Bruges, Belgium

bruges-belgiumBruges, the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium, is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Its port, Zeebrugge, is an important center for fishing and European trade. In the city center’s Burg square, the 14th-century Stadhuis (City Hall) has an ornate carved ceiling. Nearby, Markt square features a 13th-century belfry with a 47-bell carillon and 83m tower with panoramic views.

The Markt area also features horse-drawn carriage rides and 17th-century houses converted into restaurants and cafes. The Basilica of the Holy Blood houses a venerable Catholic relic, the focus of a huge parade every Ascension Day. Begun in 1220, the Church of Our Lady took around 200 years to build, and is home to a “Madonna and Child” sculpture by Michelangelo. The Kantcentrum (Lace Center) features lace-making demonstrations, while the Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan brewery offers guided tours. Exhibits at the Groeningemuseum trace centuries of Flemish and Belgian painting.

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