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Known as the "Venice of the North," Brugge is one of the most beautiful small cities in Europe. Strolling through the maze of winding, cobbled alleys, alongside the winding canals and over the romantic bridges, it's easy to see why UNESCO included the entire medieval city center on its World Heritage list. Bruges (Brugge in Dutch), the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in Belgium, is located in the northwest corner of Belgium. Bruges is a mere 44km from Ghent to the southeast and 145 from Brussels. The medieval center of Bruges is very well preserved, and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Bruges had it's golden age around 1300, when it became one of the most prosperous cities of Europe. Around 1500, the Zwin channel, which provided Bruges with its access to the sea, started silting up, and Bruges began losing its economic strength to Antwerp. People began to abandon the center, which helped to preserve its medieval features. Today Bruges is once again a thriving community with a population of 120,000 people, and the medieval center is one of the most beautiful in Europe.
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|.picture source: jontattrie.ca/Bruge|
One of the most popular attractions in this medieval city is a canal trip. Boats depart from the Georges Stael landing stage at Katelijnestraat 4 every 30 minutes, daily from 10h00 to 17h30.
Bruges is known for chocolate, lace, and to a lesser extent diamonds. The diamond museum is at Katelijnestraat 43. You can buy a rock of your choice at Brugs Diamanthuis at Cordoeaniersstraat 5. Chocolate shops are everywhere; you can also pop in to the chocolate museum Choco-Story. Good information on lacemaking is found in Lacemaking in Bruges. The municipal lace Museum is on the main canal at Dijver 16.
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The Belfort en Hallen (belltower of the market) is a symbol of Bruges and the tallest belfry in Belgium. Climb the 366 steps to top for a panoramic view of Bruges; on a clear day you'll see all the way out to the sea.
The 12th century basilica Heilig-Bloedbasiliek, or chapel of the Holy Blood, on Burg square contains a rock-crystal vial containing a fragment of cloth stained with what is said to be the coagulated blood of Christ. They bring it out on Fridays for veneration, but if that's not your thing the basilica is still worth a visit. On Ascension Day the relic becomes the focus of the Procession of the Holy Blood, in which 1,500 Bruges citizens, many in medieval garb, form a mile-long procession behind the relic.
Bruges is a great walking town (or you can rent bicycles and go around like natives). The cuisine is top notch (although a tad expensive), and the beer is some of the best in the world
Bruges hosts a popular beer festival at the start of February that runs through early March.
Bruge's Chocolate Festival, Choco-Late is a four day event held in November and produced in association with the towns bakers chocolate makers and the Bruges Chocolate Museum. You can take part in a Chocolate workshop inside Bruge's famous Belfry. Tickets are available on the web site.
And if you're going to Choco-Late, you might as well stay on the the Bruges Ice Wonderland Sculpture Festival starting in late November.
The largest religious festival in Bruges is Heilig-Bloedprocessie, the Procession of the Blood, held on Ascension Thursday, 40 days after easter. The holy blood relic is carried through the streets and the folks following are dressed in medieval costume.