The Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges houses nothing less than a relic of Christ himself: his very blood, collected by Joseph of Arimathea and brought to Belgium from the Holy Land. It sounds deeply religious, and Christian visitors will feel that way. However, the basilica is also worth experiencing regardless of faith, as it is stunning in its simplicity, its masterly decorations and historic value. It consists of two chapels; the one on the lower level is austere with very little decoration. Meanwhile the Gothic upper level is alive with color and detail. Every day at fixed hours, the cloth with the holy blood of Christ is revered and visitors can queue up to touch or kiss it, and feel utterly blessed.
Imagine yourself back in time, in a place of peace and tranquility at The Béguinage in Bruges. Tiny white plastered houses surround a courtyard where yellow daffodils bloom in spring and the occasional nun hurries towards the chapel when mass is about to begin. This béguinage was founded in 1245, and still resembles medieval times. This pure, untouched part of Bruges is perfect to unwind, leave behind the city’s buzz for one beautiful moment and become totally zen.
Whenever you happen to be on a city trip in beautiful Bruges, don’t forget to pay this permanent exhibition on Salvador Dalí a visit. Located in the city’s most prestigious building, the Belfry, this exhibition is an experience you won’t easily find in other museums. An audiovisual spectacle with sensational and dramatic decor, it represents not only Dalí’s work but the man’s character and vision of life as well. A fantastic collection of graphic works, sculptures, aquarelles and drawings are there to be marveled at while bathing in a golden and pink light. An unforgettable experience.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Belgium when it’s not raining, and want to spend a day in Bruges, you should opt for a beautiful walk among the city’s remaining windmills. Four old, romantic looking windmills are still located alongside the old moat and medieval city gates, on Bruges’ original city wall, now covered with lush green grass. Around here are perfect spots for a summery picnic. The Sint Janshuysmill was built in the 1770s and still grinds grain, and two of the mills have small museums inside. But it is the walk itself which visitors will enjoy most; quiet, green and overlooking the historic city center on one side and the grand canal with charming houseboats on the other. Beautiful photos are assured.
If you’re stuck in Bruges on a rainy day, you needn’t panic. The city houses numerous incredible museums, and one of the best is the Groeningemuseum. Displaying a giant collection of Flemish primitives by world famous painters like Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling, this museum is Flanders’ pride. Marvel at the almost impossibly vivid colors, the detailed facial expressions of the painted figures, and the often religiously inspired story of the paintings.
When you think Bruges, you inherently think lace. The city has always been famous for the handicraft of its lace makers. The traces of that are still to be found in the city’s 20 shops making and selling lace today. Having been a lace maker since 1833, Rococo offers the most extensive collection of old and contemporary lace works. It has the finest in romantic antique bobbin, needlepoint, ribbon lace and modern custom-made lace available. Very fun for children, and every interessé for that matter, are the demonstrations in Rococo’s showroom on how these delicate works of art are created. Never again will you look at lace the same way.
Very touristy, perhaps, but one of the best ways to see Bruges is from the water. As it is the Venice of the North, it would be almost impossible to visit Bruges without hopping on a rickety boat and floating around the expansive network of canals. Overhanging willow trees, lush little gardens just above the waterline and old bridges crossing the water gives visitors the impression of being in a fairytale. Floating on the canals provides an entirely different view of the city’s historic center, bringing visitors up close to some of the town’s most incredible sites that would otherwise go unnoticed. If you’re looking for a romantic date, this is undeniably it.
The one and only sculpture by famous artist Michelangelo that left Italy during his lifetime, the Madonna with Child can be admired in the Church of our Lady in Bruges. It was carved by Michelangelo around 1503 and bought by a Bruges merchant who then donated it to the church. The marble sculpture is but a small item in the giant church, and yet immediately attracts all the attention. It was removed by French occupiers in 1794 and later by the Germans during World War II, but miraculously always managed to be returned. This is without a doubt an almost sacred place for Michelangelo devotees.
Bruges is gorgeous in winter when houses are covered with snow, the small canals are frozen and the little alleys are alight with old lanterns. The yearly Ice Sculpture Festival adds to that fairy-like feel with an enormous exhibition of stunningly made ice sculptures, bathed in soft blueish and pinkish light. It is a paradise for children, who will wander around open-eyed, wonder-struck by the fantasy and magic radiating from the translucent sculptures. If you want to get your little ones busy and engaged, this is just how to do it.
A dazzling and breathtaking view over the entire city of Bruges and its surroundings; that is what is provided after the 366-step climb to the top of the Belfry. This 83-meter high building dates back from the 13th century. It is also a proclaimed UNESCO World Heritage site. Originally built as part of the medieval town halls, the tower now houses the old treasury, the carillon and its 47 impressive bells. The Belfry is not the most exciting of attractions in Bruges, but it is the most important building in Bruges’ history, and therefore cannot be skipped.