In Bruges | Teen Ink

In Bruges

July 21, 2008
By Anonymous

Early this year the dark comedy In Bruges introduced movie audiences to an undeservedly little-known Belgian city. While not distracted by hunky leading man Colin Farrell, viewers found themselves in awe of the "fairy tale" atmosphere of Bruges. However, not even the impressive cinematography manages to capture the magical essence of this medieval town.

During the last week of June, my parents and I were lucky enough to rent a house in the old centre of Bruges. The three-storey building's age, approaching six hundred years old, is not uncommon for the area. The fairy tale quality of this northern Belgian town rests on the preservation of most original buildings. As such, the majority of edifices in Bruges date from its economic "Golden Age," the 12th to 15th centuries. During that period, the city was connected to the North Sea via a canal and, until the waterway silted up beginning in the 1500s, Bruges remained one of Belgium's most important ports. Money pouring into this medieval hub and being invested in the creation of architectural marvels.

One thing's for certain: those who love to observe architecture will have a field day in Bruges. Our first couple of days were spent in the city's two main squares: the Burg and the Markt. Both boast important civic buildings adorned with intricate facades. The Burg's Liberty of Bruges building and Town Hall have restored halls whose audio tours offer insight into Bruges' political and economic history. The Markt is most notable for the Belfry: a bell tower that looms over the low-lying buildings of the city. We made the 366-step trek up the tower and were rewarded with incredible views of terra-cotta-shingled roofs and winding canals.

Bruges' canals are arguable its most attractive feature. Nicknamed the "Venice of the North," the city has a simple series of narrow canals and picturesque bridges — brugge is Flemish for "bridges" after all. After seeing most of the city by foot, a 30-minute canal tour gave an entirely different perspective. The tour guide pointed out interesting details and history bits not mentioned in most travel books. The trip also allowed us to witness some of Bruges' most beautiful residents: the swans. Coasting by horse-drawn carriages, waterfront homes, and history-rich buildings, I felt as if I was boating through a Hans Christian Andersen tale.

While this fairy tale beauty can be experienced in a day trip, I must stress the difference spending an entire week in Bruges made. I was not only able to visit popular attractions such as the imposing Church of Our Lady or the Groeninge Museum, but also explore the fantastic cobblestone side streets. Having the time to discover hidden enclaves and narrow alleyways enriches a trip to Bruges beyond belief. The opportunity to stroll thorough nighttime Bruges is just as much of a treat. The canals illuminated and the bricks aglow with the setting sun, the city becomes completely transformed.

If the extent of your knowledge on Belgium is fries and chocolate, a visit to Bruges will be a welcomed walk through history. It's an easy side trip from France, England, or Germany and has plenty to offer for a longer stay. I was left starry-eyed from my visit. I hope yours will do the same.

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