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The market square in Bruges was originally the medieval and commercial centre of the city, today it is still the focal point of Bruges along with the Burg Square just a minute walk away. Walking around the square, you can see some impressive monuments such as the Belfry Tower. The Market Square is also home to a great range of restaurants and cafes in the guild houses that line the square.
In former years, ships docked near to the market square where they would unload their cargo for direct sale in the market. Today the market place is free from traffic and has in recent years been refurbished to make it one of the most attractive parts of Bruges's medieval centre.
The Belfry is one of Bruges's most distinctive monuments and an iconic symbol of the city. The bell tower dates back to the 13th century and is 83 metres, dominating the medieval skyline of Bruges. Its well worth a trip to the top, climb the 366 steps and enjoy the panoramic views over the city with its spires and domes.
The first tower was destroyed in a fire around 1300. At this time the four wings of the cloth hall been built as well as the two square segments of the belfry. The signature octagonal lantern shape to the tower was added later sometime around 1500.
The city hall was built in the 14th century which makes it the oldest town hall in Flanders and certainly one of the most beautiful. On the first floor is the stunning Gothic Hall with its beautiful vaulted ceiling. Adorning the walls are paintings depicting the history of Bruges these were added in the late 19th century during a restoration.
There are two town squares in Bruges. The city hall is on the second square called the Burg (the other square being the Market Square).
The Burg square has over time been built and re-built so today it is a showcase of different European architectural styles. The town hall is gothic while the Old Civil Registry is in a renaissance style both sit next to neo-classical and other European styles.
For about 750 years the population of Bruges and its neighbourhood has faithfully and intensively venerated the relic of the Holy Blood. The Noble Brotherhood of the Holy Blood, being aware of the importance attached by the inhabitants of Bruges to their relic make every effort to keep up the tradition. The relic of the Holy Blood is displayed each Friday, before and after the mass, to be venerated by the faithful. (The Bascilica can be entered from Burg square.)
The Basilica consists of two chapels both date back to the 12th century and were built in the Romanesque style. Later the Upper Chapel was converted into a neo-gothic style and features beautiful stained glass windows, intricate wall paintings and decorated wooden ceiling. The Upper Chapel is where the treasured relic of the Holy Blood is kept. It is a crystal phial containing a few drops of Christ's blood, which was brought to Bruges from the Holy Land sometime after the Second Crusade. The phial is stored in a silver tabernacle and exhibited every Friday. There is also a museum which displays a collection of vestments, paintings and artefacts.
While the city of Bruges has its medieval character beautifully preserved, like all cities buildings change use and status. St Saviours has undergone numerous changes and renovations throughout its history. It was not originally built as the cathedral of the city. It wasn't until the 19th century that it became the cities main cathedral.
Before this the building itself was not very cathedral-like. It was much smaller and far less impressive than the other cathedrals of Bruges. So a higher and more impressive tower was built to bring St. Salvator's up to its new status as the city's cathedral.
The highest tower in Bruges is the tower of Our Lady's Church. At 122 meters it is visible from most parts of the city. ALthough this may not be the most important church, it does however attract the most visitors because of its medieval character and the important works of art that can be admired here. The most famous of which is Michelangelo's wonderful sculpture, Madonna and Child the only sculpture by the great Italian artist that can be seen in Belgium.
The church of our Lady was built in the 13th century with the tower built and re-built over 300 years in various styles. In the last 100 years all renovations have attempted to re-create the medieval style to be more inkeeping with the rest of Bruges and truer to the original. The church now houses an impressive array of art treasures and is well worth a visit.
The Beguine was founded in 1245 by the Countess of Flanders. It is now a haven for the beguines or lay nuns. It currently houses Benedictine nuns who established themselves in the convent during the 1930's. The convent itself consists of an attractive row of small white houses set around an inner lawn. It is a typical area in Bruges where one can find peace and quiet in what can sometimes be busy and crowded town center. Also one of the houses has been transformed into an interesting museum illustrating how the beguines used to live.
The Homebrewery " The Half Moon " is situated in the heart of historical Bruges. It is a combination of brewing museum, pub, restaurant and working brewery all rolled into one.
The century old brewing tradition of this Bruges brewery is displayed in a unique museum. The experienced guides give daily tours of the brewery and the museum. In the original brewery's pub you can enjoy the draughtbeer "Straffe Hendrik" accompanied by a tasty regional dish.
The "Haardzaal" restaurant, complete with canal view, is the ideal place to have lunch or dinner. There is seating for 70 people in the dining room. Alternatively, try the brewery bistro where you can enjoy the food and the beer. Tasty specials with fresh market products at good prices- its well worth a visit.
Situated by the gates of the Beguinage, the Lake of Love is a picturesque park which used to be a dock for the barges operating between Bruges and Ghent. Now its an attractive lake complete with lawns, swans and meandering lakeside walks. A great spot to relax and enjoy some calm within the city.
At Minnewater and its lovely park the visitor can enjoy a panoramic view over the town. Due to the idyllic surroundings it has been named 'the lake of Love' probably from the Dutch word 'Minne' meaning 'love'.