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CruiseDirection - Magazine May 2019

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It is often referred to as Belgium’s ‘jewel in the crown’, because of its pristine beauty and was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. Bruges, which is located in the north west of the country, received its charter in 1128; it is egg shaped and a compact 430 hectares in area. The climate is typically north European, which is cold in winter, down to about 28°F, though mild in summer, with a 73 °F average.  

The city has about 50,000 people living in its historic centre, but totalling 120,000 if you include the outer suburbs. The old centre is closed off to motorised vehicles, enabling people to move around easily on foot or explore the canals by boat. Touring the city in a horse drawn carriage is another popular option.  

The city is a small complete medieval package in itself, being a mix of romantic canals, narrow cobblestone streets, gabled houses, museums and fabulous architecture, all of the same era. It is like being on a period movie set, except that this is real.

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Why visit Bruges ?

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Belgium’s Jewel in the Crown

The perfectly preserved medieval centre of Bruges, in Belgium, is known as the ‘Venice of the North’, because of its canals

You won’t miss the famed Belfry on Bruges main-square. This was built in the 13th and 15th centuries and the carillon has chimed every 15 minutes for more than seven hundred years since.  

The Church of Our Lady has the tallest spire in Belgium, took 200 years to complete and houses Michelangelo’s marble statue of the Madonna. This statue is believed to be his only work to have left Italy during his lifetime.  

The Groeinge Museum contains works of art by all the Flemish masters, Van Eyck being the most important. The Diamond Museum is the only one, of five diamond museums in the world, where diamond polishing is demonstrated. The polishing process was invented in Bruges in the 15th century and the museum houses a recreation of a workshop from that period. There is also a replica of the crown of Margaret of York, along with mining equipment, a simulated mine shaft, manufacturing tools and a scale model, in zircon, of the total quantity of the planet’s diamond production. Of course there are also hundreds of real diamonds to see.  

A visit to the Beguinage makes a pleasant and different experience. This is a walled complex, housing nuns (beguines) and is in an area of quiet leafy canals fronted by white gabled houses with a green area in the middle. Bruges is also famed for its lace and the Lace Centre may be found in restored almshouses, where demonstrations may be seen. Other sights include the Dweersstraat; a beautiful medieval street of restaurants, shops and bars, the Groenerei; a short promenade alongside one of Bruges particularly beautiful canal systems and the Provinciaal Hof or Provincial Court. Another interesting fact about Bruges is that the city boundaries are still the same as they were in medieval times. Even the open spaces were preserved long before the World Heritage dictum.  

Bruges is a medieval time warp and providing you stay within the World Heritage parameters you will ingest medieval architecture and lifestyle until you drop.

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