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Architecture in Brussels

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Belgium
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Grand Palace of Brussels
The Grand-Place is the central square of the City of Brussels. All over the world it is known for its decorative and aesthetic wealth. The Grand-Place is surrounded by the guild houses, the City Hall and the Maison du Roi. The Grand-Place is considered as one of the most beautiful places of the world. The Grand-Place of Brussels was registered on the World Heritage List of the UNESCO in 1998. Nowadays, numerous festive or cultural events are organized on the Grand-Place: the Flower carpet (77 x 24m, event organized every 2 years in mid-August and with more than 500.000 begonias; the Ommegang which commemorates the tribute created in 1549 during the coming of Charles the Fifth in Brussels to present it his son, the future Philippe II; the Christmas tree; the daily flower market; the procession of the Meyboom and concerts.
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Cinquantenaire Park
The Cinquantenaire park is comprised of a vast set of gardens dotted with monuments and museums. It is dominated by a triumphal arch with three arches. The park hosts numerous activities throughout the year: events, celebrations, firework displays, sporting events, concerts, etc. This place of interest was built in 1880 for the 50th anniversary of the independence of Belgium. The broad pathways lead to the Pavilion of Human Passions designed by Victor Horta, the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces & Military History, the Royal Museums of Art and History and to Autoworld. At the top of the three triumphal arches there’s a bronze quadriga and an unbeatable sweeping view over the whole of Brussels.
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Europa Building
The Europa building is one of the most recent and magnificent examples of contemporary architecture in Brussels. The enormous cube is made up of 3 750 restored window frames and contains a glass lantern that, at night, is beautifully lit up by 374 LED tubes. This ‘House of the European Member States’, with its multicoloured interior, is the main seat of the European Council and of the Council of the EU, and is where meetings between EU ministers and heads of government are now held. Philippe Samyn, the Europa building’s lead architect, sees it as the expression of a number of the values espoused by the EU. The façade thus consists of window frames from every EU country which signify both the diversity and the craftsmanship of every Member State, as well as the desire to promote sustainability. Thanks to the collection of rainwater, the use of solar panels across the whole area on the top of the building, and the optimised façade structure, the Europa building has been awarded the Valideo environmental certificate. The interior lantern, built in a shape that was necessary to avoid too much pressure being exerted on the ground and the underground metro tunnels, mainly contains meeting rooms and a large press room and press area.
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St Rumbolds Cathedral
St Rumbold's Cathedral was built in the thirteenth century. From the outset it was larger and more impressive than all the other parish churches and later on it became 'the church of the archbishops'. Originally there was a triple-nave cruciform church on the site of the vast cathedral. Only after a series of building campaigns did the church become a city's star attraction. The inside of the cathedral is breathtaking. You can admire Anthony van Dyck's painting 'Christ on the Cross', along with works by (among others) Michel Coxcie, Gaspard de Crayer and Abraham Janssens. The real showpiece, however, has to be the high altar by Lucas Faydherbe which dates from 1665.
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Kazerne Dossin
Kazerne Dossin is a very special place of remembrance for Belgium. As 'SS Sammellager Mecheln', the Dossin barracks was a waitingroom for death for more than 25,000 Jews and gypsies from Belgium and Northern France during the Second World War. A brand-new museum has been built to record the historical significance of this place for present and future generations and to illustrate themes like racism, exclusion and human rights. The combination of the human rights theme and the historical story of the Holocaust in Belgium makes Kazerne Dossin a project of European interest. The new museum was designed by leading architect and former Flemish Government Architect bOb Van Reeth.
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Leuven Town Hall
The town hall is Leuven's pride and joy. Moreover, it's one of the best-known Gothic town halls worldwide. It took three architects and thirty years to build it. Leuven's 'Hall of Fame' features 236 statues, which were only added to the façade after 1850. These days the town hall merely has a ceremonial function after the city's administrative services moved in 2009. The tourist information center is situated on the side of the town hall. Also daily guided tours are available. The guide will tell you about the construction history of this Gothic gem. You will discover the story behind the 236 sculptures on the façade. Afterwards, you can visit the foyer, the reception rooms, the large and small Gothic Hall, the wedding hall and the council hall. Every third Saturday of the month you can visit the cellars under the town hall. These cellars have housed the ‘Jaartallen’ collection since the very first edition in 1890. The entrance is located at Grote Markt square next to the town hall’s flight of step.
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Saint Peter's Church
Saint Peter’s stands in the very centre of Leuven. It was built as a Romanesque church in 986, and it is therefore the oldest church in the city. In 1176, the building was ravaged by fire (probably for the first time), and two centuries later, part of the church again burned to the ground. In the 15th century, the Romanesque building was gradually taken down to make way for the Gothic church you see today. This process took more than a century. Over the last century, Saint Peter’s Church has undergone several extensive renovations, returning it to its full glory. That is why Saint Peter’s Church is now generally recognized as one of the finest examples of 15th-century Brabantine High Gothic architecture, and it is an unmissable tourist attraction in the city of Leuven.
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M-Museum Leuven
The museum displays old and new art inspired by Leuven’s versatility. The collection is mainly focused on the art production in Leuven and Brabant from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. It includes Constantin Meunier, Jef Lambeaux and Georges Minne. In addition to the permanent collection, M also presents temporary exhibitions of both old masters and contemporary artists. Discover the personalised offer for groups and families. The impressive architecture deserves special attention. Designed by Belgian top architect Stéphane Beel, the complex integrates historical buildings and contemporary architecture. Don’t miss the enclosed garden and roof terrace.
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The Trazegnies Castle
Trazegnies was the seat of a powerful seigniory and the cradle of one of the most illustrious families in Europe. Trazegnies' family possessed a castle worthy of her. Over the centuries, the castle has undergone a great many transformations. The splendid main building is a jewel in Belgium’s crown and is almost unique in the country, displaying architecture in the style of Louis XIII. The Romanesque cellars still survive today from the primitive manor, a rare testimony of the 11th century. Today, part of the castle is available for hire for different events: seminars, buffets and much more.
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Vlaeykensgang
The secret Vlaeykensgang alley dates from 1591 and connects Hoogstraat, Oude Koornmarkt Pelgrimstraat with one another. Walk through the gate at Oude Koornmarkt 16 and you feel as if you have journeyed back in time. In the past this alley was where the shoemakers and the poorest people in the city lived. The shoemakers were also in charge of sounding the alarm bell of the cathedral. These days you can find antiques stores and art galleries here as well as the exclusive restaurant Sir Anthony Van Dyck. The atmosphere is very intimate which is why many people also like to come here to listen to the carillon concerts during the summertime.
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Cathedral of Our Lady
The Cathedral is an iconic treasury, with an impressive collection of major art works, including a series of paintings by Rubens. Now, after twenty years, the seven-naved church has been restored to its former architectural glory. Fascinating features include Rubens’ ‘Elevation of the Cross’ and his ‘Descent from the Cross’. After 169 years of construction the cathedral of Antwerp finally dominated Antwerp's skyline in 1521 with a height of 123 metres. It's the highest Gothic building in the Low Countries. Any visit to Antwerp starts with a visit of the Cathedral of Our Lady!
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Saint James's Church
St James‘ Church is the starting point for pilgrims journeying to the burial place of St James the Greater in Santiago de Compostela. The church is also known for the resting place of Rubens. This church, which is within short walking distance from Antwerp’s main shopping street Meir, is one of the largest churches in Antwerp. Like so many other European cities Antwerp also has a sanctuary for St. James. In the early fifteenth century there was a hospice here, which welcomed Northern European pilgrims travelling to the tomb of the apostle James in Santiago de Compostela. In 1413 a chapel, dedicated to St. James, was added to the hospice. Soon the chapel proved too small. As a consequence construction started on the current church in Brabant Gothic style in 1491. It would take no less than 175 years to complete the church. St. James’s Church served as parish church for several smaller crafts and guilds and religious brotherhoods. The choir was completed during the Baroque period with the tombs and chapels of wealthy families. The most famous memorial chapel is that of the Antwerp Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens. He painted the altarpiece Madonna Surrounded by Saints in the chapel. Elsewhere in the church you can admire a masterpiece by Jacob Jordaens. St. James’s Church has one of the oldest working tower clocks.
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The Antwerp Canals (Ruien)
Visit The Ruien, a truly unique attraction, and walk through Antwerp's former canals and sewers. During this adventurous and astonishing underground walk you'll discover some of Antwerp's exciting and rich history. Sewers, streams and ramparts have criss-crossed the city since the Middle Ages. This network of waterways provided Antwerp with drinking water and an inland port. Later, the waterways served as sewers. They were eventually covered with vaulted ceilings. This unique piece of heritage disappeared from view. Now you can rediscover this hidden patrimony. A visit to The Ruien is a walk along old vaulted ceilings, narrow canals, bridges, sewers and sluices. You'll get a peak at the underbelly of the city and hear secretive anecdotes and fascinating facts from the distant and recent past.
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Grote Markt
Grote Markt originally was a forum or square just outside the medieval residential quarter. In 1220 Duke Henry I of Brabant (1165-1235) donated this community land to the city. The name Merckt was used for the first time in 1310. Around this time the first annual markets or foren van Brabant (Brabant fairs) were organised. Here English merchants would do business with Italians, Spaniards and merchants from the Northern German Hanseatic cities as well as from Southern Germany and Flemings of course. At the end of the fifteenth century Antwerp overtook Bruges as the most prominent city of the Low Countries.
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Museum aan de Stroom
Visitors to Antwerp have been flocking to the hip Eilandje district, an old dockside neighbourhood, to visit the MAS | Museum aan de Stroom, which opened in 2011. This is where the city and the port – the second largest port in Europe even – converge. The stunning architecture and the museum collection are perfect examples of this. The MAS has a phenomenally large collection, which to date comprises about 500,000 items, including artworks and utensils. New objects are constantly being added to the collection. The museum uses its entire collection to weave a new narrative, based on five universal themes, on just as many floors. The MAS takes a closer look at power politics and world ports. At how food shaped and will shape today’s metropolises in the past, present and future. And at life and death, of people and gods, in the upper and under world. Moreover, the third floor and the walking boulevard host some fascinating and highly diverse temporary exhibitions.
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Abbey of Oignies
Dating back to the end of the 13th century, the Oignies Abbey is located in a classified and preserved historic setting. Its robust silhouette stands on the foundations of the old chapel Saint-Nicolas, dedicated to the patron saint of boatmen. The abbey is known worldwide for its cultural, social and economic activities which throughout the centuries have allowed it to flourish. His treasure is considered one of the seven wonders of Belgium. It was a meeting place and residence of illustrious personalities and the production workshop of goldsmith Hugo d'Oignies. His invaluable pieces are always present in Namur. Also place where Sainte Marie d'Oignies lived exhilarating hours as well as. Nestled in a park of 3 ha, the abbey is planted with beautiful trees more than a hundred years old; this secure park is entirely walled and is on the edge of the Sambre. The Abbey of Ognies offers its guests what they need to feel at home. Thousands of guests from all over the world and of all ages have crossed paths and crossed each other for more than 800 years.
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Museum of Fine Arts Ghent
The strength of the Museum of Fine Arts (MSK) in Ghent, one of the oldest museums in Belgium, lies in the varied nature of its collection, which is nothing short of remarkable. Never before have old masters and modernists hung side-by-side so perfectly as in this iconic museum building. At the end of the 18th century, Ghent was under French rule and many of the city’s art treasures were seized. Some of them can still be seen in the Louvre in Paris today. Rebellious Ghent wasn’t having any of it and slowly began to establish a wide-ranging art collection, searching for years to find an appropriate building. The ideal location was found in the building designed by the architect Van Rysselberghe in the Citadelpark, a museum with a fantastic feeling of spaciousness and a lot of light. The collection, which ranges from Hieronymus Bosch to Rubens and Magritte, has never been shown more attractively than it is today. It covers an enormous variety of paintings, statues, drawings, etchings and tapestries, from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. An auditorium, a library, a children’s workshop and a brasserie turn the MSK into a contemporary, multipurpose complex where you can spend many a pleasant hour surrounded by beauty during your weekend trip to Ghent. Why not take a virtual peek inside the MSK now?
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SMAK Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art
Lovers of contemporary art absolutely can’t afford to miss a visit to the S.M.A.K. during their weekend in Ghent. The Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art, or S.M.A.K. for short (in Dutch), was founded in 1999 and is located opposite the MSK in a former casino building. The city of Ghent is known for its rebelliousness, and its contemporary art museum is every bit as dynamic and unconventional as Ghent itself. The collection is considered to be the most important collection of contemporary art in Flanders, with world-famous works of art from Belgium and abroad. Every four months, the museum exhibits a selection of these works in alternation with original, often daring exhibitions. Recover at leisure from the assault on your senses in the museum café. Under the inspiring leadership of the controversial curator and ‘art pope’ Jan Hoet, the former ‘contemporary art wing’ of the MSK was given its own museum, the S.M.A.K. The permanent collection at this museum for contemporary art includes top Belgian and international works of art by Cobra, pop art, minimal art, conceptual art and arte povera artists, who are now among the most famous artists in the world.
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St Bavos Cathedral
This magnificent sight on Sint-Baafsplein in Ghent is a proud old lady: don’t just walk past her on your city trip. St Bavo’s Cathedral is the oldest parish church in the lively heart of Ghent. It stands on the site of a 10th century church and a 12th century Romanesque church. The latter was dedicated to St John the Baptist. In the Middle Ages, Ghent was a rich and powerful city that had the means to commission ever-larger and more opulent churches. So the Church of St John the Baptist was converted during the 15th and 16th centuries into the imposing Gothic St Bavo’s Cathedral. St Bavo’s Cathedral has a rich history and it is also filled with art treasures that make many an art-lover’s mouth water: from the baroque high altar in white, black and red flamed marble, the Rococo pulpit in oak, gilded wood and marble, to a masterpiece by Rubens: Saint Bavo enters the Convent at Ghent, and the Calvary Triptych by Justus van Gent, the Gothic chandelier/sanctuary lamp, the opulent tombs of the Bishops of Ghent – and of course the world-famous Mystic Lamb.
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Ghent Belfry
Look up at the magical city skyline for a moment during your weekend trip in Ghent: you can’t miss it. The Belfry is the middle tower in the famous row of three, between St Bavo’s Cathedral and St Nicholas’ Church. A fiery dragon, the proud symbol and mascot of Ghent, guards the historic heart of the city. The Ghent Belfry symbolises the city’s prosperity and independence. The Cloth Hall, built onto the Belfry, was completed in 1907. The flamboyant Brabant Gothic style of the Cloth Hall is an ode to the industry to which Ghent owes so much. On the corner of the Cloth Hall is an old jailer’s house. Every Sunday morning you can hear the carillonneur at work between 11 am and 12 noon. And you can enjoy a carillon concert on the first Friday of each month from 8 to 9 pm. In the summer months, the concert takes place every Saturday night!
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St Nicholas' Church
This church in Tournai bluestone is one of the most beautiful examples of the Scheldt Gothic style. One of its unique elements is that the tower is not above the entrance but above the crossing of the nave and transepts. It functions as a sort of natural lantern as the light shines into the transept from the tower.
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House of Alijn
The House of Alijn museum in Ghent puts the ordinary daily life of 20th-century people in the spotlight. This was once the ‘Children of Alijn hospice’. It is the only almshouse—a charitable institution where the old and sick were cared for—to have been preserved in Ghent. Traditions and rituals belong to the past and present. Daily routines and special events determine the rhythm of your life. During your weekend trip to Ghent, enjoy the customs, traditions and rituals at the House of Alijn museum that recall a recent or more distant past. Go ‘Back to the future’: rediscover your very first baby photos, marbles in the playground, your first love, the excitement of the summer holidays... The way we approach ‘occasions and emotions’ changes over time: it is both personal and universal. Find out that everyday life is anything but ordinary. Enjoy these collective memories in the lovely courtyard garden and a typical working-class pub. We recommend it!
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Design Museum Gent
Wild about design? Be sure to visit the Design Museum Gent. A modern, open building lurks behind a magnificent 18th-century façade. This impressive city residence in Rococo style was bought by the City of Ghent in 1922 and used it to house the Design Museum. The temporary exhibitions complement the magnificent permanent collection, from art nouveau to trends in contemporary design. Even if you don’t need to go, the toilet enclosure at the museum is well worth a visit. The bathroom wing was built in defiance after Design Museum Gent kept being refused the funds for expansion by Ghent City Council. When it did get a permit for a huge monumental work of art, a huge toilet roll with toilets hidden inside it, a message was added with a double meaning: ‘de pot op’. Literally it means “go to the loo” but what the expression really means colloquially is “go to hell”, giving the figurative finger to Ghent City Council.
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Castle of the Counts
A weekend trip to Ghent is simply not complete without a visit to the mysterious ‘Castle of the Counts’. This important sight in Ghent is a castle with a very turbulent past, closely intertwined with the complex—often stormy—political and social history of the city. It is the only remaining mediaeval castle with a moat and largely intact defence system in Flanders. Your visit to the Castle of the Counts will give you a complete picture of heraldic culture in the 12th century. The gatehouse, ramparts, keep, count’s residence and stables are open to visitors. The Castle of the Counts boasts a unique collection of torture equipment. What used to be the pantry now features the torture equipment, which is displayed in a suggestive executioner's cabinet. The former courtroom features the collection of judicial objects. The Castle of the Counts also hosts all kinds of cultural activities, events and activities, for example during the Ghent Festivities. It is also a popular place to get married for Ghent’s locals. Let’s not forget the time the Castle of the Counts was occupied by protesting students in 1949! Explore the castle during your weekend trip in Ghent and find out all about the ‘Battle of the Castle of the Counts’.
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Museum of Photography Charleroi
With 80,000 photographs in its collection (800 of which are permanently on the show), Charleroi's Museum of Photography is considered the most important of its kind in Europe. Over 13,000 titles and 4,000 files dedicated to photography are accessible to the public in the museum's library. The museum shop features the publications, photography works, gadgets and ideas for gifts and decoration. Go for a stroll in the museum's park: 85 ha featuring protected trees. Perfect to conclude your visit and reflect on the gems you have just seen!
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Belfry of Mons
Built in the park belonging to Hainaut’s counts, on the site of the former château, the building nicknamed “el Catiau” towers over the city. From the garden, the view of Mons is simply stunning. From the top of the hill, you can imagine the history of this city, the trials that it has had to live through over the centuries, and its influence through time, until it became the capital of Hainaut. Next to the belfry, the Sainte-Calixte Chapel remains the city’s oldest religious monument. This Roman style chapel was built in 1051 and now houses a museum where you can learn about the history of the old château and the restoration undergone by the belfry.
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Dr Guislain Museum
The oldest mental asylum in Belgium, which dates back to 1857 is in Jozef Guislainstraat. Today it houses an absolutely fascinating museum. It was the visionary Dr Guislain who was one of the first to think of mentally ill people as patients with a right to humane treatment. The shame that was felt at the way psychiatric patients had been treated in the past was the impetus for founding the Dr Guislain Museum in Ghent in 1986. Dr Guislain Museum in Ghent aims to break down the many prejudices that still define what is ‘mentally ill’ and what is ‘normal’. Discover the permanent collection and find out about the history of psychiatry, as well as an international collection of outsider art or art brut. The temporary exhibitions are always great too.
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Tournai The Notre-Dame Cathedral
So many adjectives that describe Notre-Dame Cathedral in Tournai, a true jewel of medieval architecture. The only Belgian Cathedral listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, this masterpiece of Western art draws the scenery of the country for miles around. A must-visit in your discovery of Tournai! 134 m long including 58 m for the only choir, 67 m wide for the transept, 83 m high for the tallest tower. The proportions of Notre Dame Cathedral are gigantic. The nave and transept built in the 12th century are Romanesque. The choir, completed in 1254, is of Gothic style. This combination of stones gives it an undeniable originality and the 5 towers that dominate the city make it a unique building of its kind. Discover an exceptional treasure room with the presence of major works: the two large reliquaries of Notre-Dame and Saint-Eleuthère, precious ivories, goldsmiths' pieces, a 14th century Arras tapestry. Since 2006, a vast restoration project is at work: stabilization of the Gothic choir, replacement of roofs, cleaning stone walls, restoration of stained glass windows ... The building site is constantly evolving and completely renovated parts appear over the days.
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Belfry of Tournai
The Belfry of Tournai, listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, is the oldest in Belgium. True watchtower since the 12th century, it overlooks the Grand Place of Tournai of its 72 meters high. After having climbed the 257 steps, the top of the Belfry offers you the most beautiful panorama of the city and its surroundings! The Belfry has long played an important role in the city of Tournai: watchtower, prison, steeple, city hall ... It previously symbolized the communal freedoms and its bell, called "Bancloque", warned the population of the trials, executions, invasions or fires. After being renovated for 10 years (1992-2002), the Belfry allows you to discover its history through didactic panels, the dungeon, the carillonneur's room and the carillon that resonates in the city every Sunday in summer.
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Grand Place of Tournai
The Grand Place of Tournai, a place of relaxation in a prestigious setting. Taste the conviviality of a Grand-Place animated by the terraces of numerous cafes and restaurants. From the rue Saint-Martin, the rue des Maux or the Place de l'Eveche, join one of the most beautiful and authentic Grand Place in the country! Triangular in shape, it is the perfect place to enjoy one of our typical dishes or one of our local beers. On sunny days, it's a whole neighborhood that comes alive, rocked by the sound of water jets and child players. The terraces fill up, the little sweet pleasures are tasted, the chime sounds for the delight of music lovers. Place of exchange, market and events, the Grand Place radiates throughout the City of 5 Clochers!
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Windmills of Bruges
One of the best thing you can do in Bruges is to take a beautiful short walk along the ramparts with its windmills. It is nearby the city center, so after discovering shopping places, beers and coffees, this is a great opportunity to escape from the busy city life for a moment. Belgium has a rich mill history. If you check a map of Bruges from the 16th century, you can see there were no less than 23 windmills here! They were part of the town walls since the end of 13th century. Nowadays, there are four remaining mills between the Dampoort and the Kruispoort: Koeleweimill, Nieuwe Papegaai, Sint-Janshuismill and Bonne Chiere.
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Begijnhof (Beguinage)
The 'Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaarde' with its white-coloured house fronts and tranquil convent garden was founded in 1245. This little piece of world heritage was once the home of the beguines, emancipated lay-women who nevertheless led a pious and celibate life. Today the beguinage is inhabited by nuns of the Order of St. Benedict and several Bruges women who have decided to remain unmarried. In the Beguine's house, you can still get a good idea of what day-to-day life was like in the 17th century.
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Church of Our Lady Bruges
The 115.5 metres high brick tower of the Church of Our Lady is a perfect illustration of the craftsmanship of Bruges’ artisans. The church displays a valuable art collection: Michelangelo’s world-famous Madonna and Child, countless paintings, 13th-century painted sepulchres and the tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold. Useful to know: at the moment, large-scale renovation works are still being carried out, so the church is only partially accessible and many works of art cannot be viewed. The choir was renovated in 2015 and the remarkable church interior can now once again be admired in all its splendour.
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Bruges by Boat
A visit to Bruges isn’t complete without a boat trip on its canals. Go aboard at any of the five landing stages for a half-hour trip that allows you to appreciate the most noteworthy delights of the city from a completely different angle. March to mid-November: daily 10.00 a.m.-6.00 p.m. (last departure at 5.30 p.m.).
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Basilica of the Holy Blood
The Basilica of the Holy Blood is a Roman Catholic basilica in Bruges. The church houses a venerated relic of the Holy Blood allegedly collected by Joseph of Arimathea and brought from the Holy Land by Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders. The double church, dedicated to Our Lady and Saint Basil in the 12th century and a basilica since 1923, consists of a lower church that has maintained its Romanesque character and a neo-Gothic upper church, in which the relic of the Holy Blood is preserved. The treasury, with numerous valuable works of art, is also worth a visit.
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Belfort (Belfry & Carillon)
The most important of Bruges’ towers stands 83 metres tall. It houses, amongst other things, a carillon with 47 melodious bells. In the reception area, waiting visitors can discover all kinds of interesting information about the history and working of this unique world-heritage protected belfry. Those who take on the challenge of climbing the tower can pause for a breather on the way up in the old treasury, where the city’s charters, seal and public funds were kept during the Middle Ages, and also at the level of the impressive clock or in the carillonneur chamber. Finally, after a tiring 366 steps, your efforts will be rewarded with a breath-taking and unforgettable panoramic view of Bruges and her surroundings.
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