Read about the city
Belgian Bruges is one of Europe's old and rich trading centers, where the fine history of merchants and shipping has created a tourist gem in western Flanders. Here, Flemish urbanization has, over time, gone hand in hand with cultural and economic progress, and the result is so picturesque and interesting with loads of beautiful buildings.
The city's central squares with Markt and Burg at the forefront are great places to enjoy the the spirit of centuries of architecture. Churches are located at the squares, where the town hall and other famous buildings have been built on the profits of the trade.
Among them is the bell tower Het Belfort, which with its octagonal top stands as a landmark for Bruges and symbolizes the wealth that existed in the city. Together with nearby Ghent and Antwerp, Bruges was one of Europe's trading centers for centuries.
The access to the sea has been the city's economic dynamo through trade with other parts of Europe and the world. Part of the access went through the canals that today give water to canal cruises. The tours provide access to many of Bruges beautiful places from a new angle and from the perspective that was the crunch behind the success of the merchants.
Bruges location in western Flanders is also a good starting point for visiting the other Flemish cities such as Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels, and it is also not far from the sea and Zeebrugge, the port city which has taken over after Bruges major trade through the ages. Here, the beaches also attract a lot of Belgians and tourists alike.
- Burg: The Burg square, together with Markt, is the central square in Bruges, and at Burg you can experience architecture from different eras. The surrounding buildings originate from each of their centuries.
- City Hall/Stadhuis: This is Bruges' beautiful Gothic town hall, where can experience the beautiful hall. Gotische Zaal. It was built in the period 1376-1420 in late Gothic style.
- Canal tours/Bootexcursies: Channels leads through the old part of Bruges, and all around the city center is the ring canal. A boat trip here is a nice and different way to experience the city.
- Church of Our Lady/Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk: The Church of Our Lady was built through the 1200-1400s. The impressive church tower dominates city skyline and reaches a height of 115 meters/379 ft, making it the tallest building in the city. You can see Michelangelo's Mary with the child of Jesus.
- Beguinage/Begijnhof: This beguinage is a true oasis in the city and one of Bruges romantic places. A number of low, harmonious buildings are built around a lawn, and with sprouting trees and flowers the experience is top notch. And the museum of Begijnhuisje is interesting.
- Brugse Vrije: Brugse Vrije is the name of the council of men who ruled the town and the surrounding area in the 1300s. The building at Burg is the mansion where the council assembled.
- Kruispoort: Around Bruges center, there were once ramparts along the ring canal and city gates at the bridges for entrance to the city. These fortifications were built in the 1200-1300s. Kruispoort is one of four preserved city gates.
- Poortersloge: The Poortersloge building stands in the neighborhood that was the center of Bruges trade during the Middle Ages. The house was built from 1395 to 1417, and it served as a meeting place, among other things.
Read about city history
Modern Bruges takes its historical origin in a Gallic-Roman settlement at the beginning of our era. Already at this time the city was trading with England and the rest of Gaul. In the 700s, the trade spread to Scandinavia as well, and the city got its name from the Nordic name for a place of landing, a pier.
In the mid-800s, in addition to a castle, there were two parish churches and other buildings that constituted an actual city. The name of the brew is also found on coins from that time.
In the 800s, the Vikings were a threat, and this caused Count Balduin I of Flanders to strengthen the former Roman defenses, and both Bruges and the Flemish coastline were fortified at this time.
In spite of the threat from Scandinavia, trade increased in the following centuries, among other things, to England and precisely to the Viking homelands. The city was at this time one of the absolute centers of commerce.
Commercial rights and sea access
Already from the mid-1000s, sanding had caused an increasingly difficult waterway from Bruges to the sea, and in the end this road was without the significance of the trade it had previously had.
Bruges gained market town rights on July 27, 1128, and new canals were dug and new city walls erected. Bruges was thus growing when a storm flood in 1134 changed the landscape on Bruges's Flemish coast.
Zwin was formed as a new fjord with connection to the North Sea. Zwin stretched all the way to the town of Damme, a few kilometers from Bruges, which regained the important access to trade by sea.
During this time, Flemish wool and textile products were exported from Bruges to most of Europe. The widespread trade led to the establishment of a major banking and finance business in the city, and overall, Brugge was on the rise for the coming centuries.
Golden Age and Depression
In 1384 Bruges became subject to the united Burgundy and Flanders, and the city's status as a trading center was preserved and expanded over the following hundred years.
The trade was developed in Bruges, seeking international relations. These included trade in Portuguese spice traders and textiles.
In the 1400s, Brugge was at its peak. In the central city, 40,000-45,000 inhabitants lived, and Bruges' weaving and spinning mills were among the world's leading.
With the sudden death of Mary of Burgundy in 1482, power came into her husband's hands; it was the Austrian Archduke Maximilian. Against him a rebellion arose, which put political and military pressure on Bruges in the following years. It should prove to be the start of the city's recession.
Bruges' status as Flanders's primary trading center gradually shifted to Antwerp, expanding on the basis of the easy trade along the river Schelde. Only a minor trade was maintained through Bruges in the following centuries, and by the end of the 1400s most trading houses had moved to precisely Antwerp.
Declining population and stagnation
In the 16th century, Zwin began to come true. The Fjord Canal was Bruges' most important economic asset and a prerequisite for the trade that had been and continued to some extent. By the middle of the century, however, Zwin's importance was so diminished that Bruges was a city in economic decline compared to the heyday when merchants from the north and south met here.
In 1584, Bruges and the region were divided from the Dutch Netherlands, reducing Bruges to a provincial city of no particular importance. The centuries passed and Brugge sought to maintain a certain maritime trade, and the city's shipowners and merchants traded with the various European empires.
Initially, industrialization in Europe passed around Bruges, which was one of the country's poorest cities in the mid-1800s, which was also reflected by the population. From at one time having attracted more than 100,000 citizens, the population dropped continuously to about 50,000 by the year 1900.
The 20th century to the present
Already in the late 1800s, initiatives were initiated to reverse the development in Bruges, which was and is known for its art and culture, which has attracted countless tourists for many years.
However, the population and industry of Bruges remained at modest levels throughout the 20th century. The development in the area initially took place by the sea, which was also the driving force for success in the past.
In 1907, the city and the port of Zeebrugge were constructed as Bruges' new port, and from this the city experienced serious growth in traffic and freight volumes in the late 1900s.
In addition, the golden age and past of great trade and the resulting wealth, as well as the arts and culture, have created the foundation for a continued tourism, which annually brings visitors from all over the world to the historic international city that has preserved its old city center.
Skjul indhold her