The Seat of Flemish Painting Delicately Preserved
Little disturbs the impression that the clock stopped in Bruges some centuries ago. The quaint city famed for the flowering of Flemish painting in the 15th century is ideally explored by open-top boats that slip past gliding swans and through the meandering canals crossed by stone bridges (in Flemish, brugge means “bridges”), and you’ll see why Bruges is called the “Venice of the North.”
Stay at the romantic Die Swaene hotel (and restaurant) overlooking a canal, wander the tourist-free town at night, with many of its preserved gabled landmarks and canals evocatively floodlit, and have the remarkable Memling Museum to yourself first thing in the morning. Within the 12th-century’ walls of the vast St. John’s Hospice, there are six perfect paintings by the seminal Flemish master Hans Memling (c. 1430-1494), while other works by him and fellow Flemish artists make up the superb collection found at the city’s other important museum, the Groeninge.
In the Market Square, concerts are regularly played on the centuries-old carillon. Bruges can pack a lot of punch: the local Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) houses Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child.