Bruges: The Medieval City of Swans
Bruges (Brugge in Flemish) is an enchanting city in Flanders that was once a thriving trade center in the Middle Ages. Replete with swan filled canals, cobblestone streets, and crow-stepped gables, Bruges retains its medieval character most beautifully. UNESCO thinks so too. The whole Historic Centre of Brugge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There’s a very vindictive reason why swans grace the canals of Bruges. The legend goes that the oppressed people of Bruges revolted against their ruler Emperor Maximilian of Austria in the 15th century. They captured and imprisoned the emperor and his advisor, Pieter Lanckhals. Pieter was condemned to death, and Maximilian was forced to watch the beheading. The Emperor managed to escape and returned to the city with an army to take his revenge. He mandated that the city at its own expense must keep swans on all canals for all time. Why swans? The long-necked creatures served as a reminder of what the people of Bruges did to Pieter Lanckhals, or Pieter the “Long Neck.” To this day, long necks continue to glide through the medieval city center.
Bruges deserves more than a day. Stay the night, visit the vibrant Basilica of the Holy Blood, learn about the 12th-century Belfry, drink Brugse Zot at a beer café, visit De Halve Maan Brewery, and shop for chocolate. To learn more legends about Bruges, we recommend the free walking tour: Legends of Bruges.
Where to Stay in Bruges
Budget: Snuffel Hostel, Mid-Range: Zakske 13; Luxury: B&B Ambrogio.
Where to Eat & Drink in Bruges
- T Gezelleke – Charming restaurant that serves local specialties.
- Bierbrasserie Cambrinus – This restaurant is located in a historical building, dating back to 1699. With a beer selection that doesn’t end, it’s easy to stay here. We loved the house beer and the Fish Soup.