Bruges is located in the Flemish region of Belgium. Its historic city center is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Because of its canals, the city is sometimes called the "Venice of the North". The name Bruges probably derives from the Old Dutch for "bridge": brugga.
The Market Square (Markt) of Bruges is the heart of the old city and includes the 12th-century Belfry and the Provincial Court. In the center of the square stands the statue of Jan Breydel (leader of the Bruges Matins, a violent uprising) and Pieter de Coninck (a weaver in the Battle of the Golden Spurs).
The Provinciaal Hof (Province Court) is a Neogothic building on the Markt. It is the former meeting place for the provincial government of West Flanders. The original site traces back to 1294 when the Waterhalle was built. It was replaced with a neoclassicist building. From 1850 on, part of this was used to house the provincial government meetings, until it burned down in 1878. Both the exterior and the interior are in the Gothic Revival style. The central meeting room has ten sculptures of royalty and mural paintings of famous people from West Flanders.
The Belfry of Bruges (Belfort van Brugge) is a medieval bell tower and is one of the city's most prominent symbols. The belfry formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives, and served as an observation post for spotting fires and other danger. The Belfry was added to the Market Square around 1240 when Bruges was as an important centre of the Flemish cloth industry. The bells in the tower played an essential part in the city's daily life, from telling the time to announcing religious events.
The Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilig-Bloedbasiliek) is a Roman Catholic minor basilica. Originally built in the 12th century as the chapel of the Count of Flanders, the church houses a venerated relic of the Holy Blood allegedly collected by Joseph of Arimathea and brought from the Holy Land by Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders.
Completed in 1421, the Bruges City Hall is one of the oldest city halls in the entire Netherlands region. It is located in Burg Square, the area of the former fortified castle in the centre of Bruges. The City Hall is the earliest late Gothic monumental-style municipal council building in Flanders or Brabant. Its flamboyant opulence testifies to the city's economic and political power at a time.
The Groeningemuseum is a municipal museum built on the site of the medieval Eekhout Abbey. It houses a comprehensive collection of six centuries of Flemish and Belgian paintings. Highlights include Flemish Primitive art, works by a wide range of Renaissance and Baroque masters, and works from the 18th and 19th century neo-classical and realist periods.
The Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) dates mainly from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. Its tower, at 115 metres in height, remains the tallest structure in the city and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world. The altarpiece of the large chapel in the southern aisle enshrines the most celebrated art treasure of the church—a white marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child created by Michelangelo around 1504.
The Sint-Salvator Cathedral is the main church of the city and is one of the few buildings in Bruges that have survived the onslaught of the ages without damage. The oldest surviving part, dated from the 12th century, formed the base of the mighty tower. The Cathedral's 101-meter-long interior contains some noteworthy art works and furnishings. The area is served by many bus lines at Brugge Sint-Salvatorskerk Station.
The Old St. John's Hospital was a hospital in the 11th century. It is one of Europe's oldest surviving hospital buildings. The hospital grew during the Middle Ages and was a place where sick pilgrims and travellers were cared for. Not until 1977 did the building's function as a hospital stop and the City took over the buildings. Today part of the hospital complex holds the popular Hans Memling museum that showcases Early Netherlandish art, as well as hospital and pharmacy related topics.
The Half Moon Brewery, also known as Henri Maes Brewery, is a family brewery dating back to 1564. In 1856 Henri Maes became the owner of a brewery named Die Maene and he built it into a modern brewery. During the 1980s, the brewery turned into a house brewery, open to the public. Today, the brewery offers guided tours, a museum showcasing old brewing techniques and dining areas.
Founded around 1244, the Beguinage (Begijnhof Ten Wijngaerde) is the only preserved beguinage in Bruges and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are no more Beguines (Christian lay religious orders ) living there, but since 1927 it functions as a convent for Benedictines. The complex includes a gothic beguinage church and about thirty white painted houses dating from the late 16th to 18th century. There is a museum and the exhibition includes paintings, 17th and 18th century furniture and lacework, among others.
The Minnewater is an elongated lake in the centre of Bruges. It is surrounded by the Minnewater Park that was constructed in the 70's. The Minnewater itself is not a natural lake as it may have originated in the 13th century as a type of reservoir and buffer basin. Today the Minnewater Park is a tranquil public green space featuring the gatehouse of a demolished castle named Castle della Faille, a neo-Gothic castle that was built in 1893.