This is Europe's best reserved medi-eval town. This is a true fairytale!
Belgium is broken into two parts the north is Flanders, which is Flemish/Dutch speaking, and the south is Wallonie, which is the French section.
Bruges in the north could be called the perfect tourist attraction. Misfortune drove away its townsfolk and it is now one of Europe's best-preserved medieval cities, with many evocative memories of times long gone.
During the 12th and 15th centuries, it was a prosperous cloth manufacturing town and centre for art. Its merchant classes erected impressive monuments, such as the massive market halls and the towering 83-metre Belfort, which could be seen by traders as they sailed from distant lands. Its population outstripped that of London and under the dukes of Burgundy, the arts flourished. Its history also holds stories of gruesome battles and waves of invading armies from France, Spain, Austria and both world wars.
During the 15th century, the Zwin, the waterway linking Bruges to the sea, began to fill with silt and ships were no longer able to reach the docks. Attempts to build another canal were futile and merchants moved to Antwerp, leaving abandoned houses, deserted streets, fortification and empty canals.
The former hub of Europe was basically dormant for 400 years, but now two million tourists stroll the cobbled streets of the living museum each year.
The imposing Belfort tower, with its 366 steps, has had its carillon rung every day since it was built in 1240. Carilloners have dedication and pride and, having to climb the 366 steps each day, are very fit into the bargain! A climb in the late afternoon rewards with a wonderful view of rustic roofs and the warm tones of the town.
Quasimundo is a bicycle tour operator offering tours within and around Bruges. Cycling is an excellent way to see the countryside and way of life and these tours run every day in the tourist season, from mid-March to September.
On the tour you can see Leper and its famous WWI battlefields or feast on waffles, chocolates and taste the famous local beer. There are many tree-lined tracks, lots of canals and you will see many grain grinding mills, one of which has was built as far back as 1770. You are collected from your accommodation and a picnic lunch is included.
There are many options for other tours walking is easy and there are boat, minibus and horse-drawn carriage tours. Canal tours can be arranged through Venetie van het Noorden (Venice of the North).
Exploration of the city usually begins at the Markt. The large open square is flanked by wonderfully preserved medieval buildings. Most of the gabled and fabled guild houses edging the Markt are restaurants and are very popular with tourists. The Burg is also impressive. Religious zealots tore down the beautiful St Donatian Cathedral in 1799, but it still contains some of the city's most appealing buildings.
Steenstraat, the main shopping area, is lined with shops and department stores. There are around 80 lace shops in nooks and crannies along the way and shops on Woolestraat specialising in Vlaanderen tapestries.
One-and-a-half hours drive north of Brussels in Belgium
Quasimundo Bike Tours Bruges run tours out of Burg Square between March and October. Prices start at around $30 per person.
Austrian Airlines flies three times a week to Singapore with connections to Brussels. They have put together a special fare for Getaway
viewers. Return economy fares, per person are $1399 ex Sydney and Melbourne (plus $333 and $268 tax respectively), $1549 ex Brisbane and Adelaide (plus $316 tax) and $1619 ex Perth (plus $294 tax). For sale until March 28, 2005, for travel between October 4 and November 11, 2005, and January 6, 2006, and February 24, 2006.
Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.
Quasimundo Bike Tours Bruges
Nieuwe Gentweg 5
Ph: 32 050 330 775
Fax: 32 050 670 firstname.lastname@example.org
Venetie van het Noorden
Ph: 32 050 330 041
Fax: 32 050 344 126
Travellers should be 'in date' for standard Australia and New Zealand immunisation schedules. Depending on time of year of travel and exact destination, other health precautions and preventions may be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, speak to your doctor or visit www.welltogo.com.au