In Bruges: Capital of West Flanders Province in Belgium


Oh Bruges, marvelous Bruges... I first visited this Belgian city when I was fifteen. My aunt took me on a European cruise and Zeebrugge (which means "Bruges on Sea") was one of the many stops along the Mediterranean coast. I was at a very impressionable age, Europe had already blown my mind at that point - and I had only been to one other city before Bruges on that trip (Amsterdam, how apropos!).
But honestly, I think Belgium has to be one of my favorite European countries. It doesn't seem to get as much hype as other countries and cities throughout Europe, but its medieval character abounds, and it does not disappoint. Except maybe Brussels... Which is ironic - since it's the most famous, and the capital - but I'll talk about Brussels in another post. 

It is speculated that the name Bruges (English: Bruges, Dutch: Brugge) likely derives from the Old Dutch word for "bridge" - brucge, brugge. Home to just over 117,000 people (as of 2011), Bruges is the capital of the West Flanders province, which is in the Flemish Region of Belgium. The city center is a historic work of art, qualifying it as an important World Heritage Site of UNESCO. Additionally, this city is often referred to as "The Venice of the North" due to its numerous canals. At one point in time, Bruges was considered a chief commercial city of great economic importance due to the central location of its port, which still garners economic advantages this day in age.

Interestingly enough, Bruges was one of the world's first tourist destinations to attract wealthy French and British tourists during the last half of the 19th century, and by 1965 it experienced a renaissance which spurred numerous restorations that ultimately caused a tourist boom. In 2002, Bruges was dubbed the "European Capital of Culture," and today attracts over two million tourists every year.

So now that I've given you a brief historical overview of this small city, let us get on with the fun stuff shall we? Photos, lots of glorious photos!  I'll start with the day of our arrival and the unique little hotel full of character that we called home for a few days....

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As we approached the street where our hotel was, we were greeted with this beautifully oxidized statue of Jan Van Eyck, one of the most symbolic 15th century artists of the Renaissance.  As I mentioned in my previous post on the amazing Belgian city of Ghent, his most well known painting is featured in Ghent's Saint Bavo's Cathedral - it's called the Ghent Altarpiece, formerly known as Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.  This piece of art was originally commissioned by his brother Hubert van Eyck, however Jan finished the work following his brother's death in 1426.

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO, Jan Van Eyck, Renaissance, artist, Renaissance art, medieval art, European statue, Dutch Artist

Why so serious?


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More statues, statues everywhere, and golden gleaming weather vane ships on nearly every domed rooftop...

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO, Belgian hotel, Belgium hotel, Bruges hotel, Brugge hotel

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO, Belgian hotel, Belgium hotel, Bruges hotel, Brugge hotel

As we walked up the street on our way to the hotel, we came across the famous canals of Bruges and its perfectly picturesque stacked homes lining the waterway...
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Tour boats roam the canals all day long, the words of the tour guides echoing off the buildings...
Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO, Belgian hotel, Belgium hotel, Bruges hotel, Brugge hotel

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO, Belgian hotel, Belgium hotel, Bruges hotel, Brugge hotel

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO, Belgian hotel, Belgium hotel, Bruges hotel, Brugge hotel


And then we came across our lovely hotel, Martin's Relais:

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This is the entryway in the back of the hotel, it has a quaint lush courtyard a sunroom/greenhouse entryway...

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Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO, Belgian hotel, Belgium hotel, Bruges hotel, Brugge hotel

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO, Belgian hotel, Belgium hotel, Bruges hotel, Brugge hotel

Immediately upon entering the hotel you know you're in for something special, it has a unique rustic style.  I LOVED this old wood chest with the potted orchid on it in the foyer!

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Everywhere you look there's a touch of sophisticated old world glamour!

   


Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO, Belgian hotel, Belgium hotel, Bruges hotel, Brugge hotel

   

Chandeliers and numerous antiques tastefully litter all the common rooms...

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO, Belgian hotel, Belgium hotel, Bruges hotel, Brugge hotel

   

There's even a gorgeous African Grey silently watching from a giant cage in the corner by a big window facing the canal...

   

There's a great attention to detail in this hotel, with flowers in every room...


...and spectacular medieval artwork adorning the walls...
   





I love that there is something interesting to behold everywhere you look, from wooden ducks and antique brass kitchenware, to intricate statues looming in every corner...


   


   

Martin's Relais is truly an old world gem, with a fabulous old carved staircase, friendly service, clean rooms with great views, not to mention a secluded and peaceful garden to lounge in... 
Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO    Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

 
Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

I was in heaven...
Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

When we were done roaming through the hotel in amazement, we made it up to our room and rejoiced at the amazing old windows and ideal view...
Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO
We immediately popped those babies open and sad on the big windowsill with our legs hanging freely over the edge to stare in wonder and watch the canal boats pass...

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO



Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

It wasn't long before we got hungry, especially with delicious smells wafting up from the little restaurant on the street below...

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

As we were freshening up and getting ready to go down for a bite, a rain shower passed through and we listened to the peaceful soothing sound and watched people scatter on the street below...

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

But, it was back to blue skies in no time!
Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO
My brother and I descended to the lobby to ask the concierge's opinion on the restaurant up the street, he confirmed that it was excellent, so we exited out the front of the hotel to begin the short walk up the street...
Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO    Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO



The restaurant we had spotted from our window is called Spinola, and albeit pricey, the food was excellent!

    Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO


Did I mention it's adorable? Oh, it has plenty of charm...

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Unfortunately I tore into my dish like a ravenous traveler before remembering to take a photo, but the presentation was on point!

Even the menu had artistic charm...
Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO, Bruges restaurant

And we had quite the view whilst dining al fresco...


Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO


That's our hotel where the Belgian flag is hanging, and our room windows right above - talk about a great location!
Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

My brother joked the entire time that it was too fancy (but he loved it!), he even made this little sarcastic gesture with his finger while I was photographing the front of the restaurant entrance to illustrate his point...  Fancy shmancy:


Overall I recommend this restaurant, excellent quality and presentation, but get ready to pay!
Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

After our meal we took a stroll around the city center admiring all the fabulous medieval architecture while the sun set...
Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO    Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

   

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

This massive structure is the Provincial Palace of Bruges in Markt Square (Market Square). Despite its Gothic style facade, its construction did not begin until 1887, making it Neo-Gothic. Once again, as I mentioned in my lastpost on Ghent, the lights highlighting the building at night do an amazing job of showcasing all the intricate details:
Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

Last but not least, the stately Belfry of Bruges and the waning moon:

Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO    Bruges, Brugge, Belgium, Europe, travel, European cities, medieval, UNESCO

(All images in this post are the original photography of Inspire Bohemia and are protected under copyright, please do not copy or reuse without written permission.)

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