Bruges is a beautiful city with a rich history in the Flemish region of Belgium. From one of the most important cities of Europe during the middle ages (14th century) to the poorest in the country (19th century), Bruges has for sure a lot to tell. Nowadays, the city is an international tourist destination, and its historic center is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. With centuries of history, Bruges is full of curiosities, legends and beautiful sites to behold.
Here’s 5 facts & curiosities about Bruges
1. Long necks forever
The history of the swans of Bruges dates back to the middle ages, the end of 15th-century to be more exact. It happened like this: People from Bruges were not happy with the unpopular Emperor Maximilian of Austria, nor his adviser called Pieter Lanckhals. The two of them were captured and imprisoned, and Lanckhals was executed in front of Maximilian. Result? He got really mad, of course!
The Emperor escaped after a while, and he punished the people from Bruges decreeing that they would have to keep swans on the canals and lakes forever to remember what they did. Swans have long necks, which in Dutch means “lanckhals,” the last name of his executed adviser. So, the swans of Bruges, besides the pretty pictures they help to compose, have a lot of history behind them.
2. All about beer
Bruges used to have 54 breweries inside its walls in the medieval times. Nowadays, only one! De Halve Maan is the only brewery that still operates in the medieval center of Bruges, and they produce the famous Brugse Zot beer. Since we are talking numbers, the medieval Bruges used to have more than 600 bars.
3. The fools of Bruges
The most famous beer of Bruges is the Brugse Zot (as mentioned above), which is represented by a drawing of a colorful and crazy fool on the bottle. There’s a legend about it that involves Maximilian of Austria, which reigned over the medieval Bruges. To make a long story short, the people from the city asked Maximilian permission to built a mental hospital in the city, and his response was simply: Just close the gates of Bruges, and there you have your mental hospital! – The town was filled with crazies, according to him. PS: There’s so much history behind this legend, here’s just a quick description.
4. The narrowest street
The Stoofstraat, aka the narrowest street of Bruges, was very frequented by men in the medieval ages. The alley was full of bath houses, and because of that, also full of ladies offering their services. Nowadays is a cute place with a few stores and restaurants.
5. The beguinage and its own rules
The beguinage used to be like a small city; the women had everything they needed in there, such as plantations and church. The place had its own rules, the women living in there were protected within the beguinage in case they committed anything illegal outside of its walls. Nowadays, single women can book the accommodations to spend the night, but the gates close at 6 pm.
What an exciting city to visit! Most of the information I learned while making a walking tour in Bruges. If you want to know more about it, you should take a look at this post to know how it is.