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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

Brugge vismarkt

Bruges awakes to the sounds of its church bells or the bustle of its morning markets.

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!

Bruges Jerusalem Church

The poignant Jerusalem chapel, witness to the importance and religious fervour of the Adornes family in the 15th century.

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.

Stay in history in Bruges

The guest rooms in the Nuit Blanche have regained their 15th century lustre thanks to their period furniture. © David De Graef

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.

Stay in history in Bruges

Lovingly restored, the rococo decor of La Tour provides a cosy little nest for people in love… © Jan Verlinden

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.

Bruges Hotel Heritage

Now considered one of the most comfortable places to stay in Bruges, the Hotel Heritage still possesses some tangible souvenirs of its illustrious past… © Hotel Heritage

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.

Bruges B&B Cote canal

The owner of Côté Canal has renovated the rooms, taking care to ensure that they retain their 19th century ambiance. © Côté Canal

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.

B&B Hofstede De Stamper

De Stamper Farm with its rustic charm has an attraction all of its own © Hofstede De Stamper

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.

Bruges accomodation castle guest room

Typical 19th-century lifestyle, preserved in its authenticity. © Lloyd Lippens

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.

Bruges by night

Bruges’s most frequented nooks and crannies exude quite a different mystery once the tourists have left… © Artorusrex

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.

Bruges by night

Authentic 17th century Bruges was plunged into darkness when night fell, but the lighting gives these facades a completely different personality. © OliBac

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…

Bruges by night

It is easier to get a real feel for Bruges in the evening. Nocturnal complicity… © Say-Cheddar

So what is it that inspires you, as you stroll around the heart of old Bruges?

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