Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the northwest of the country. Along with a few other canal-based northern cities, such as Amsterdam, it is sometimes referred to as The Venice of the North. Bruges has a significant economic importance thanks to its port in Zeebrugge, and was once one of the world's chief commercial cities. The area of the city amounts to 13,840 hectares (53 sq. miles), including 1,075 hectares of coast (4 sq. miles), while the population has been holding steady at just fewer than 120,000.
Bruges has a moderate sea climate with relatively mild winters and rather cool summers. Because of the warm Gulf Stream from the Atlantic Ocean, sea temperatures are slightly higher than in the rest of the North Sea. Rain falls all year round with the smallest chances for rain in the spring. July is the hottest month with an average temperature of 17C (63F) and January is the coldest month at 5C (41F). Although most visitors come to the city in the spring and summer months, Bruges has something to offer all year round.
The history of Bruges is one of rise, fall and rise again. Traders from all over the world flocked to the city to sell their wares and to buy internationally-acclaimed Flemish cloth, which was produced in various cities, including nearby Ghent. In the 14th century, Bruges developed into the warehouse of the North-European cities. Several countries, such as Italy, Germany and Spain, had their own representation in Bruges, making it a truly European center where different languages could be heard daily and where exotic products could be found. In the 15th century, the larger harbor of Antwerp came to dominate and the cloth industry fell into decline. Art and architecture continued to flourish, however, with the construction of splendid late-gothic buildings and churches, and the Flemish painting school. By the end of the 16th century, Bruges no longer held any great power and by the middle of the 1800s, Bruges was the poorest city in Belgium. The 20th century, however, brought new life, when the city became an international tourist destination and Bruges' medieval heritage turned out to be a new source of wealth for the 'Venice of the North.
Listed on UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Bruges has the best-preserved example of a medieval city center, with its bell tower leaving over the wide open market. With the center closed off to cars, all the stunning beauty and culture of this unforgettable city can be easily explored on foot, although a boat ride along the quiet canals is something not to be missed.
Historical treasures, captivating museums, delectable delights, and wondrous water await you in this magnificent city by the sea. To truly uncover the many pleasures around each corner, give yourself plenty of time to get happily lost!