in the late afternoon sun.

One of the local landmarks is the Church of Our Lady with its tower of 379 feet and is the second tallest brickwork tower in the world.

Here is that  bell tower they keep talking about.
The exterior of the City Hall with all its gilded decorations.

Our guide pointed out this “brick mountain” tower on the boat ride as well as several times during our tour. This church has a sculpture of the Madonna and Child created by Michelangelo around 1504 (we didn’t go to see it however).

Our next stop was to walk through some of the shopping areas, visit the fish market and a quick visit to Church of the Holly Blood.

The Basilica of the Holy Blood where we saw the relic.

The church houses a venerated relic of the Holly Blood

The Relic was on display for 2 hours each day.

allegedly collected by Joseph of Arimathea  and brought from the Holy Land by Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders in the 12th century. The basilica in Burg Square consists of a lower and upper chapel. The lower chapel, dedicated to St Basil the Great, is a dark Romanesque structure that remains virtually unchanged. The venerated relic is in the upper chapel, which was rebuilt in the Gothic  style in the 16th century and renovated in the 19th century in Gothic Revival style.

Modern sculpture honoring the carriage horses of Bruges.
I have NO clue why I took this picture on the side of this van but who would expect a surfboard craftsman to be in Bruges?

Now it was time for lunch, a little shopping and a cold beverage.

The group along the way with our guide, Jasmine.

Our break was in the Market Square – a large area with a fountain in the center and lots of restaurants around.

Horse drawn carriages ready to go.
Proof we were at the Market Square in Bruges!

Buildings around the square included Stadhuis (City Hall and a 13th century belfry with a 47-bell carillon and 272-foot tower with panoramic views.

Here’s our group after our tour.

After lunch we headed back to our coach passing ,more interesting buildings, bridges and waterways. All in all a beautiful day to visit this historic town.

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