PhotoCredit: LGS (1. View from Belfry; 2. The beautiful canals; 3. Jerusalem Church; 4. Inside the Church; 5. Windmills; 6. Romantic canals and horsedrawn buggies)
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a gem; a portal to a different age. The old town centre transports you magically back to the Middle Ages for this compact 430 hectare site has hardly changed since its heyday from the 12-15th Centuries when it belonged in the Flemish court. Today, it lies within the boundaries of modern day Belgium.
This city made its wealth as a trading port and as a centre for the wool trade and for weaving. Later, it would also become famous for producing intricate lace. This delicate craft is still demonstrated and displayed at a local museum.
For the visitor though, it is like a wonderland with its cobbled streets revealing historical and architectural marvels at every turn. You can find the influences of the First Crusade in the form of relics found in certain churches. The Jerusalem Church is said to be a replica of a church found in that distant Holy City. Another landmark is the Belfry with its 47 bell Carillion which is still played till today.
The canals are beautiful and both surround the city centre as well as penetrate into it. Some parts of the canals weave past tightly packed buildings and might be reminiscent of Amsterdam or Venice while others are bordered by belts of green which are a great place to rest weary feet and have a picnic. Around the edge of the city there are also picturesque windmills to enjoy.
At a certain time of the year, the streets come alive with clourful and gay period costumes and parades which represent all the guilds that once made the city wealthy. This is probably one of the best times to visit except for the accompanying crowds.
Bruges is a place to immerse oneself in history in a pleasant environment and at a wonderfully slow pace. It is also a very romantic location and to top it all off, the cuisine and the local beer are also exceptional. It packs a lot into a small compact space. You could probably see it all in a day but it would be so much better to savour its charms over a week.