BRUGES: things to see

the Port, canals, Beguine garden, Minnewater, Bruges lace

the port

After the ice age, the level of the North Sea increased considerably by the melting of the icecaps, and the coast became a large patchwork of "polders" (low marshlands), around deep gullies. The current southwest of the Netherlands is a good example of this situation. In the early Middle Ages, this area was called "tswin". The town of Bruggia was founded around 700, on the banks of the Zwin. Bruges was actually a fishing village, but it soon developed a large European trade, as its port was accessible from the sea until around 1050. Later however, this natural connection to the sea completely silted up.

In 1134, a heavy storm burrowed a deep channel through the Zwin, that reached the town of Damme. A new canal was dug from Bruges, first to Damme and then to Sluis, and thus Bruges remained connected to the sea until the fifteenth century. Under the Burgundian dukes, Bruges became the most important trade center of North-Western Europe, also known as "the Venice of the North" ! But afterwards, this final sea access also silted up, and Bruges lost its leading position to the port of Antwerp.

"Polders" and Gullies canal to Damme and Sluis
"Polders" and Gullies
Bruges in 1561
Bruges in 1561
canal to Damme and Sluis

Bruges city

In 1376, the city hall was built in Gothic style, and it is the oldest town hall in Flanders ! It is located just behind the Grand Place. The imposing Belfry of Bruges is the symbol of its independence, and from the top, one can view a beautiful panorama of the entire city.

The tower of the Church of Our Lady is the highest brick tower in Europe ! Furthermore, there is the St Saviour's Cathedral, and Gruuthuuse to visit. Hospices (literally "Houses of God") are medieval small houses, that were built as charity for the poor.

Bruges : City Hall 1 Bruges : City Hall 2
City Hall
City Hall
Bruges : Grand Place
Bruges : Belfry
Grand Place
Bruges : St Salvator cathedral Bruges : Church of our Lady
St Salvator cathedral
Church of our Lady
Bruges : Gruuthuuse Bruges : Hospices

Canals of Bruges

These canals are actually the city's arteries ! From the water, the most beautiful spots in Bruges can be admired, as can two historic hospitals, including St John's Hospital, which dates from 800. Bruges has many outstanding and even exceptional views !

Bruges 1 Bruges 2
Bruges 3 Bruges 4
Bruges 5 Bruges 6
St Jans hospital

Beguine garden and Minnewater

The "Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaarde" was founded in 1245, and is now no longer inhabited by beguines, but by nuns of the Order of St Benedict. However, it still provides a perfect picture of the former beguine community !

The Minnewater (Lover's Water) was once used as a trade center, and it was a mooring for barges that sailed from Bruges to Ghent. Now it has become a very romantic place indeed !

Bruges 7 Bruges 8

Bruges Lace

From the year 1500, Bruges lace was famous throughout all of Europe. The most popular stitch is the Wizard Cross stitch, which needs between 300 and 700 bobbins... But also in Brussels and Ghent, the lace industry did very well. Even today, lace is a very popular product, as can be seen in tourist centers such as Bruges, Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp.

Many are therefore tempted by colorful demonstrations, but unfortunately, often the quality is a fake ! During the colonization of Belgian Congo, nuns taught the locals lace techniques in their missions. In these schools, large quantities of lace were manufactured by black women and children, for a pitiful wage. This unfair competition meant a heavy blow to the entire Belgian lace industry, which quickly bled to death ! Today, and most unfortunately, the vast majority of so-called authentic Belgian lace is usually machine-made abroad, and then sold as "hand-made lace"...

Bruges : lace 1 Bruges : lace 2
** Continue reading with a look at Ghent **
** or go back to Overview **