Center Market and Burg

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Home Page > Travelogues > Belgium > Bruges > Center Market and Burg

Other Chapters in the Bruges section:  [ Center Market and Burg ] Minnewater and South ] East Bruges ]

Center Market and Burg 

This chapter in the Bruges travelogue covers the part that most visitors will likely Center Markethit.  It is absolutely gorgeous, clean, lively, and one of a kind.  In about a three-city block area, one gets lovely canals a la Amsterdam, an extraordinary market square like Warsaw, and a superb white palace like the Nymphenburg in Munich, only without the palace garden.  Obviously, in fair weather these sights can be well attended, and not just from Belgians.  In fact, because of Bruges' location in the far west of Belgium, it is just a short train and ferry ride away from Dover, England.  Consequently, on my visit to this part of the city, there were a large number of Englishmen present and wandering the sights.

The first photograph shows the Center Market, but only a portion of it.  The statue at left, mounted on its marvelously decorative pillar, is actually in the center of the square.  The beautiful red square buildings in the distance hosted pubs and restaurants.  Each were full with customers on this sunny day.  Similar structures bounded the market square left Provincial Palaceof the statue.  The second photograph was taken from the exact same spot as the first, except facing toward the right.  This was the Provincial Palace.  The photograph probably doesn't do justice to the facade, which was very ornate with little hints of gold trim.

I wandered the entire square, then followed the far end of the square southward, in the direction of the Westmeers (covered in the Minnewater chapter) and the main train station.  Along the way, I passed by the Belfort (meaning "belfry", shown in the third photograph) and the Simon Stevin Square nearby.  This square was a simple park with a massive statue in the center of the famous 16th century mathematician and engineer born in Bruges (see entry on Mr. Stevin in Wikipedia).  I continued on down the Steenstraat, a tight market street that was streaming with people coming to and from the train and bus stations.  I reached the latter, which was located in a large open area in the old city's west.  There waBelforts a modern-style fountain called the T' Zand, formed in multiple layers of grey stone covered with several dark and bulbous naked figurines seeming to represent ordinary people.

I decided to spend the next part of the journey following the canals.  But, I did not take the boat rides as the lines for the tour boats were very long and I did not want to lose valuable time.  All the canals inside the old city were followed on both sides by sidewalks, so I chose to follow the canals on foot.  There were places where the canals were as wide as a river, but others where it was very narrow, barely wide enough to fit the tour boats, as the fourth photograph can attest.

The canals made for some absolutely fantastic scenes.  There was a tour boat stop named the OLV Kerkhof Zuid where the far side of the canal was actually the outer wall of a large church that appears partly submerged.  There was a winding stretch of canal that cut right through a neighborhood, with houses lined up along both banks.  And of course there were tiny footbridges like the one shown in the fourth photograph.  Some were clearly restored but obviously Boats in the Canalsrebuilt to appear as in days of old.  They made terrific vantage points.

Having circled back to the Central Market, I then moved on to the main attraction, the square simply known as the Burg.  This square contained several gorgeous structures, some incredibly bright and decorative and others stately and magnificent.  I entered via an alley that was covered by a decorative gilded archway that told me I was headed somewhere special.  The arch was connected to the Stadhuis, or town hall, that was tall, white with tons of gold trim and little murals of famous Bruges residents, and with exceptionally tall, narrow windows that made the building look like a church.  But, the church was next -- the Basilica of the Holy Blood.  This was an unusual Basilica, with an ornate plain grey stone facade yet with golden figurines interspersed across the front.  I didn't know if that was how the place was originally decorated, or if perhaps the basilica was once white to match the Stadhuis.  Also at the Burg was the Recorders' House, a coBurgmparatively simple white and gold building that anywhere else in the city would cause jaws to drop.  The fifth photograph shows on end of the Basilica at the left corner and a number of very posh restaurants and shops extending to the right.

Even with the massive crowds in the city center and on the tour boats, I was really impressed with how clean this part of Bruges was.  There was no garbage or filth anywhere.  Sanitation dudes were even on top of collecting the horse dung.  It was tremendous, especially compared to other Belgian cities I visited.

I did another pass around the Central Market after dinner, which I had at a very nice restaurant on the Simon Stevin Square (a traditional bucket of Belgian mussels -- what can I say?).  The major sights were well lit -- good for those whose cameras handle nighttime well (mine did not, unfortunately).

If I were to return to Bruges, without question I would do a canal boat ride, long lines or not.  Even though I was able to capture most of the scene from land, doing the canal rides would probably have offered a different perspective that I had missed.  Also, I would have loved to spend more time in the Burg, perhaps visiting the interiors of the buildings as I suspect the design is awesome.

Other Chapters in the Bruges section:  [ Center Market and Burg ] Minnewater and South ] East Bruges ]

Trip Taken 16-17 March 2002 -- Last Updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin.  The Bruges City Homepage used for fact checking in 2006.

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