City of arts: Bruges

Bruges is situated in the northeastern part of the West-Flanders province, not far from the North Sea. The municipality boasts over 110,000 inhabitants, 20,000 of whom live in the historic centre. A Gallo-Roman settlement dates habitation back 2000 years. In the 9th century the city is mentioned in writing for the first time.

The golden age of Bruges is the period between the 13th and 15th century. A series of floods in the 12th century had left a wide seaway: the Zwin. Despite increasing silting of the Zwin, Bruges grows to the likely status of Western Europe's most important 13th century trading town, maintaining close relations with other Flemish towns, and with Cologne and England. Bruges provides a major link for trade between Northern and Southern Europe. At first trade centres around worsted, but after the 14th century luxury goods and banking start taking priority.

These days of economical prosperity - regrettably not for the masses - offer much room for the arts. Noted Bruges artists are the Flemish Primitives, with among them Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling. It is very likely that Rogier van der Weyden too lives in Bruges for a while. Memling has a patron of some kind in the Bruges representative of the influential De' Medici family: Angelo Tani.

Bruges is an UNESCO World Heritage City. In Dutch its name is Brugge.

Art & Culture

In addition to a splendidly preserved mediaeval city centre, with Burg (borough) and Belfort (belfry), Bruges has several museums worth visiting from an art historical point of view:

Fans of Michelangelo should pay a visit to the Welcome Church of Our Lady (Onthaalkerk Onze-Lieve-Vrouw) where a famous sculpture piece by the Renaissance master may be found: Madonna with Child. It's the church with the highest tower in town, 122 meters.