One of the most fascinating buildings in Brugge is the Town Hall. This gothic building was constructed between 1376 and 1420; it was one of the first monumental town halls in the Low Countries and the oldest civil building in Belgium. At the front are six gothic windows surrounded by 48 statues representing royal and biblical figures. The original statues were demolished during the aftermath of the French Revolution. On the first floor is the prestigious Gothic Hall, with an impressive wooden vaulted ceiling and historic wall-paintings. In the historic room a collection of items; documents and paintings relating to the history of Brugge are on display. Next to the Town Hall can be seen the crypt of St. Basilius.
Visiting Burg square it’s hard to miss the Stadhuis (Town Hall ).
It’s a beautiful building that was built during 14th century. The façade is amazing (dates from 1376) and worth to stand there for some moments, check the statues too (counts of Flanders and biblical figures) but have in mind that those were added in 1960 replacing the damaged ones (from the French army a century before). Then we noticed that we can go inside and check the interior too as it was open to the public. The town hall is still in use and many weddings take place here.
While the reception is on the ground floor (with a very friendly lady providing audio guides if you want) the impressive Gothic Hall is on the first floor
Once there I was impressed by the vaulted wooden ceiling that dates from 1385! Apart from that there are numerous large painting with historical themes (about the city), some of them date from 15th century but also for late 19th century, the audio guide that is provided on the entrance will give you lots of information of what you see. There is also a room with documents and old books.
it's open daily from 9.30-17.00
The entrance fee is €2 (or free with the 3day card)
The town hall or Stadhuis of Brugge is the oldest in Belgium and one of the most attractive buildings I saw during both of my visits to the city.
Apparently the building was constructed in 1376. It has a beautiful and intricately carved exterior, although I'm told that the statues which are effigies of the counts and countesses of Flanders are in fact 1960s reproductions because the originals were destroyed by the French army some 100 years earlier. The building is still used as the town hall of the city.
The short Audio-guided tour of the inside is well worth your time, although the audio guide itself does start to drone on a bit.
The key attraction is the Gothic Hall (Gotische Zaal) which is a fantastic room dating back to 1402. Many of the original frescoes are long since faded away and have been replaced by later ones between 1895 and 1905, but the affect is still dramatic.
Adult admission is just €2 and it's open daily from 9.30am to 5pm.
“We had intended to stay but a few hours in Bruges, but he kept us two days, and made us love and respect him very much, for although a good Catholic he is a very intelligent and high minded man, and altogether a thorough good fellow — so long life and much happiness to the good Abbeé Carton!”
— from a letter written by Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876, American physician & abolitionist) to Charles Sumner dated 27.August.1843
The prettiest way to enter and leave the Burg is via the cobbled walkway, leading through an arch (see photos #1 & #2) in the Old Civil Registry and over a beautiful canal bridge. Burg Square also includes an attractive garden.
The cost-of-arms of the city of Brugge, a blue lion on a red-gold stripe ground, is traditionally held by the yellow Flemish lion and a bear (see photo #3). The bear pays tribute to Count Baldwin I, known as Iron Arms. According to legend, the count came across a bear on his return to Brugge. The bear had been terrorizing Brugge and its surroundings. While the count’s attendants and aides fled, Baldwin killed the bear. The lion of Flanders (laenderen die Leu) has been part of the coat-of-arms of the counts of Flanders since the Crusades of 1177. An Armenian king, whose flag showed a black lion on a yellow ground, was defeated by the Count of Flanders, Philippe d’Alsace (1143-1191).
“At Bruges I found a friend, — a man whose face I had never before seen, but whom I at once loved and respected, — the Abbeé Carton, who has interested himself very much in the cause of the deaf and the blind, and who knew me, from A to Z. He is a Catholic priest, a very learned and accomplished scholar, a most active and influential citizen, respected by the people and admired by all the religieuses, and yet a rotund, jovial, hearty good fellow, worthy of associating on equal terms with the prince of good fellows, the great Feltonius himself.”
— from a letter written by Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876, American physician & abolitionist) to Charles Sumner dated 27.August.1843
Burg Square really is a showcase of different architectural styles. The Old Civil Registry, to the left of the Gothic Town Hall, was built between 1534 and 1537 in the Renaissance style. The sculptures at its top were smashed to bits during the French Revolution and its aftermath, but they were later restored. They represent Justice (see photo #5), Moses (see photo #3) and Aaron. Since 1883 the building has been the Peace Court.
To the left of the Old Civil Registry is a building in the Neo-Classical style. The former Court of Justice was built between 1722 and 1727. Inside this building is the monumental chimney known as the Brugse Vrije. Built between 1528 and 1581 of wood, alabaster and marble, the chimney commemorates the victory of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V over France’s François I at Pavia, Italy. Today this building house the Tourist Information office of Bruges.
“Charles unites with me in kindest love to you all. He has made several beautiful drawings in Bruges, that will delight you.”
— from a letter written by Anna Eliza Bray (1790-1883, British novelist) to her mother 20.September.1820
Several versions of stained glass windows can be seen in the Town Hall. In the fifteenth century, Brugge had 80 stained glass fabricators. The painting style used in Brugge and the surrounding area shows the influence of woodcuts. I rather like the windows that use circular pieces of glass; they remind me of bottle bottoms. Admission is free when you use your Brugge City Card.
In the entrance hall a large staircase leads to the Gothic Hall (see my Brugge Things-To-Do Tip: Town Hall, Interior, Part I), built between 1386 and 1401. In 1895, this hall was decorated with wall paintings, in the Neo-Gothic style, that illustrate the important events in Brugge’s history. An absolute masterpiece, the Gothic Hall is a work of art, with its splendid 19th century murals and colorful vaulted ceiling. The theme, citizens and government, highlights the power struggle between Brugge’s civic leaders, the ruling aristocracy, and the city’s citizens.
“On the way back I spent the afternoon in Bruges, which has a sort of picturesque concentrated Flemish beauty which is almost unbearable.”
— Dame Iris Murdoch DBE (1919-1999)
There are two rooms inside the Town Hall which should not be missed. The first is the great Gothic Hall on the first floor. Look up at its beautiful timber vaulting, dating from 1402; and its murals depicting events in Brugge’s history. These murals (see photos #2 & #3) were begun in 1895 by Albrecht de Vriendt (1843-1900) and finished by his brother Julien de Vriendt (1842-1935) in 1900. The second room, next to the Gothic Room, contains documents and books about the history of Brugge.
The Town Hall is open every day from 09:30 to 17:00. It is closed on New Year’s Day, January 1st; the afternoon of Ascension Day, the 15th of August; and Christmas Day, the 25th of December.
“Being come about three miles, wee entred Bruges, where, at the gate, wee were questioned from whence wee came. We, as the furman had instructed us, said we came from Ardenburg, that being clear of the pest, but Sluis infected. Being entred the gate, we got a great company of boys after us, crying Geuse! Geuse! which is a name they give to the Protestants here, all who come from the United Provinces being supposed to be such, albeit there be in Holland not few less Roman Catholics as Protestants, especially in Amsterdam.”
— an entry for 22.August.1666 from the diary of General Patrick Gordon (1635–1699)
On the southeast side of Burg Square is the Town Hall, Stadhuis in Flemish, constructed between 1376 and 1420. The facade of the delicate Gothic Town Hall shows off the strong vertical characteristic of the style, with soaring pilasters, three of which end in octagonal turrets, interspersed by tall, narrow, arched windows. In Burg Square, Count Baldwin I built a fortified castle to protect Brugge and its surroundings from the rampaging Normans and Vikings.
The castle was demolished long ago, as well as the Church of St. Donatius, the city’s main religious building, which stood opposite the town hall. The Flemish painter Jan van Eyck (1395-1441) was buried in St. Donatius.
“Bruges is surrounded with deep ditches & strong walls fortified with Towers. The form of it is elliptical there runs through it several streams over which are a great number of Bridges, The streets are regular but not all straight for some of them follow the course of the out works.”
— from James Essex’s (1722-1784) “Journal of a Tour through Parts of Flanders and France”
The town hall (Stadhuis, in Flemish), dating from 1376, is one of the most sumptuous buildings of Brugge; it is the showpiece on Burg Square. The city has been governed from here for more than 700 years. It was one of the first monumental town halls to be built in the Low Countries.
Six, first-floor windows, in the Gothic style, dominate the front facade. Also displayed on the façade are the coats-of-arms of cities and villages that were once under administrative rule from Brugge. Forty-eight niches have been provided for figural sculptures. The originals, a mix of Biblical figures and the counts of Flanders (from Count Baldwin Iron Arm AD 830–AD 879, onwards), where destroyed after the French Revolution. Their 19th century replacements were themselves replaced with modern ones.
“Arriving at Bruges we found the usually quiet little town alive with bustle and excitement. The market place was astir with warlike activities; cavalry, artillery and lorries filled the square; smart young officers, keen and alert, gave orders; horses were being groomed; all was hopefulness and keen expectation. The hotels were full, so we were quartered, two or three in different pensions. Ours was down a winding network of alley-ways, over a canal.”
— from “A War Nurse’s Diary: Sketches from a Belgian Field Hospital, 1918, by M. E. Clark
Brugge has two town squares. Grote Markt, the largest, was the commercial heart Brugge in the Middle Ages. Nearby is Burg Square; from its earliest days, it has always been the center of Brugge’s administrative activities.
The Square is bordered by several important buildings on three sides of it: the most impressive building is the Old Town Hall; to the right of it is the Basilius church and the Chapel of the Holy Blood (further to the right of the churches is a restaurant with outdoor café, the perfect place to relax); to the left of the Old Town Hall is the Old Civil Registry; the former Court of Justice, now the Tourist Information Office, is further to the left. The fourth side of the square is open to the street, with a green park bordering the street.
The Burg is the second square in the center of the city, after The Markt. The Burg is where the Stadhuis (Town Hall) is located as well as the Basilica of the Holy Blood. It was also the site of the previous cathedral for Bruges – the Cathedral of Saint Donation before it was destroyed by the French in 1790, which left the city to get a new cathedral, which is St. Savior’s Cathedral. While the Markt is the financial center of the city, The Burg is the administrative and governmental center.
The Town Hall has a beautiful façade from the 1300s, although the statues are more modern. And if you don’t think the building looks that old, it is because it has been restored. The interior houses the parliamentary hall that has a carved wooden ceiling and paintings around the walls that picture important events in the city’s history. The Town Hall is open daily from 9:30 am – 5:00 pm.
The town hall is the focal point of the grand place - it is instantly recognisable as it is the grandest building there! It overlooks the Grand Place with a certain sense of regalness.
Many European cities have a town hall but this one is very grand - take some time to look up and appreciate the architecture and attention to detail - perhaps whilst enjoying a beer or coffee in one of the nearby cafes.
This square is where the Administrative centre of Brugge is.
Here, you will see some impressive buildings & architecture. Originally, there was a fortified Castle built here to stop the "Normans & Vikings ," this was 1200years ago and is no longer here.
The Gothic Town Hall, built in 1376, and the old Civic Registery built in Renaissance style (1534 - 1537) are located here. From 1883, the latter has been used as a Peace court. On its left, is the former Court of Justice built in a Neo- classicist style (1722 - 1727) Inside, you will see a famous chimney, built to commemorate the victory of Emperor Charles V & King Francios I in Pavia. It is now the Tourist Information centre.
Also there, is the Deanery (1662) which later became part of the Palace of the Bishop of Brugges. Tucked away in a corner, is the Basilius Church and the Chapel of the Holy Blood.
Plenty to see here, and not to be missed. Stand back, take it in, Wow!
The Belfort - Built in the 13th-century, The Belfort or the Belfry, is a stunning octagonal tower where the city's medieval charter of rights is held.
Stadhuis - one of the oldest and finest town halls in Belgium, this was built between 1376 and 1420. Inside, the beautifully restored Gothic hall is noted for its 1385 vaulted ceiling.
The Burg is Brugge's second main square and it houses the administrative buildings. However, they are elegant and in excellent condition. The gothic town hall (Stadhuis) dates back to 1376. The Old Civil Registry, now used a Peace Court, was erected between 1534-1537. The former Court of Justice building, which now houses the Tourist Information center dates bact to 1722.