Bruges, Belgium Walking Tour (with Subtitles) - July 2021
We start our visit at the Dijver Canal, one of the prettiest canals in the city. Both the Groeningemuseum (look for our separate video) and the College of Europe are situated along this street. A flea market takes place here every Saturday and Sunday. The College of Europe in Bruges was founded in 1949 by leading historical European figures and founding fathers of the European Union, including Salvador de Madariaga, Winston Churchill, Paul-Henri Spaak and Alcide De Gasperi. The College aims to promote "a spirit of solidarity and mutual understanding between all the nations of Western Europe” and "to train an elite of young executives for Europe". Bruges became the capital of Flanders in 1089, and an 1134 storm created the tidal canal Zwin, improving the connection to the sea.
As such the city developed into the economic capital of northwestern Europe in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, and this was the golden age of the city. This age saw the construction of many of the city's impressive old buildings, and its second city wall. The statue that stands on St John Nepomucene Bridge is that of the protector of the bridges of Bruges, which are so important in this city.
The city’s golden age saw The world's first stock exchange formedhere, the Waterhalle was a lively trading place, and the city of 46,000 inhabitants was a home to painters, architects and other artists and the Duke of Burgundy set up one of his courts here. The death of Mary of Burgundy in 1482 marked the beginning of the end of the golden days. The royal family soon left, nearby Antwerp became a more important trading point, silting eventually made the Zwin unusable, and the Spanish rule from 1592 to 1713 during which several wars were fought in the region all made the city one of the poorest, rather than richest cities in the region. The city changed hands between the Austrians, French and Dutch before becoming part of the independent Belgium in 1830. The Industrial Revolution didn't bring much industry to Bruges, one of the reasons the city remains today so well preserved.
In the 1890s two events revived interest in the city; on the cultural side the novel Bruges-la-Morte by Georges Rodenbach and on the economic side the construction of the Port of Zeebrugge, one of Europe's most important freight ports today. Also, the 1902 art exhibition of Flemish Primitives (Early Netherlandish painting) helped re-establish Bruges as a cultural center. Surviving both world wars mostly intact, the old town was listed as a World Heritage Site in 2000 and two years later it held the title as the European Cultural Capital. The “Grote Markt”, the Market Square of Bruges is located in the heart of the city and covers an area of about 1 hectare.
The Belfry formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives, and served as an observation post for spotting fires and other dangers. It was built in 1240, and rebuilt in 1280 after a devastating fire. The building is a central feature of the 2008 film In Bruges starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes. In the 16th century the tower received a carillon, allowing the bells to be played by means of a hand keyboard.
In 1675 the carillon comprised 35 bells, designed by Melchior de Haze of Antwerp. Today the bells number 47, together weighing about 27.5 tonnes. In the middle of the Grote Markt stands a Statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, erected in 1887. Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck have often been portrayed as patriotic heroes in Belgium because of their roles in the fight against French troops in 1302 and their passion for Flemish identity. The Historium is a different type of museum, where you can experience what it was like to live in 15th-century Bruges with the use of sets, video clips, music and special effects to transport visitors back in time. The Simon Stevinplein is filled with cafés and restaurants with their shaded terraces under neat rows of linden trees. The square is named after the mathematician and physicist Simon Stevin (born in Bruges in 1548, died in The Hague in 1620).
Simon Stevin’s Statue stands proud on this lively square. He invented the decimal system for fractions and created the mathematical basis for the construction of fortifications. Saint-Salvator Cathedral, the main church of the city, has survived the onslaught of the ages without damage. Nevertheless, it has undergone some changes and renovations. In 1250 the construction of the present church was undertaken, which lasted for about a century. The Sint-Salvator Cathedral's 101-meter-long interior contains some noteworthy furnishings. It currently houses many works of art that were originally stored in its destroyed predecessor, the Sint-Donaaskathedraal. ‘t Zand is largest square in Bruges. Until the early years of the 20th century, this was the site of the railway station. Now the open square boasts as many as 150 linden trees and many restaurants and cafés. An excellent place to stay is the Dukes’ Palace Hotel, the former residence of the Burgundian aristocracy and the only five-star hotel in central Bruges.
Bruges was once full of large, wealthy religious institutions, and this was formerly a convent, rebuilt in neo gothic style in the 1880s and more recently refurbished as a hotel by the Kempinski group. And here we are back at the Grote Markt central square. The Church of Our Lady (Dutch: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) dates mainly from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. Its tower, at 115.6 metres (379 ft) in height, remains the tallest structure in the city and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world
The church houses a white marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child created by Michelangelo around 1504. It is Michelangelo’s only sculpture to be taken out of Italy The sculpture was twice recovered after being looted by foreign occupiers—French revolutionaries in 1794 and Nazi Germans in 1944. Please check our separate video for a tour of the interior. The Gruuthusemuseum is a museum of applied arts located in the medieval Gruuthuse. The collection ranges from the 15th to the 19th century. Please check our separate video for a tour of the interior. We finish our tour at the Bonifacius Bridge, a romantic spot and one of the most picturesque Bruges views.