The history of Bruges also comes alive at night!
By Xavier Ortegat
Intimate stays in the Venice of the North
Bruges thrills its visitors with the beauty of its ramparts and canals, its beguinage, monumental churches and numerous palaces, so many survivors which recount the history of the clout wielded by entrepreneurial and wealthy Flanders. Bruges invites you along its busy streets, higgledy-piggledy houses and shops clustering round small squares and narrow courtyards. Take your time to enjoy it with us in the daytime and at night …
Do you know the house of the ‘Ter Beurze’ family, which gave its name to the Bourse or stock exchange? Have you come across the little Jeruzalemkapel, (Jerusalem Chapel), last resting place of Anselmo Adornes, a Genoese merchant and influential diplomat with close ties to the King of Scotland? Do you know where the Holy Blood relic was stashed away during the religious wars? Bruges will gradually reveal her secrets as you discover more about her!
Most tourists visit Bruges during the day – arriving in crowded coaches. To capture the soul of Bruges and bathe in its mysteries, you have to wait until dusk, when the only people you will meet are those who really appreciate this city which reverberates with past emotions… intoHistory offers you a choice of period accommodation for a stay in this ‘Venice of the North’ or nearby. Venerable mansions which all have their own history to tell!
The golden age of this trading city
Stay near the ‘bridge of sighs’, in the outstandingly authentic ambiance of the ‘Nuit Blanche’ guest rooms. As night falls, the ancient gates in this district are closed. Now is the time to appreciate the serenity of this born-again secret enclave.
Renaissance rococo in the 18th century
Nicknamed ‘La Tour’ (The Tower) because of its lofty proportions, this former pleasure pavilion – with its attractive hidden garden – will plunge you into intimate 18th century living. A particularly elegant guest room complete with salon, dining room, bathroom, kitchenette and belvedere.
The palaces of Bruges in the 19th century
In the 19th century, many leading families continued to live in this sleepy ‘Venice of the North’, building splendid mansions in the neoclassical style along its canals. The Hotel Heritage invites you to discover what life was like in such a residence, seen through the eyes of the leisured classes.
Houses on the waterfront
It was fashionable in the 18th century to have one’s house open onto a small garden, laid out according to the prevailing landscape style. Real havens of nature in the urban fabric, these private areas were painstakingly maintained. The ‘Côté Canal’ offers its visitors a delightful enclosed garden right on the waterfront, perfectly in keeping with its interior decor.
The hinterland and polders
Bruges also owes its extraordinary development to the rich and fertile countryside all around it and the commercial activity which grew up along the water channel linking it to the sea. Around the old port of Damme and the canals, featured in Jacques Brel’s songs; the ‘De Stamper’ farm is a reminder that the town also depended on the agricultural produce of the polders which surrounded it.
Ostentatious ‘Fin de siècle’ in the suburbs
The Chateau de Spycker at Sint-Kruis near Bruges is a majestic building in neo-Renaissance style, deliciously surrounded by vast grounds landscaped in the English manner, set amid fields and meadows, cushioned from the noise of the city and busy roads and yet, barely 4 kilometres from Bruges.
A few tips on how to enjoy Bruges by night to the full
At dusk Bruges regains its calm which is lost during the day, when its bustling streets are full of multi-cultural tourists, guides with microphones, the ding-a-ling of bicycles and enticing goods in souvenir shops. Much more peaceful in the evening in the glow of subdued lighting from leaded glass windows, this is the right time to experience an altogether different type of cultural immersion … The air has a sense of mystery about it, heightened by the lapping of water, the clippity-clop of horses’ hooves as they return to their stables and the dull thud of shutters being closed.
Gaze at the floodlit facades, backlit bridges, light reflections on sculptures and the golden glow. Put your camera down on a low wall or lean it against a post so it doesn’t move, de-activate your flash and capture some memorable chiaroscuro images.
This is the ideal moment to run your finger over an old moulding, lean your ear against a brick wall or listen to the chimes of the carillon. Lose yourself down these mysterious alleyways. Time to sift through the day’s emotions while sitting on a small bench. Then imagine a tradesman from yesteryear pulling his old cart along, an on duty soldier gripping his tall halberd or a wealthy merchant wrapped in his mantel of purple wool on his way home …
Finally, let your nose be your guide to a small, cosy restaurant or beer-tasting brewery. Back in your room, dip into a good book written in Bruges or some period music and allow yourself to drift off to sleep, dreaming about this sleeping beauty of a town…
So what is it that inspires you, as you stroll around the heart of old Bruges?