Bruges was an important commercial center of medieval Europe, and its history dates back almost 2000 years. Visiting Bruges is like stepping back into time. Unlike many other European cities, it was not devastated by war, and the city's Gothic charm is evident from these pictures. Bruges also has one of the few Michelangelo sculptures located outside of Italy in one of its churches—a statue of Virgin and child.
In early spring, the daffodils and flowering trees are blooming, but the tulips are only just beginning to grow. The trees and greenery were more dominant in the late summer, and you will find more crowds. However, Bruges is lovely in every season!
Lake of Love
Bruges is a perfect medieval fairy tale city, full of sights like this one. This photo is of the lake of love, named Minnewater.
Lake of Love in the Springtime
The flowering fruit trees give Bruges' Lake of Love a different appearance in the spring.
This old watch tower is one of the first structures visitors see when walking into Bruges from the bus parking lot.
Street Scene and Old Buildings
Bruges has many old structures and quaint street lamps.
The Begijnhof or Beguinage has been a pleasant oasis in Bruges for over 750 years. In medieval times, there were many more women than men, primarily due to the wars. Unmarried or widowed women often joined the Catholic order of Beguines, promising obedience and chastity, but not poverty like the nuns. The women lived in religious communities such as this one, making their living by making lace with religious motifs or caring for the sick or elderly. Sometimes rich benefactors would pay the Beguines to pray for them.
This Beguinage was founded in 1245 by Margaret, Countess of Constantinople, to bring together the Beguines of Bruges, many of whom were widows of Crusaders. The congregation flourished for over 600 years, but the last Beguine died in the 1970s. Today part of the compound is home to a group of Benedictine nuns, and the other part is home to about 50 ordinary single women of all ages.
Daffodils Blooming at the Beguinage (Begijnhof)
This springtime view of the daffodils blooming looks different that the courtyard in the summer.
The streets in Bruges are filled with tourists on most summer days. We spent much of the time in Bruges wandering down interesting streets such as this one. Most of the buildings have the tile roofs, and most of the streets are cobble stone.
A horse-drawn carriage is a popular way to get around Bruges.
A boat ride on the canals is one of the best ways to see Bruges, especially when the pedestrian streets are filled with tourists.
One of the small streets in Bruges. In addition to the brick structures, many of the Bruges buildings are colorful like this one.
Church of Our Lady and Almhouse
A picture of the tower of the Church of Our Lady taken from the garden of the almshouse.
One of the 20 almshouses in Bruges. The almshouses were a medieval form of public housing for the poor. Rich people would pay for someone's tiny room in one of the almshouses in exchange for lots of prayers. This almshouse had a peaceful garden.
The Almshouse garden is very quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of the shops and tourists just outside the courtyard.
Tower at the Church of Our Lady
The brick tower at the Church of Our Lady in Bruges is 400 feet high, making it the highest brick construction in the world.
The church is home to the famous Virgin and Child statue, one of many Pietas carved by Michelangelo. The Church of Our Lady was under construction when this photo was taken, a common problem when touring medieval sites.
Church of Our Lady
The back of the Church of Our Lady shows that brick was a popular building material in Bruges. It gives the city a different look than marble and granite do.
Michelangelo Pieta in Church of Our Lady
Michelangelo did many sculptures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. This is one of his early works and is found in Bruges, Belgium.
In the Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) in Bruges is this special Pieta by Michelangelo. The statue of the Virgin and Child is one of the few located outside of Italy. It is an early work of Michelangelo, who sold it to a rich Bruges merchant when the original client failed to pay. It is the only Michelangelo sculpture to leave Italy during his lifetime. The statue has been taken from Bruges several times, but has always seemed to make its way back to the city.
This Pieta is the only one sold outside of Italy during Michelangelo's lifetime. It is still one of the few located outside of Italy.
Church of the Holy Blood on Burg Square
The Church of the Holy Blood is only one of the interesting buildings surrounding the Burg Square. The Burg is a grand square, with six centuries of differing architecture surrounding it. The square is still the civic center of the city, with the Gothic city hall flanked by this Romanesque church which sits in one corner of the square.
Church of the Holy Blood
Inside the Church of the Holy Blood in Bruges. This basilica has 2 chapels. The lower one was built in the 12th century and is dark and somber and very Romanesque. The upper chapel was destroyed twice—once by Protestant iconoclasts in the 16th century and again by French Republicans in the 18th—but was rebuilt both times. The upper chapel is lavishly embellished and is accessible via a wide staircase.
Church of the Holy Blood Interior
Another view of the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The church takes its name from a phial brought from Jerusalem to Bruges in 1149 by Derick of Alsace. The phial is said to contain a few drops of the blood of Christ. It is available for viewing on Friday of each week from 8:30 am to 11:45 am and from 3 to 6 pm.
On Ascension Day each year, the phial is carried through the streets of Bruges in the magnificent Procession of the Holy Blood, a major Bruges pageant combining religious and historical elements.
This view of the Belfry is one of the most popular photos taken in Bruges. The bell tower has watched over the city since 1300. The octagonal lantern at the top was added in 1486, making the tower 88 meters high. You can climb the 366 steps if you are touring Bruges on your own (and have the legs for it). The view from the top is interesting, with all of the red-tiled roofs and canals in the city.
The Grote Markt, or Market Square in Bruges. This square was used as a marketplace since 958, and a weekly market was held here from 985 to August 1983—almost a thousand years! Today the large square is ringed by banks (with ATMs), a post office, and many guild houses converted into outdoor restaurants. The Markt is filled with pedestrians and bicyclists, and is a good place to start or end a walking tour of the city.
The Belfry (bell tower) stands guard at the south end of Market Square in Brugge.
Provincial Government Palace
The Provincial Government Palace stands on the east side of the Market Square in Brugge.
All of the buildings on the Burg Square have been marvelously restored.
Old Brick Building and Willow Tree
Many of the old buildings are covered in brick in Bruges.
Church of Our Lady
This view of Bruges is one of the most typical. It shows the Church of Our Lady and the picturesque canals and medieval buildings.
Canal Boat Ride
Touring Bruges via boat gives you a good look at the "backyards" of many residences and city buildings.
Swans in a Canal
We saw swans almost everywhere in northern Europe. They were as ubiquitous as the ducks and geese at home. These were in a Bruges canal. In 1488, Maximilian of Austria was imprisoned by the citizens of Bruges, and his advisor was beheaded. When Maximilian was freed, he ordered Bruges to keep swans in its canals in perpetuity as a punishment for the crime of imprisoning him.
Lace making is an art still practiced in Bruges, and it is the best city to buy lace in Belgium.