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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Bruges

Bruges (Flemish Brugge, French Bruges), the old capital of Flanders, is located on the little river Reie 12km/7.5miles south of the port of Zeebrugge to which it is linked by the Boudewijn-Kanaal. Other canals connect Bruges with Ostende, Nieuwpoort, Veurne, Ghent and Sluis.

Despite the addition of new building and the loss of its old town walls (all but four towers having been demolished since the mid 19th C. to make way for traffic), Bruges with its perfectly preserved medieval town center remains a tourist dream, a magnet drawing more than two million visitors a year. But the town does have thriving industries as well - steel works, calico mills, furniture factories, prefabricated cement works and yeast, paint, television set and outboard engine manufacturers. Bobbin lace, for which Bruges has long been famous, continues to be important. Complementing all this industry is a strong service sector which makes a significant contribution to the local economy.

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Townscape

With its wealth of interesting old buildings and its canals Bruges still retains a medieval air, more so perhaps than anywhere else in Belgium. Anyone taking a walk through the narrow streets or a boat trip on the canals falls immediately under its spell, charmed by the atmosphere of what is for many the most delightful of all the cities of Flanders. This together with its remarkable state of preservation makes Bruges a tourist destination almost without rival in Europe.
The style of the medieval brick houses is thoroughly distinctive. Above many of the windows are recessed shallow arches, and the windows themselves are often found bracketed together by a continuous cill running the length of the frontage.
Equally distinctive of Bruges are the godshuizen, almshouses for the elderly and infirm paid for by the guilds or in some cases prosperous burghers. Most are groups of whitewashed brick houses with a communal entrance gate and janitor's window. Examples can be seen in e.g. Gloeribusstraat, Moerstraat, Zwarte Leertouwersstraat, Sint-Katelijnstraat and Nieuwe Gentweg.
The Folklore Museum, the Kant Centre (Lace Centre) and the Pelicaanhuis are also former godshuizen.
The loveliness of Bruges today is the result of a massive program of restoration. The first and most pressing problem was to deal with the sewage and other effluent which flowed untreated into the canals, creating a smell obnoxious enough to spoil any stay.
Thanks to the construction of a proper sewage system and efficient purification plant the canals are now clean and free of smell. The task of saving the houses from crumbling into ruin also called for radical measures. Most of the 8,000 buildings in the city center were taken into civic ownership, responsibility for their restoration being placed on the shoulders of the municipal authorities. Few houses now remain in private hands, the vast majority being leased to their occupants.
Because the center of Bruges is comparatively small, even those with only a day to spend looking around can expect to take away a good idea of all the major sights. Essential viewing includes the Markt with the Belfry, the Burg and Stadhuis, Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk, the Memling Museum, the picturesque Minnewater, and the Béguinage. A trip on the grachten is a never-to- be-forgotten experience.
Having two days available for sightseeing allows the pleasures of the city to be complemented by those of its museums, with visits to, for example, the Gruuthusemuseum, the Groeninge Museum, the Chapel of the Holy Blood, or any of several more.

Trips on the Grachten (canals)

The tours of the grachten last half an hour, passing under bridges so low that passengers must duck their heads and with one delightful view following another. Boats leave from the landing stages at Huidenvetterplaats and Rozenhoedkaai.

Town Tours and Guided Walks

The Bruges Tourist Office organizes minibus tours but it is more fun to take one of the horse-drawn carriages starting from the Burg. Throughout July and August guided walks set out daily at 3 p.m. from in front of the tourist office in the Burg (and at other times by arrangement).

Markt

Bruges Markt is located in the heart of the city. The main square in Bruges, Markt is surrounded by a collection of buildings dating back to various time periods in history.
Highlights:

Burg

Surrounding the square known as the Burg, are some of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Chief among these are the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the Town Hall, and the Old Recorder's House.

Dijver

Sint-Salvatorskathedraal

Sint-SalvatorskathedraalSint-Salvatorskathedraal

North of the Markt

North of the MarktNorth of the Markt

Events

Visitors to Bruges can be treated to special events throughout the year.

Holy Blood Procession

The Procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges.
This annual religious event takes place on Ascension Day (the 40th day after Easter). This is the most important event on the Bruges cultural calendar. The parade is made even more important because the Bishop carries a shrine said to hold the Holy Blood brought from the second crusade by the Count of Flanders. Residents dress in elaborate costumes to accompany the shrine through the streets of the town.

Early Music Festival

This annual two-week festival runs from late July to mid-August and includes choral and chamber concerts, piano and organ recitals, lectures and art exhibitions. Two events take place daily in venues including the Provincial Palace, Ryelandt Hall and various other historic cathedrals and buildings in the city.
Address: 't Zand 34, B-8000 Brugge, Belgium

Festival of the Canals

This festival is held every three years during weekends in late August. Traditional events showcasing the Middle Ages and Baroque period take place on the Bruges and Vurg Square canals. Over 600 musicians, dancers and actors provide various day-long performances.

Arriaga Festival

This annual week-long festival takes place in late July and includes performances by chamber orchestras and recitals by various pianists. A different event is held every evening in the Swaene Hotel.
Address: Elzenlaan 29, B-8500 Kortrijk, Belgium

Pageant of the Golden Tree

The superb historical Pageant of the Golden Tree which commemorates the marriage in 1468 of Charles the Bold and Margaret of York takes place every fifth year (the next being in 2000).

Zandfeesten am 't Zand

Flanders' largest antiques and flea market; each for one day at the beginning of July, mid Aug. and end Oct. 7 a.m. - 1 p.m.; see information at the local tourist information office.

Canal Festivals

Canal festivals during which the waterways are attractively lit are held from time to time in August at no particular intervals.

Surroundings

Zeebrugge, Belgium

Highlights:

Blankenberge, Belgium

Blankenberge is one of the country's top sea vacation destinations, with a lovely 3 km long beach.
Highlights:

Knokke-Heist, Belgium

Knokke-Heist has a beautiful 12 km long beach and is a popular tourist destination in the summer months.

Sightseeing Nearby:

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