BRUGES MARKET SQUARE IS LINED WITH INTERESTING HISTORICAL BUILDINGS:
The Markt, one of the two main squares in Bruges, has many attractions that visitors like us come to see. This open space is lined with attractive gabled houses, restaurants and the imposing Provinciaal Hof (Provincial Palace). Also on the Markt is the Belfort, an 83-metre high belfry which dominates the square.
Historical Market Square
The Markt was completely renovated in 1995 and what we see today is totally different to the times of the Counts of Flanders. There were many magnificent private residences on the square at that time and from their windows, the lords and ladies of the Court used to watch tournaments and pageants which were held in the square.
The Markt was a very busy place during the Middle Ages and right up to the 18th century. The canals that ran alongside the square were used to bring in goods which were loaded and unloaded from the Waterhalle, a covered warehouse. Imagine the place bustling with workers and merchants doing their trade. When Antwerp became increasingly dominant as the economic flagship of the Low Countries, Bruges’ importance as a trading port faded away. However a market is still held here each Saturday, though not on a scale of the past.
The Waterhalle was demolished in 1787 and replaced with the elegant Provinciaal Hof (Provincial Palace). The structure was built in two stages and comprises the town hall of Bruges and the Gruuthuse palace. The interior of the palace was decorated by renowned artists and of note are the stained-glass windows and the ironwork.
The Belfort is the city’s most important landmark. The towering monument provided the perfect lookout in case of enemy invasion and from the Belfry the people could also look out for fire or any other dangers.
There’s an impressive clock mechanism and a carillon with 47 bells. You can climb the 366 steps to the top for a panoramic view of Bruges and its surrounds – we did, and it was spectacular. Another reward for climbing to the top of the belfry is seeing the huge carillon drum, an amazing piece of mechanism, the size of which I’ve never seen before.
In the middle of the Markt, looking out onto the Gothic Provincial Palace, are the statues of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, two popular local heroes of Bruges. They were noted for leading an uprising against French oppression and consequently played an important part during the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302. These days, young locals seem to like idling around the base of the statues, something which I’m sure the patriotic heroes of Belgium would disapprove of.
More Attractions on the Markt
The oldest facade on the Markt is that of the Huis Bouchotte. It was the home of Charles II of England during part of his exile from 1656-7.
On the opposite side of the Belfry is a row of cafes and restaurants. Yes, they may be tourist traps, but out of desperation we had moules et frites at the Hotel Restaurant Central one evening and it was quite nice.
Yet another attraction on the square is the Historium, a museum of arts and crafts from the Middle Ages. The Markt is also a stop for the Bruges City Tour bus and if you fancy a horse and carriage sightseeing tour, they take off from the Markt as well.
Just off the Markt is Bruges’ other important square, the Burg.