North Bruges

Our final walk was to the north, and encompassed some of the prettiest, and quietest, canals we had seen. The main sight of the first section was Sint Jakobskerk. I particularly liked the two-tier tomb of Ferry De Gros who died in 1544. If you click on the photo, you can just about make out that there are two sets of praying hands on the top section. That’s De Gros with his first wife, who died in 1521, behind him. Underneath lies his second wife who died in 1530. De Gros outlived them both and presumably made his choice about which one he wanted with him for eternity.

The statue of Papageno, at the bottom right of the gallery above, stands outside the theatre on Vlamingstrat. A few steps further along is the Saaihalle (Serge Hall), the only example of a medieval trading house in Bruges to survive. Now it houses the Friet Museum! This was surprisingly interesting, telling you everything you could ever wish to know about the history of potatoes and fries / chips, and displaying a variety of old methods of making and selling them. You could buy a portion to sample downstairs, but we passed on that and headed to Eiermarkt, with its rather hideous fountain, for lunch (which included chips). We made a bit of a mistake with the beer, ordering two large ones without checking the menu. Everywhere else, large had meant half a litre. Here it was a litre. We coped, but only just as John had to finish mine. (I should add that some restraint WAS shown that day. We passed the Chocolate Museum later on and didn’t go in!)

There were very few tourists on the final part of the walk, except, perhaps, on Jan Van Eyckplein which had appeared tantalisingly in the distance on several walks and the canal boat tour.

And that was more or less where our holiday in Bruges ended. Apart from the day we went to Ghent, we had spent the whole week there – I had expected to do at least another couple of day trips. Maybe we’ll do that when we go back, for go back we surely will.

South West Bruges

Our next Bruges walk took us south-west from Markt through the main shopping area. I confess that we stopped at The Chocolate Line in Simon Stevinplein but, other than that, we were very good at sticking to sight-seeing. We visited Sint Salvatorskathedraal and marvelled that Bruges had a third major square in ‘t Zand with its quirky modern fountain (1986).

Our route then took us through some quieter streets with highlights including Blindekenskapel (Our Lady’s Chapel of the Blind) and another of the city’s gates, Ezelpoort with its small bronze skull. This is a reminder of the traitor who was executed in 1688 for attempting to open the gate to Louis XIV’s army. We circled round, returning to ‘t Zand via some more pretty almshouses and finished by visiting the roof terrace of the Concertgebouw where we got good views of the two famous towers of the Belfry and OLV.

Just one more route to go now.

North East Bruges

Our next walk took us away from the centre to the quieter north-east. There were a couple of museums en route which we knew would be closed, because it was a Monday, but the numerous churches made up for it – even though some of them were closed for renovation, there was still plenty to see. We started at Rozenhoedkaai (Rosary Quay) where there were good views of the Belfry and OLV which we had visited the day before. Continuing along the canal, we were charmed by the dog looking out of the window. When we watched the film In Bruges a few weeks later we were amazed to see the same dog. I’ve since seen him or her on other blogs – just Google “Bruges dog” and loads of images come up! (I’ve since discovered his name is Fidel.) More or less opposite was another lovely row of almshouses, Godshuis de Pelikaan.

Our next stop was Jeruzalemkerk, so-called because it was founded around 1427 by the Adornes brothers, descendants of a 13th century Genoese merchant who had settled in Bruges after taking part in the Crusades. It has three chapels, two downstairs and one upstairs, and also appeared in In Bruges – however, it was masquerading as the Holy Blood Basilica. The black marble tomb is for Anselm Adornes and his wife, Margarethe. King James III of Scotland asked Anselm to look after the interests of Scottish wool traders in Flanders. However, on a visit to Scotland in 1483 he was murdered and buried in Linlithgow Palace. Only his heart was returned to Bruges. Oops. We didn’t linger.

A short walk took us to Kruispoort, one of the ancient gateways of Bruges, and several windmills, some of which are operational in the summer. It was also getting towards lunchtime and we enjoyed sitting outside at De Windmolen. Wow, we were lucky with the weather! This was still March.

The last part of our walk took us past the English Convent and back towards the centre, via two churches: Sint Gilliskerk and Sint Walburgakerk. I wasn’t too keen on the meaty artwork on display in the former.

What else does Bruges have in store? Quite a lot, as you’ll see!

Highlights of Bruges

Markt

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.

Burg

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

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…..

In Bruges

We had a wonderful time in Bruges at the end of March / beginning of April. In April, I was too busy with the A to Z Challenge to blog about it, so I’ve designated this week as Bruges Week!

Bruges is a beautiful place which I defy anybody not to enjoy, but three things in particular enhanced our stay. First, the weather – totally outwith our control, of course, but it was wonderfully warm and sunny for the time of year. This made it easy to meander around and not feel we had to be diving for cover all the time. It seems unbelievable that this was the same week that we spent in Amsterdam last year and absolutely froze.

Second, our meanderings were helped by the guidebook I borrowed from my local library, Bruges and Ghent by Christopher Turner. I was so incensed by the negative reviews it had received on Amazon that I had to add my own! It’s not a book to help you with basic information on where to eat or drink, and it’s not the most up-to-date title available, but it’s a wonderful walking guide and takes you off the main tourist track into quieter areas. It’s arranged in four routes in Bruges and one in Ghent and we did them all. I’ve already posted about Ghent and will cover the Bruges routes over the next four days.

Third, we stayed in an apartment (above) rather than a hotel which gives a lot of freedom – and because of the good weather, we could even use our little terrace. Ridderspoor Holiday Flats are very central. Ours was a little sparse – I don’t recognise it in the photos on their website and suspect they have recently expanded from the house next door – but it had all we needed. The same people also run a bed and breakfast further down the road.

A final introductory tip – take a canal boat early on. The trips are only half an hour, but are a good introduction to the city and you can identify places to go back and visit later.

Film buffs will, of course, recognise the title In Bruges. I had seen the film before, but watched it again after we came back – it was even better being able to recognise most of the locations. It seemed to be fairly accurate, in that characters’ journeys through the town were consistent with the actual geography. There were a couple of glaring anomalies which IMDb lists as “gaffes”, but I think the plot would not have worked without one of them. In the other, the characters are clearly talking about one church whilst sightseeing in a completely different one. Maybe they just couldn’t get permission to film in the first? Anyway, it’s a funny, if violent film, which I recommend if you haven’t already seen it.

More on Bruges to follow!