Bruges Hidden Gems

October 20, 2014

The Beltower, the canals, the Flemish Primitives, the gothic city hall … all the necessary ingredients for an introductory visit to Bruges. But there is more….

There are also all those hidden places, which are not part of the traditional city must-sees . Yet, it is exactly those hidden treasures that give a visit to Bruges that extra special touch. Peeking in a hidden garden, absorbing the atmosphere of idyllic streets , being taken back to the Middle Ages for a moment… All a different way to discover Bruges. Let us provide you with some suggestions.

The courtyards of Bladelin Court (with the medallion portraits of Lorenzo de Medici and his wife) and the Folklore Museum (where a petanque court was built) provide a welcome rest in the middle of the city and are definitely worth a visit.

Another hidden gem is the Queen Astrid Park – by the locals also known as “The Botanical Garden”. It’s a nice park with a pond and a fountain, and a colourful kiosk which is often used for concerts in summertime.

Just two streets away, the canals show their best side. The Groenerei and Peerdenbrug are the perfect postcard scenery: a varied but typical Bruges view with old bridges and historic buildings framed by a touch of nature. If you follow the water northward, you will certainly not be disappointed. The ramparts are embellished by four mills. Two of them, the Sint-Janshuis Mill and the Koelewei Mill (both still active today) are open during the summer.

We have in the meantime entered the most peaceful part of the city: the Saint Anna district, which offers more hidden treasures, like the Jerusalem Chapel and the Lace Centre for example. The Jerusalem Chapel was built by the Adornes family and is based on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The tomb of the Adornes couple can be seen in this church.

Between the mills and the Lace Centre there is another hidden gem, the Albrecht Rodenbachstraat. This green suburb avant la lettre offers an almost continuous succession of step-gables and other fascinating facades, each fronted by a deligthful little garden. Closer to the historical centre, the Genthof street draws attention as an artistic gathering place. You will find a glassblower, a poetry shop, a hip vintage site and several contemporary galleries in this street.

Less contemporary, but at least as hidden are the ruins of the medieval St. Donaas Cathedral, at that time the most important church of Bruges, located at the Burg. In the Crowne Plaza Hotel, the foundations of this church can be visited free of charge.

To conclude Bruges’ hidden hot spots we should of course not forget the small, whitewashed almshouses. There are about forty of them scattered around the city. These houses were established as a charitable act by guilds for their elderly members or by wealthy citizens who aimed to acquire a place in heaven. They are mostly clustered around a cosy courtyard. Today there are still elderly people living in the restored houses. They are free of charge and the ideal places to just relax.

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