The first route we followed from our guidebook was Highlights of Bruges which took you to all the main sights. We walked it all, but went into very few buildings – that we did later, so these photographs were not all taken on the same day. For instance, Markt, the large central square, is home to the Belfry, Bruges’s most iconic landmark. We didn’t climb the tour on our first visit – it was in the morning, very busy and the bells were playing their 11am carillon which would have been deafening – but returned another day around 4pm. Tip: last entrance is 4.15 so if you go in around then it is quieter – and you don’t need to squeeze past people going up when you are coming down.
Just along from Markt is Burg, another beautiful square with several significant buildings. The 14th century Stadhuis (Town Hall), a large white sandstone building, is covered in sculptures, but these are largely modern replacements for those smashed in the French Revolution. Inside, the main feature is the gloriously painted Gothic Hall.
To the left of the Stadhuis (as you look at it) are the Oude Griffe (former Recorder’s House) and the Provincial Museum, Brugse Vrije. The latter is notable for the magnificent 16th century carved chimneypiece.
Finally, Heilig Bloed Basiliek (Holy Blood Basilica) which has churches on two levels and, allegedly, a phial of Christ’s blood washed from his body by Joseph of Aramathea. This phenomenon features in the film In Bruges – totally inaccurately, as the actors are in a completely different church.
Museums and churches
The walk now took us to the Groeninge Museum (superb Flemish Primitive paintings, but not photographable), the Gruuthuse Museum, the Church of Our Lady (OLV – Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) with its Michelangelo sculpture, and the former St John’s Hospital. By this time, we were getting a little weary – just one more leg to go!
Begijnhof is a large almshouse with small dwellings and a church arranged around a green. The walk to it took in a brewery, other almshouses and some of Bruges’ 500 or so corner street shrines.
That was a really long post! But mainly pictures, so I hope not too taxing. Things get more relaxed after this…..