Beau­ti­ful Bruges: Old-world Europe in the present

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Walk­ing through cen­tral Bruges is like a ro­man­tic jour­ney into the past. With cen­turies-old gabled build­ings lin­ing a web of canals and cob­ble­stone streets, the vibe is quin­tes­sen­tial old-world Europe. Bruges also is one of the most beau­ti­ful cities in Western Europe, a place that has been called the Venice of the North. Lo­cated about an hour north­west of Brussels not far from the North Sea, Bruges is the cap­i­tal of West Flan­ders in the Flem­ish re­gion of Bel­gium.

The city was spared ma­jor dam­age dur­ing the two world wars, so much of its me­dieval ar­chi­tec­ture is in­tact, earn­ing the his­toric cen­ter of town a UNESCO World Her­itage Site des­ig­na­tion in 2000. Just walk­ing the streets and along the canals is worth the trip, but there are a few must-see sites around the city, in­clud­ing an early work by Michelan­gelo. Here are some:

The Markt

The large square at the city cen­ter is one of the most pic­turesque and bustling places in Bruges. A mar­ket­place start­ing in 958, The Markt (Mar­ket Square) is of­ten filled with pedes­tri­ans and bi­cy­cles criss­cross­ing past stat­ues of me­dieval free­dom fight­ers Jan Brey­del and Pi­eter de Con­inck. The square is framed by the ma­jes­tic Bel­fry Tower and Provin­cial Palace, seat of the West Flan­ders Provin­cial Court. Old, gilded houses with cafes on the ground floor line the rest of the square. Wed­nes­day is mar­ket day, where tra­di­tional Bel­gian fare can be found.

Church of Our Lady

The spire of Our Lady tow­ers above the city at 381 feet (116 me­ters) and claims to be one of the world's tallest brick struc­tures. In­side it's like an art mu­seum, filled with ex­quis­ite paint­ings, de­tailed wood­carv­ing and elab­o­rately-painted tombs. The real treat is Michelan­gelo's mar­ble "Madonna and Child," be­lieved to be cre­ated around 1505 and the only one of his stat­ues to leave Italy dur­ing his life­time. Tick­ets for the mu­seum are 6 eu­ros for adults, 5 eu­ros for se­niors and kids 11 and un­der free. Note: The church is cur­rently un­der­go­ing a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion that won't be com­pleted un­til next year.

Groeninge Mu­seum

Built on the site of the me­dieval Eekhout Abbey, the Groeninge Mu­seum has a wide range of Bel­gian art, in­clud­ing paint­ings from the 18th and 19th cen­tury neo­clas­si­cal and re­al­ist pe­ri­ods, Flem­ish ex­pres­sion­ism and post­war mod­ern art. The main fo­cus of the col­lec­tion is the works of the Flem­ish Prim­i­tives, in­clud­ing Jan van Eyck, Hans Mem­ling and Hugo van der Goes. Adults, 8 eu­ros, se­niors, 6 eu­ros, kids 11 and un­der free.


This site is a quiet es­cape from the hus­tle and bus­tle in the rest of the city cen­ter. Founded in 1245, it was the home of Beguines, a group of women who lived pi­ous lives with­out be­ing part of a con­vent or monastery. Now a home for sis­ters of the St Bene­dict Or­der, it fea­tures an ex­pan­sive lawn planted with poplars, homes, an ac­tive church and a small mu­seum that recre­ates the liv­ing quar­ters of a Beguine.

Saint John's House Mill

The Nether­lands is fa­mous for its mul­ti­tude of wind­mills, but Bruges has four of its own. The Saint John's House Mill, built in 1770, is the only one open to vis­i­tors. Lo­cated on the north­east side of town, the Saint John's House Mill also is the only mill still in its orig­i­nal spot and still grind­ing grain. Closed on Mon­days. Adults, 3 eu­ros; se­niors, 2 eu­ros, kids 11 and un­der free.

Bel­gium has a small coast­line along the North Sea, but it's worth see­ing (in the sum­mer, at least) and only about 30 min­utes from Bruges. Oos­tende is the largest town and the main trans­porta­tion and fish­ing hub. Beach towns dot the coast, from Knokke near the Nether­lands to De Panne near France. The beaches and dunes are per­fect for a wide range of out­door ac­tiv­i­ties, from swim­ming and wind surf­ing to land yacht­ing (think sail­boat on wheels). The North Sea is very shal­low, so low tide could mean a long walk to reach the wa­ter. — AP

North Sea

Photo shows one of the many canals that wind through Bruges in north­ern Bel­gium.

Photo shows a row of gilded houses in Bruges, Bel­gium. — AP pho­tos

Photo shows the his­toric city cen­ter of Bruges, Bel­gium.

Photo shows the beach along the North Sea near Knokke-Heist, Bel­gium.

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