Medieval buildings, romantic squares, pretty canals, world-class art; Bruges is a lavish feast for the eyes. This being Belgium, it also provides satisfaction for the tastebuds, with flavoursome local beers, the crispest frites and, of course, world-renowned chocolate. A perfect destination to explore on foot, Bruges is ideal for discerning travellers keen to discover a city where history, culture and cuisine combine like nowhere else.
You'll immediately soak up the unique atmosphere of Bruges' beautifully preserved historic core, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of its gabled buildings were built on wealth accrued from the textile industry that transformed the city into one of Northern Europe's most important trading centres during the Middle Ages. Whether strolling by one of the many waterways that give Bruges its 'Venice of the North' moniker, sipping coffee in the old market square with bells from the 13th-century Belfry peeling in the background, or taking a gentle trip by horse and carriage, the city's ambience is sure to instil a sense of tranquility.
Art-lovers will be attracted to the wealth of exceptional works to be found across the city. Bruges was at the heart of the Flemish Primitive movement, and one of its earliest members was Jan van Eyck, Bruges' most famous resident. You can see several of his classic paintings at the superb Groeningemuseum, while the 12th-century former hospital of Sint- Janshospitaal houses detailed works by renowned artist, Hans Memling. Throw in Pieter Brueghel (the Younger and Elder), Hieronymus Bosch, Michelangelo, Magritte and DalÃ and it's clear that Bruges offers something for every art lover.
Another unmissable sight is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. As you enter through its gilded facade you'll be transported to 12th-century Flanders. In the upper chapelle in a silver tabernacle you'll find the Basilica's star attraction - a phial said to contain drops of Christ's blood, reputedly brought back from the Holy Land after one of the Crusades.
If your penchant is for nothing more than to wander the city and unearth some hidden gems, you'll be rewarded at every turn. Meander through the cobbled lanes and you may spot 18th-century windmills, tiny chapels, rows of almshouses and even a silent religious order of Benedictine nuns. A break in one of Bruges' cosy restaurants or cafes is a must, too; your only quandary is which delicious dish to choose from or whether to pick a dubbel, tripel or lambic from the extensive list of Belgian beers. A treat for all the senses, Bruges is sure to capture you in its romantic spell.
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Explore the fascinating medieval history of Bruges on an illuminating walking tour of its many highlights;
Discover the significance of Flanders during the First World War in a thought-provoking visit to Ypres and the Tyne Cot Cemetery;
Learn how the world’s finest chocolates are made at one of Bruges’ last surviving traditional chocolatiers ;
Three nights’ accommodation, including all local taxes, in a choice of quality three to four-star centrally located hotels with breakfast;
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