There can be few places left where you can totally switch off for a few days from the pressures of modern day living so completely as Bruges. Its beauty and tranquillity are outstanding, as befits the most perfectly preserved medieval town in Europe. Its atmosphere is totally unique, whether it’s a stroll by one of the canals, indeed Bruges is also known as ‘Venice of the North’, sipping a coffee in the Old Market Square with the 13th Century Flemish chimes ringing out from the belfry in the background, or perhaps a gentle trip around the town by horse and carriage. Its serenity will captivate you and it has something for all tastes.
For art lovers, Bruges is a must - Jan Van Eyck being the city’s most famous resident. There are three excellent museums housing many fine works by Dutch and Flemish artists including Van Eyck himself, Rembrandt, and many more. In the church of Our Lady can be seen the carving of the Madonna and Child by Michelangelo, perhaps the greatest sculptor of them all. In the Basilica of the Holy Blood is a phial, said to contain Jesus’ blood, which was brought back from the Holy Land after one of the crusades. The richness of the interior decoration will amaze you.
Bruges first came to prominence in the Middle Ages when weavers, fleeing religious persecution, settled in Bruges, which was then a port. They made their home here and started the manufacture of very high quality woollen cloth which was the basis of Bruges’ wealth: art collections, churches and many other fine buildings subsequently bequeathed to the town by wealthy merchants. The wool trade then evolved into lacemaking which was the most lucrative of all the textile trades. By the mid 17th century Flanders Lace as it was called was famous all over Europe, with the finest being the ‘fairy stitch’ which required between 300 and 700 spindles. You can still see picturesque places within Bruges where younger and older lace makers practice their trade. And of course, on this tour you are staying in the old heart of Bruges, only a short walk from the Lace Museum where you can learn the history of this superb craft with some of the finest examples from throughout the ages on display.
Also famous for its chocolates, Bruges is one place where they are still hand made from the finest ingredients, including cream, strawberries, nougat and nuts. The results are absolutely mouth-watering. They do not do very much for your waistline but they do for your taste buds! The food in Belgium, and Bruges in particular, combines the best in cuisine: French quality and flair, with German sized portions. The speciality is mussels; there are forty ways of cooking them, and of course Belgian chips topped with mayonnaise are recognised the world over as the best there are. But there is no one thing you can put your finger on which makes Bruges such an attractive place to stay for a few days. It is a combination of old world charm, the friendliness of the people (indeed it is difficult to find anyone who doesn’t speak fluent English), culture and perhaps its sheer tranquillity.