Bruges Banner ©Jan D'Hondt, Visit Bruges


In the early Middle Ages, Bruges developed into an international and bustling trading city with its own port, made possible by its favourable location and connection with the sea. At the same time, the fortified town became a powerful political stronghold, thanks to the presence of the Flemish Counts, who ruled over the County of Flanders. In the 13th century, Bruges was the leading trade centre of northwestern Europe and merchants from all over Europe settled in the city.

The name of Oosterlingen Square refers to the Hanseatic merchants (‘oosterlingen’ or ‘Easterners’) who did business and had their base here. Bruges was home to the most important Hanseatic trading post of the German Hanseatic League (a trading network of some 200 cities).

The success continued and in the 15th century, Bruges’ golden century, business was better than ever before. This was due to the fact that from the end of the 14th century, Flanders was part of the realms of the dukes of Burgundy. They expanded their presence in Bruges, turning the city into a cultural and commercial centre that was second to none. In addition to the traditional broadcloth, numerous new luxury goods were now produced and sold. The sudden death in 1482 of the much loved ruler, Mary of Burgundy, heralded the start of new and less fortunate times for the city. The relationship between the citizens of Bruges and their lord, the widower Maximilian of Austria, turned sour. The Burgundian court left the city, with the international traders following in its wake. To make matters worse, Bruges’ connection with the sea quickly silted up. The Golden Age had passed.

Facts & Figures

Icon Founded


Year 1128

Icon Location


51.20855 latitude and 3.226772 longitude

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UNESCO World Heritage

  • Beguinage, 1998
  • Belfry, 1999
  • Historic city centre, 2000
  • Procession of the Holy Blood, 2009 (Intangible Cultural Heritage)

What is the city known for?

  • UNESCO World Heritage status
  • Art&Culture (Flemish primitives)


  • Procession of the Holy Blood
    This procession that dates back to at least 1304, takes place in Bruges every year on Ascension Day. Although there have been many changes over the centuries, the heart of the event is the reenactment of the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Procession of the Holy Blood was added to the representative list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity. 
  • MAfestival
    Each year this highly respected festival of ancient music – MA stands for Musica Antiqua – continues to attract the world’s top performers to Bruges and Bruges’ wet- and woodlands.
  • Winter Glow 
    A wonderful winter experience – that’s what Winter Glow is all about. A winter festival packed with fascinating experiences and sparkle-filled special moments.