|• Mayor||Dirk De Fauw (CD&V)|
|• Governing party/ies||CD&V, sp.a, Open VLD|
|• Total||138.40 km2 (53.44 sq mi)|
|• Density||850/km2 (2,200/sq mi)|
8000, 8200, 8310, 8380
Bruges (/bruːʒ/ BROOZH, French: [bʁyʒ] (listen); Dutch: Brugge [ˈbrʏɣə] (listen); German: Brügge [ˈbʁʏɡə]) is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the northwest of the country, and the seventh-largest city of the country by population.
The area of the whole city amounts to more than 13,840 hectares (138.4 km2; 53.44 sq miles), including 1,075 hectares off the coast, at Zeebrugge (from Brugge aan zee, meaning “Bruges by the Sea”). The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO. It is oval in shape and about 430 hectares in size. The city’s total population is 117,073 (1 January 2008), of whom around 20,000 live in the city centre. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 616 km2 (238 sq mi) and has a total of 255,844 inhabitants as of 1 January 2008.
Along with a few other canal-based northern cities, such as Amsterdam and St Petersburg, it is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North. Bruges has a significant economic importance, thanks to its port, and was once one of the world’s chief commercial cities. Bruges is well known as the seat of the College of Europe, a university institute for European studies.
Etymology of Bruges
The place is first mentioned in records as either Bruggas, Brvggas, and Brvccia in AD 840–875. Afterwards, it appears as Bruciam and Bruociam (892); as Brutgis uico (late 9th century); as in portu Bruggensi (c. 1010); as Bruggis (1012); as Bricge in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (1037); as Brugensis (1046); as Brycge in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (1049–1052); as Brugias (1072); as Bruges (1080–1085); as Bruggas (c. 1084); as Brugis (1089); and as Brugge (1116).
The name probably derives from the Old Dutch for “bridge”: brugga. Also compare Middle Dutch brucge, brugge (or brugghe, brigghe, bregghe, brogghe), and modern Dutch bruggehoofd (“bridgehead”) and brug (“bridge”). The form brugghe would be a southern Dutch variant. The Dutch word and the English “bridge” both derive from Proto-Germanic *brugjō-.
Bruges was a location of coastal settlement during prehistory. This Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement is unrelated to medieval city development. In the Bruges area, the first fortifications were built after Julius Caesar‘s conquest of the Menapii in the first century BC, to protect the coastal area against pirates. The Franks took over the whole region from the Gallo-Romans around the 4th century and administered it as the Pagus Flandrensis. The Viking incursions of the ninth century prompted Count Baldwin I of Flanders to reinforce the Roman fortifications; trade soon resumed with England and Scandinavia. Early medieval habitation starts in the 9th and 10th century on the Burgh terrain, probably with a fortified settlement and church.
Golden age (12th to 15th centuries)
Bruges became important due to the tidal inlet that was important to local commerce, This inlet was then known as the “Golden Inlet”. Bruges received its city charter on 27 July 1128, and new walls and canals were built. In 1089 Bruges became the capital of the County of Flanders. Since about 1050, gradual silting had caused the city to lose its direct access to the sea. A storm in 1134, however, re-established this access, through the creation of a natural channel at the Zwin. The new sea arm stretched all the way to Damme, a city that became the commercial outpost for Bruges.
Bruges had a strategic location at the crossroads of the northern Hanseatic League trade and the southern trade routes. Bruges was already included in the circuit of the Flemish and French cloth fairs at the beginning of the 13th century, but when the old system of fairs broke down the entrepreneurs of Bruges innovated. They developed, or borrowed from Italy, new forms of merchant capitalism, whereby several merchants would share the risks and profits and pool their knowledge of markets. They employed new forms of economic exchange, including bills of exchange (i.e. promissory notes) and letters of credit. The city eagerly welcomed foreign traders, most notably the Portuguese traders selling pepper and other spices.
With the reawakening of town life in the twelfth century, a wool market, a woollens weaving industry, and the market for cloth all profited from the shelter of city walls, where surpluses could be safely accumulated under the patronage of the counts of Flanders. The city’s entrepreneurs reached out to make economic colonies of England and Scotland’s wool-producing districts. English contacts brought Normandy grain and Gascon wines. Hanseatic ships filled the harbor, which had to be expanded beyond Damme to Sluys to accommodate the new cog-ships. In 1277, the first merchant fleet from the Republic of Genoa appeared in the port of Bruges, first of the merchant colony that made Bruges the main link to the trade of the Mediterranean. This development opened not only the trade in spices from the Levant, but also advanced commercial and financial techniques and a flood of capital that soon took over the banking of Bruges. The Bourse opened in 1309 (most likely the first stock exchange in the world) and developed into the most sophisticated money market of the Low Countries in the 14th century. By the time Venetian galleys first appeared, in 1314, they were latecomers. Numerous foreign merchants were welcomed in Bruges, such as the Castilian wool merchants who first arrived in the 13th century. After the Castilian wool monopoly ended, the Basques, many hailing from Bilbao (Biscay), thrived as merchants (wool, iron commodities, etc.) and established their own commercial consulate in Bruges by the mid-15th century. The foreign merchants expanded the city’s trading zones. They maintained separate communities governed by their own laws until the economic collapse after 1700.
Such wealth gave rise to social upheavals, which were for the most part harshly contained by the militia. In 1302, however, after the Bruges Matins (the nighttime massacre of the French garrison in Bruges by the members of the local Flemish militia on 18 May 1302), the population joined forces with the Count of Flanders against the French, culminating in the victory at the Battle of the Golden Spurs, fought near Kortrijk on 11 July. The statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, the leaders of the uprising, can still be seen on the Big Market square. The city maintained a militia as a permanent paramilitary body. It gained flexibility and high prestige by close ties to a guild of organized militia, comprising professionals and specialized units. Militia men bought and maintained their own weapons and armour, according to their family status and wealth.
At the end of the 14th century, Bruges became one of the Four Members, along with Franc of Bruges, Ghent and Ypres. Together they formed a parliament; however, they frequently quarrelled amongst themselves.
In the 15th century, Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, set up court in Bruges, as well as Brussels and Lille, attracting a number of artists, bankers, and other prominent personalities from all over Europe. The weavers and spinners of Bruges were thought to be the best in the world, and the population of Bruges grew to at least 125,000 and perhaps up to 200,000 inhabitants at this time around 1400 AD.
The new oil-painting techniques of the Flemish school gained world renown. The first book in English ever printed was published in Bruges by William Caxton. This is also when Edward IV and Richard III of England spent time in exile here.
Decline after 1500
Starting around 1500, the Zwin channel, (the Golden Inlet) which had given the city its prosperity, began silting up and the Golden Era ended. The city soon fell behind Antwerp as the economic flagship of the Low Countries. During the 17th century, the lace industry took off, and various efforts to bring back the glorious past were made. During the 1650s, the city was the base for Charles II of England and his court in exile. The maritime infrastructure was modernized, and new connections with the sea were built, but without much success, as Antwerp became increasingly dominant. Bruges became impoverished and gradually faded in importance; its population dwindling from 200,000 to 50,000 by 1900.
The symbolist novelist George Rodenbach even made the sleepy city into a character in his novel Bruges-la-Morte, meaning “Bruges-the-dead”, which was adapted into Erich Wolfgang Korngold‘s opera, Die tote Stadt (The Dead City).
19th century and later: revival
In the last half of the 19th century, Bruges became one of the world’s first tourist destinations attracting wealthy British and French tourists. By 1909 it had in operation an association called ‘Bruges Forward: Society to Improve Tourism.’
In World War I German forces occupied Bruges but the city suffered virtually no damage and was liberated on 19 October 1918 by the Allies. From 1940 in World War II the city again was occupied by the Germans and again spared destruction. On 12 September 1944 it was liberated by Canadian troops.
After 1965, the original medieval city experienced a “renaissance”. Restorations of residential and commercial structures, historic monuments, and churches generated a surge in tourism and economic activity in the ancient downtown area. International tourism has boomed, and new efforts resulted in Bruges being designated ‘European Capital of Culture‘ in 2002. It attracts some eight million tourists annually.
The port of Zeebrugge was built in 1907. The Germans used it for their U-boats in World War I. It was greatly expanded in the 1970s and early 1980s and has become one of Europe’s most important and modern ports.
The municipality comprises:
- The historic city centre of Bruges, Sint-Jozef and Sint-Pieters (I)
- Koolkerke (II)
- Sint-Andries (III)
- Sint-Michiels (IV)
- Assebroek (V)
- Sint-Kruis (VI)
- Dudzele (VII)
- Lissewege (with Zeebrugge and Zwankendamme) (VIII)
|hideClimate data for Bruges (1981–2010 normals, sunshine 1984–2013)|
|Average high °C (°F)||6.2
|Daily mean °C (°F)||3.6
|Average low °C (°F)||0.9
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||66.5
|Average precipitation days||12.6||10.6||11.8||9.7||10.7||10.0||9.9||9.9||10.8||12.1||13.7||13.3||135.1|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||63||83||130||187||217||211||221||208||152||118||65||51||1,705|
|Source: Royal Meteorological Institute|
Landmarks, arts, and culture
Bruges has most of its medieval architecture intact, making it one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. The historic centre of Bruges has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. Many of its medieval buildings are notable, including the Church of Our Lady, whose brick spire reaches 115.6 m (379.27 ft), making it the world’s second-highest brick tower/building. The sculpture Madonna and Child, which can be seen in the transept, is believed to be the only of Michelangelo‘s sculptures to have left Italy within his lifetime.
Bruges’ most famous landmark is its 13th-century belfry, housing a municipal carillon comprising 47 bells. The city still employs a full-time carillonneur, who gives free concerts on a regular basis.
Bruges is known for its lace, a textile technique. Moreover, the city and its famous lace would go on to inspire the Thread Routes film series, the second episode of which, shot in 2011, was partly set in Bruges.
Several beers are named after the city, such as Brugge Blond, Brugge Tripel, Brugs, Brugse Babbelaar, Brugse Straffe Hendrik, and Brugse Zot. However, only the latter two—Brugse Zot and Brugse Straffe Hendrik—are brewed in the city itself, in the De Halve Maan Brewery.
- Boudewijn Seapark (an amusement park in Sint-Michiels)
- Cinema Liberty
- Cinema Lumière (alternative movies)
- Concertgebouw, Bruges (“Concert Building”)
- De Dijk
- De Werf
- Het Entrepot
- Joseph Ryelandtzaal
- Kinepolis Bruges
- SirkeltheaterStadsschouwburg Brugge
- Studio Hall
||Cultural and food festivals:
||Musical culture festivals:|
Museums and historic sites (non-religious)
Bruges is home to many museums of various kinds. Its art museums include the Arents House, as well as the Groeningemuseum, which has an extensive collection of medieval and early modern art, including a notable collection of Flemish Primitives. Various celebrated painters, such as Hans Memling and Jan van Eyck, lived and worked in Bruges.
The Old St. John’s Hospital (Hans Memling museum) and Our Lady of the Potteries are Hospital museums. Most notably, the city is known for Bruggemuseum (“Bruges Museum”), the general name for a group of 11 different historical museums in the city, including:
- Gruuthusemuseum, a museum for the house of Louis de Gruuthuse.
- Church of Our Lady
- Archaeological Museum
- City Hall on the Burg (Bruges) square
- Provinciaal Hof (Provincial Court)
- Manor of the Brugse Vrije
- Museum of Folklore
- Guido Gezelle Museum
- Koelewei (Cool Meadow) Mill
- Sint-Janshuis (St. John’s House) Mill
Bruges’ non-municipal museums include the Brewery Museum, Hof Bladelin, Choco-Story (chocolate museum), Lumina Domestica (lamp museum), Museum-Gallery Xpo: Salvador Dalí, Diamond Museum, Frietmuseum (museum dedicated to Belgian fries), Historium (museum of the medieval history of Bruges), Lace centre, St. George’s Archers Guild, St. Sebastian’s Archers’ Guild, St. Trudo Abbey, and the Public Observatory Beisbroek.
Religious sites and landmarks
Bruges, the patron saint of which is Andrew the Apostle, is also known for its religious landmarks. The Basilica of the Holy Blood (Dutch: Heilig-Bloedbasiliek), in particular, is the relic of the Holy Blood, which was brought to the city after the Second Crusade by Thierry of Alsace, and is paraded every year through the streets of the city. More than 1,600 inhabitants take part in this mile-long religious procession, many dressed as medieval knights or crusaders.
Other religious landmarks and museums include the Church of Our Lady, English Convent, Jerusalem Church, Saint Salvator’s Cathedral, St. Trudo’s Abbey, Béguinage (Dutch: Begijnhof), and Ter Doest Abbey (Dutch: Abdij Ter Doest) in Lissewege.
The Church of Our Lady (Bruges).
Steenhouwers Canal with the Belfry and spires of the Stadhuis
The Dijver canal and the tower of the Church of Our Lady.
The Provinciaal Hof.
The Steenstraat with St. Salvator’s Cathedral in the background.
Part of the Markt (market square).
The Bonne-Chière windmill.
The “Huis ter Beurze” (center) of Van der Beurze family.
Facade of the Huis ‘t Schaep building
Bruges has motorway connections in all directions:
- to Ostend
- to Ghent and Brussels
- to Veurne and France
- to Kortrijk and Tournai
- to Zeebrugge
- to Antwerp
Driving within the ‘egg’, the historical centre enclosed by the main circle of canals in Bruges, is discouraged by traffic management schemes, including a network of one-way streets. The system encourages the use of set routes leading to central car parks and direct exit routes. The car parks are convenient for the central commercial and tourist areas; they are not expensive.
Bruges’ main railway station is the focus of lines to the Belgian coast. It also provides at least hourly trains to all other major cities in Belgium, as well as to Lille, France. Further there are several regional and local trains.
Bus links to the centre are frequent, though the railway station is just a 10-minute walk from the main shopping streets and a 20-minute walk from the Market Square.
Plans for a north–south light rail connection through Bruges, from Zeebrugge to Lichtervelde, and a light rail connection between Bruges and Ostend are under construction.[clarification needed]
The national Brussels Airport, one hour away by train or car, offers the best connections. The nearest airport is the Ostend-Bruges International Airport in Ostend (around 25 kilometres (16 miles) from the city centre of Bruges), but it offers limited passenger transport and connections. Recently there also started a direct bus line from Brussels South Charleroi Airport to Bruges.
Public city transport
Bruges has an extensive web of bus lines, operated by De Lijn, providing access to the city centre and the suburbs (city lines, Dutch: stadslijnen) and to many towns and villages in the region around the city (regional lines, Dutch: streeklijnen).
Although a few streets are restricted, no part of Bruges is car-free.
Cars are required to yield to pedestrians and cyclists. Plans have long been under way to ban cars altogether from the historic center of Bruges or to restrict traffic much more than it currently is, but these plans have yet to come to fruition. In 2005, signs were changed for the convenience of cyclists, allowing two-way cycle traffic on more streets; however, car traffic has not decreased. Nevertheless, in common with many cities in the region, there are thousands of cyclists in the city of Bruges.
The port of Bruges is Zeebrugge (Flemish for Bruges-on-Sea).
Between 1998 and 2016, Bruges hosted the start of the annual Tour of Flanders cycle race, held in April and one of the biggest sporting events in Belgium.
Football is also popular in Bruges; the city hosts two professional football teams, both of which play at the top level (Belgian First Division) Club Brugge K.V. are the current national champions, while the second team, Cercle Brugge K.S.V., was recently promoted to the first tier. Both teams play their home games at the Jan Breydel Stadium (30,000 seats) in Sint-Andries. There are plans for a new stadium for Club Brugge with about 45,000 seats in the north of the city, while the city council would renovate and reduce the capacity of the Jan Breydel Stadium for Cercle Brugge.
In 2000, Bruges was one of the eight host cities for the UEFA European Football Championship, co-hosted by Belgium and its neighbour the Netherlands.
In 2021, Bruges, along with Leuven, is to host the UCI Road Racing Championship.
Bruges is an important centre for education in West Flanders. Next to the several common primary and secondary schools, there are a few colleges, like the VIVES ( a fusion of the former KHBO (katholieke hogeschool Brugge Oostende) and the KATHO (katholieke hoge school) or the HOWEST (Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen). Furthermore, the city is home to the College of Europe, a prestigious institution of postgraduate studies in European Economics, Law and Politics, and of the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS), a Research and Training Institute of the United Nations University specialising in the comparative study of regional integration.
Town twinning policy
On principle, Bruges has to date never entered into close collaboration with twin cities. Without denying the usefulness of these schemes for towns with fewer international contacts, the main reason is that Bruges would find it difficult to choose between cities and thinks that it has enough work already with its many international contacts. Also, it was thought[who?] in Bruges that twinning was too often an occasion for city authorities and representatives to travel on public expense.
This principle resulted, in the 1950s, in Bruges refusing a jumelage with Nice and other towns, signed by a Belgian ambassador without previous consultation. In the 1970s, a Belgian consul in Oldenburg made the mayor of Bruges sign a declaration of friendship which he tried to present, in vain, as a jumelage.
The twinning between some of the former communes, merged with Bruges in 1971, were discontinued.
This does not mean that Bruges would not be interested in cooperation with others, as well in the short term as in the long run, for particular projects. Here follow a few examples.
- Bastogne, Luxembourg, Belgium
- After World War II and into the 1970s, Bruges, more specifically the Fire Brigade of Bruges, entertained friendly relations with Bastogne. Each year a free holiday was offered at the seaside in Zeebrugge, to children from the Nuts city.
- Arolsen, Hesse, Germany
- From the 1950s until the 1980s, Bruges was the patron of the Belgian First Regiment of Horse Guards, quartered in Arolsen.
- Salamanca, Castilla y León, Spain
- Both towns having been made European Capital of Culture in 2002, Bruges had some exchanges organized with Salamanca.
- Mons, Hainaut, Belgium
- In 2007, cultural and artistic cooperation between Mons and Bruges was inaugurated.
- Burgos, Castilla y León, Spain
- On 29 January 2007, the mayors of Burgos and Bruges signed a declaration of intent about future cooperation on cultural, touristic and economic matters.
Bruges in popular culture
|The following people were born in Bruges:||In the 15th century, the city became the magnet for a number of prominent personalities:|
- Hendrik Conscience‘s The Lion of Flanders, or the Battle of the Golden Spurs (1836, Dutch: De Leeuw van Vlaenderen, of de Slag der Gulden Sporen), is a historical-fiction novel based on the medieval Franco-Flemish War and the Battle of the Golden Spurs, both of which historically include Bruges.
- Ludwig Bemelmans‘ children’s novel The Golden Basket (1936) tells the story of a family’s visit to Bruges. In the novel, two sisters stay at the Golden Basket hotel in Bruges with their father. On a visit to Bruges cathedral with the innkeeper’s son, the sisters meet a dozen little schoolgirls. This would mark the first appearance of Bemelmans’ best-known character, Madeline.:86
- The last chapter of Saul Bellow‘s 1953 novel The Adventures of Augie March features the titular character driving through France on his way to Bruges on business.
- Bruges-la-Morte (1982), a short novel by the Belgian author Georges Rodenbach. The libretto of Erich Wolfgang Korngold‘s opera Die Tote Stadt (1920) is based on this book.
- The detective stories of Belgian writer Pieter Aspe are situated in Bruges.
- Niccolò Rising (1986), the first volume of Dorothy Dunnett‘s eight-book series, House of Niccolò, is largely set in Bruges. Other books in the series also have sections set in the Belgian city.
- Alan Hollinghurst‘s 1994 novel The Folding Star is set in a Flemish town that is recognisably Bruges.
- L’Astrologue de Bruges (“The Astrologer of Bruges,” 1994), a Belgian bande dessinée in the Yoko Tsuno comic series, is entirely set in both contemporary and 1545’s Bruges
- The first part of the “Letters from Zedelghem” story in David Mitchel‘s Cloud Atlas (2004) takes place near Bruges, in the titular Zedelghem municipality.
- Fred Zinneman‘s The Nun’s Story is a 1959 dramatic film starring Audrey Hepburn that is primarily set in Bruges.
- The Killer Is on the Phone (Italian: L’assassino… è al telefono) is a 1972 giallo film set in Bruges.
- The main antagonist of the Austin Powers film series, Dr. Evil, was raised in Bruges
- The 2008 film In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, is set almost entirely in Bruges. Throughout the film, which was directed by British-Irish director Martin McDonagh, the city’s major landmarks and history are mentioned repeatedly, as are the contrasted viewpoints of the two lead characters of the story.
- In 2014 Bollywood film PK, opening scenes involving Anushka Sharma and Sushant Singh Rajput (including song Chaar Kadam) are set in Bruges.
- The story of the removal of the Madonna of Bruges being removed by the Nazis and then returned is told in the fact-based 2014 movie The Monuments Men.
- The 2019 Hallmark movie, Love, Romance & Chocolate, starring Lacey Chabert, takes place in Bruges.
Television and music
- The song “Marieke” by Belgian singer Jacques Brel is about a Flemish girl, Marieke, whom Brel once loved and lived “between the towers of Bruges and Ghent.”
- Floris, a Dutch television action series written by Gerard Soeteman, depicts castles located in Belgian cities, including Bruges.
- In the seventh episode of Where Is My Friend’s Home (2015–2016), a South-Korean reality–travel TV show, the cast tours Bruges as part of the second season’s trip to Belgium.
- Some scenes from episode 6 of season 2 of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. take place in Bruges, where a local beer, “Straffe Hendrik,” is mentioned and shown.