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Travel Guide to Bruges – the Flemish city also known as the Venice of the North

Bruge is a delightful place to visit and, thankfully, English is also used as a communicative language along with their native language, Dutch. The center of the city is mainly the Chowk, Marct, or Groot Market.

Canal in Bruges with Belfry in the background

By 1983 the square had been used as an open-air market for more than eight hundred years and was also a place where protesters could be heard and where announcements were made. These days the market with its restaurants and bars is built with square, luxurious gabbled Flemish buildings, which is compelling for the modern visitor.

Best view

View of Bruges from the Belfry

One of its landmarks is Belfry. For a fascinating view of the energetic city, one can take a sprint to the 366 steps of Belfort Tower. (Admission £ 1.60 per adult). Holding your breath after that jaunt, prepare to be swiftly taken away again by the stunning Flemish architecture that surrounds the neighboring square of Berg.

Places to see

The bright light of the square is the 15th century Gothic Hall of Stadhuis, the town hall. The gorgeous stonework looks delicate like lace and continues inside with lavish ladders, vaulted ceilings, and Goth-style wall paintings.

Bruges Town Hall

On the other side of the square is the Basilica of Holy Blood. Although small outside the interior is surprisingly spacious. The remains of holy blood are kept in the chapel. In the middle of Berg Square, there are always a dozen or so beautiful horse-drawn carriages, for a small fee of 25 euros (£ 16) for up to 4 people, giving you a 35-minute walk around the Cobbled. Will take the narrow streets while the driver tells all about Bruges. But you may prefer a guided boat trip to Bruges - an archway from the Chowk will take you there. The cost is £ 3 for a stress-free excursion through the ancient stone bridge over calm waters.

Less witnessed sightseeing

Church of Our Lady, Bruges

These well-run tourist-related recreations are extremely enjoyable, however, there are other less-visited places not to be missed. For example, the 13th-century Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) has a landmark 400 miles upstream from this Gothic church. Inside, surrounded by greystone columns is an exquisite white marble sculpture of Madonna and a child created by the famous artist Michelangelo. This is a real behavior as his works are rarely seen outside of his native Italy. The graves of Mary of Burgundy and her father Charles are located in the chancel. Be sure to visit before closing for Mass at 11.00 am.

Searching for love

Those seeking love should walk on the Minnewater - Lake of love (‘Minne’ means ‘love’ in Flemish). The lake is reputedly to have powers to help you find the love of your life if you wish. Certainly, the romance of gliding swans helps reinforce this story. Ironically, the lake leads to a 13th-century building known as the Beguinage. Although now it is run by 2000 Benedictine nuns, it was once used as a home for unmarried or abandoned women of physical substance. The order was founded by Beguinage - women themselves - but the last of the Beguinage died in 1930.

Art Lover

For art lovers, the Groeninge Museum of Fine Arts displays a formidable range of paintings, typical masterpieces by Flemish primitives, notably Van Eyck and Memling. Although a little touristy, a quick visit to the Diamond Museum can prove interesting for those who consider this magnificent stone an art form.

Where to shop

Bruges has some interesting shops that rest on its quaint, pristine streets. For example, canny fashion lovers can get some great designer clothes at cheap prices on Troc (Korte Zilleverstraat 12). Chocolate lovers will have a very good choice, but a particularly good chocolate dumon (Earmatt, 6) where pralines are a specialty. Other Belgian gastronomic specialties include sausages, petes and cheeses, and interesting palates, which should head for Dixmuides boteruhis (Geldmuntstrat 23).

Where to eat

At some point, hunger pangs will inevitably urge you to nourish. You can go for a cheap and cheerful but still historic "frietkoten" van selling parts of chips with mayonnaise for 1.5 euros (£ 1). These street vendors have been putting up their stalls for over 100 years.

Otherwise, choose one of the many restaurants around Markt Square such as the busy Sint-Joris (Markt 29) where traditional mussels and chips cost around 15 euros (£ 9.60). For quality supper, try the 't Huidevettershuis (Huidenvettersplein 10-11), a delightful restaurant that dates back to 1450 in an old tenor house and has some beautiful views over the canals. Expect to pay around 21 Euros (£ 14.00) per head. All done, it may be time for a beer. Make your way to t Brugs Beertje (Kemelstraaat 5), affectionately known as the 'Brown Cafe', because of its nicotine-stained roof. It may not look attractive, but it is friendly and is chosen from over 300 beers there. A glass of Strafe Hendrick and Bruges Vit (a white beer) costs 2 euros (£ 1.30). Cheers!

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