ON TOP OF ITS SPECTACULAR VIEWS, THE BELFRY OF BRUGES HOLDS SOME MEDIEVAL TREASURES:
The Belfry of Bruges or Belfort is not the tallest building in Bruges but it is certainly one of its most dominant and important landmarks. The Belfort towers over the Grote Markt (Bruges’ market square) and from the top of this 83-metre high bell tower we get a different perspective of Bruges from up high. In addition to the spectacular views, the Belfry also contains treasures from Bruges’ medieval past.
A Symbol of Power in Medieval Times
Bruges was a properous city during the mid-13th century when the city was an important centre for the Flemish cloth industry. The Belfry was added to the Grote Markt in 1240 as a symbol of the power of the city. The Belfort was not only an observation post and lookout for spotting fires or impending dangers. In the past it housed a treasury chamber in which the city’s seal, charter and archives were stored.
366 Steps to the Top of Bruges
To get to the top of the Belfry, there are 366 steps and after a day of exploring Bruges, I was looking for an excuse not to climb up the tower. Luckily, I had Tony to encourage me.
He said that we could take our time, we didn’t have to race up, and he was right. Although the staircase to the top of the Belfry is narrow, there are interval levels at various sections of the tower where you can stop to take a break or get out of the way of any over-energetic climber.
At one of these intervals is the medieval treasury chamber. In this vaulted room, locked behind two sets of wrought iron gates, the padlocked chest contained the city’s seal, its charter, accounts and funds. In the other rooms, you can also read about Bruges’ medieval past and the Belfry’s building history.
The reward at the top of the Belfry is the magnificent views of Bruges and its surrounds.
An additional treat is seeing the bell tower’s clockwork mechanism and the carillon with 47 bells. The nine-tonne drum for the mechanical carillon is an impressive sight and it was thrilling to watch it work and hear the beautiful music that it produced.
If you feel intimidated by the number of steps, don’t be. As long as you’re reasonably fit and don’t have joint problems, a step at a time gets you up there. Ever since the 2008 movie “In Bruges” there has been more people wanting to go up the Belfry and it gets quite busy during peak holiday season. They control the number of people who can be up there at any time to about 70 so it would be a good idea to get there early to avoid the queues. If it is a cold or windy day, take a jumper with you. It was quite cold and extremely blowy when we were up there in summer!
The Belfry of Bruges
Grote Markt, Bruges
Opening times: 09:30 – 17:00
Entry fee: € 8,00 or free with Brugge City Card