While visiting the city of Brussels, we took a day tour to the city of Bruges, located west of Brussels near the coast of the North Sea. Bruges is considered to be one of the best preserved medieval towns in the world and due to its canals, is referred to as the “Venice of the North.” Bruges is in the Flanders section of Belgium where Dutch is the primary language.
From early in the 12th century, Bruges enjoyed great commercial success due to what was known as the “Golden Inlet”, a channel that gave access for shipping from the North Sea. The city developed a thriving wool and textiles trade. They established economic colonies in England and Scotland and made use of promissory notes and letters of credit. In fact, Bruges is largely recognized as a pioneer in many areas of banking and finance. As evidence of the success of these industries, witness the massive cloth weavers hall which was originally constructed in the 13th century. Starting around 1500, the Golden Inlet starting silting and this period of prosperity began to wane. In the last half of the 19th century, Bruges became one of the world’s first tourist destinations. Over time the city renovated and restored historic structures and monuments to enhance their appeal for this new industry.
There are several very attractive plazas to enjoy include the Berg square with City Hall and the Markt or market square with many historic buildings. You can also wander the streets and lanes that wind through the old city and crisscross the canals. Or have a look at the Church of Our Lady built entirely with brick between the 13th and 15th centuries. Its tower, at about 400 feet high, is the second tallest brick tower in the world.