All info about Bruges: things to know for your visit to Bruges
Are you planning on visiting Bruges? Then you're definitely looking in the right place. We have made a complete guide with all the information you may need or that is good to know. Discover all sorts of fun facts about the Venice of the North.
Would you like to know which beautiful sights Bruges has in store? Also read our article about the most beautiful highlights in Bruges.
The history of Bruges
29.1 The very first traces of Bruges
Bruges is an old city and its origins can be traced far back in time: several excavations have uncovered the remains of a Gallo-Roman settlement and a Celtic boat, both from the 2nd century after Christ. For the first written mentions of a “Municipium Brugense”, we have to wait until the 7th century.
29.2 How did Bruges get its name?
Around the 8th century, Europe was suffering from Viking raids, and it tried to protect itself against them. During his reign, Charlemagne set up a coastal defense. Baldwin I, the first Count of Flanders, built a fortress in the 9th century. The name “Burg” refers to this fortress.
29.3 Matins of Bruges
During the 12th and 13th centuries, Bruges became one of the most important commercial trading cities of Europe. The port helped to ensure economic prosperity. The citizens began the construction of the current Belfry and the corresponding town halls at that time. In the late 13th century, the French king Philip IV annexed the county of Flanders. Every Fleming knows what happens next: Jan Breydel and Pieter De Conick revolted against the French king in Bruges, which led to the famous “Brugse Metten” as a result. On 11 July 1302, the Battle of the Spurs took place, in which they were victorious against the French army for a short time.
29.4 The decline
From the 14th century, things were changing in the city. The Zwin, the access road to the port of Bruges, started to decay. However, it was mainly due to the decline of the textile industry and competition from neighboring ports, including Antwerp, that led Bruges into a state of decay from the end of the 15th century.
29.5 Spanish influence and bobbin lace
During the 17th century, Bruges was under Spanish rule. As a result of some fires in this period, a lot of wooden façades were replaced with stone versions. Around this time, the lace industry also made its entry. Lace-making, among other things, was taught at the Bruges schools for girls. At the beginning of the 19th century, there were more than 6,000 women practicing lace-making, out of a total of 40,000 inhabitants!
Our tip: Would you like to discover Bruges at your own pace? Definitely download our portswalk or our fun citywalk through Bruges to discover the most beautiful highlights
29.6 The economic boom
During the Austrian rule of the 18th century, an economic boom took place. Some major infrastructure works were carried out, including the digging of the canal, the Coupure, which connects to the canal of Ghent.
29.7 The capital of the West Flanders
Since the independence of Belgium (1830), Bruges has been the capital of the province of West Flanders. Economic-wise , the 19th century was a bad time for the city. Bruges was missing out on the mechanical industrialization, which was successful everywhere else in Belgium. The industry at that time was mainly cotton, wool and textile mills and flax spinning mills.
The book “Bruges-la-Morte” by Georges Rodenbach (1892), did not present a positive image of the city. A lot of people from Bruges were unhappy about this. Partly as a reaction against this book, but also thanks to the publication of several guidebooks, Bruges began to have great appeal for artists and foreign visitors. That meant the start of Bruges as a tourist center, as it is still to this day.
29.9 The port and Bruges in time of war
With the construction of the port of Zeebrugge at the beginning of the 20th century, Bruges now has another major port. During the First World War, this was an important base for German submarines. Luckily the historic center of Bruges was spared war damage during both world wars, and every year more than eight million visitors from around the world enjoy the unique beauty of the city.
Geography: the Venice of the North
Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders. 118,000 people live in the town of Bruges, of which 20,000 live in the historic centre.The town is 15 kilometers from the sea and is built on a sandy surface. It is a very flat city, with only a few meters difference in altitude.
The Reie is the original river that ran through Bruges. From the 9th century, a lot of changes happened: extra canals were dug, shifted and arched. The Coupure is the last canal that was dug in the middle of the 18th century. All these branches were named after the river (the Brugse Reien) and it gaveBruges also its nickname: the Venice of the North.
Climate and weather in Bruges
Due to its proximity to the North Sea, Bruges has a mostly moderate oceanic climate. The average summer temperature is a pleasant 18° C, while in the winter it falls to around 3° C, which is milder than inland. The risk of snow is smaller than in the rest of the country.
The months with the most rainfall are August, October, November and December.
Population of Bruges
Bruges has a rather senior population: 19% of the population is younger than 20 years, 58% are between 20 and 65, and the other 23% is older than 65 years. The largest religious group in Bruges is Roman Catholic. Although most people are no longer practicing, the Catholic faith is still alive in Bruges, made evident by the many religious buildings, such as the beguinage and the many churches. In addition, there are many processions taking place, as well
Events and festivals
6.1 Religious processions
One of the most famous events in Bruges is the annual Procession of the Holy Blood, which always takes place on Ascension Day. The origin of this procession evolved around the relic of the Holy Blood, dating back to 1291! Many hundreds of figurines and dozens of floats display various biblical scenes. In addition, each year on Assumption Day (August 15) the Brugse Belofte (or Blindekens procession) takes place. This procession has existed since 1304. In the neighboring, cosy village of Lissewege, the Maria Ommegang has taken place since the Middle Ages on the first Sunday in May.
6.2 Straight through Bruges (Dwars door Brugge)
Do you want to explore Bruges in an active way? Then you can participate in the annual running race, Dwars door Brugge (Straight through Bruges). Beginners can try the 5 km, and more experienced runners can do the full tour of 15 km.
6.3 Music Festival
Every year in early July, the Cactus Festival takes place in the Minnewaterpark. Spread out over three days, about 20 international and Belgian groups of all kinds will perform here, from rock to world music. This is just an example of the many events that are organized during the year in Bruges.
6.4 Christmas market
Famous and popular: the Christmas market of Bruges! From far, tourists (both domestic and foreign) come to Bruges around the Christmas period to visit the beautiful Christmas market. The whole city is very nicely lit during this period. The Christmas market is definitely a must!
Tip: Discover also our handy walk-guide for the Bruges Christmas market
Where to stay in Bruges? (with discount)
Looking for a place to stay during your visit to Bruges? In the centre of Bruges and around the city you will find many hotels. It is also possible to spend the night in another city such as Ghent and to visit Bruges as a day trip.
Don't want to miss out on anything during your stay in Bruges?
Like most of us, you don't want to miss out on anything during your city trip in Bruges. Well, we have some good news, because we already did the research for you! Buy our travel guide Bruges with all highlights and a mapped city walk. Want to try it out first? Download your free preview city guide Bruges!