If you can't make it to Holland, Brugge's windmills are a good replacement. However, being located in the middle of the city, they do not have the same atmosphere like, say, those of Kinderdijk. There are four of them: Bonne Chière Molen, Sint Janshuys Molen, Nieuwe Papegaai Molen and Koelewei Molen. Sint Janshuys Molen, built in 1770, is open to the public from May to September. The website below provides you with more information, but unfortunately only in Dutch.
As far back as the 13th century Brugge contained many windmills where cereal grains were ground into flour. Today only four these windmills survive. They do in an area just outside the old town walls of Brugge against a canal. Two of the windmills have small museums which can be visited for a fee. These include St Janshuismolen and the nearby Koeleweimolen. St. Janshuismolen which was built in 1770 is still a functional windmill and when we were there we could see the sails moving very slowly.
A great place for a walk just outside of town as well as a great place to bring a picnic lunch.
I did not do my research very well before traveling to Brugge. Sometimes this is a good thing because you can be surprised when you come across something unexpected. I did not know there were windmills in Brugge. I have always seen the photo's of the churches and the spires but I had not heard about the windmills. Mark and I were having lunch near the city center and saw a picture of the windmills on the restaurant wall. We asked the waiter where the photo was taken. He told us it was taken here in Brugge. He then told us how to walk out the find the windmills. It was a little bit of a walk but well worth it. The windmills sit on a hill where the origianal city walls and moat were located. They are still operational and are open to the public. Its always nice to be surprised and find something unexpected.
Much like the Netherlands, Brugge has Windmills too. They are near the city gate by the permeter of the historic area. Don't miss this area as there are other churches and unique buildings that you will want to see, such as the City Gate house and St. Sebastiaan Guildhouse (see Misc Tips)
As you walk away from the city center you will come across 4 remaining windmills of the original 25. The windmills can be seen standing along the canal. One of the windmills (Sint Janshuysmolen) was built in the 1770s and still grinds grain. Inside the windmill is a very small museum. The names of the other 3 are the Coelweymolyn Mill (built in 1765), the Nieuwe Papegaai Mill (which was rebuilt) and the Chiere Mill (built in 1888).
The windmills made for some really nice photos, although it was very overcast, raining with quite a bit of fog.
A bit outside the city centre, in the north-east, there are four windmills along the canal. There's also a path next to the canal where you can walk or cycle. It's very nice and green there! We went there by bike after we were exhausted by walking so much. Many other people also were enjoying the late afternoon sun there, if you have time I recommend to go there!
May Don Quixote forgive me but I vividly remember at one stage, while taking the shots on the way to Damme (pics 3-5), that I nearly overbalanced on the steep banks of the canal and got wet. Sort of gives "tilting at windmills" a new twist!
The first two shots are of the Bonne Chiere Windmill just up from the Kruispoort. I couldn't help but get some shots but, better was to come as I followed the canal to Damme and came across another, beautifully positioned by the water I hope you agree.
Most of the old style windmills of Bruges including the one shown, are located on the cityside levee of the river. The long greenbelt section of levee that contains the windmills is now a very nice city park. As their name implies, windmills were grain mills having their power supplied by wind turning their vanes. The grain was milled into meal or flour. The motion of the vanes was transmitted by a drive shaft to the mill. The milling equipment occupies the wide ground floor. The ground floor usually had two arched doors large enough for a horsedrawn wagon to be driven through. The miller / windmill mechanic and his family occupied the upper floors where they heard the constant creeking of the mills moving parts.
The windmill shown in the photo is typical of mills built in the region between 200 and 250 years ago. The roof of the mill actually resembled a miller's hat of the era. I suppose that the analogy was unintentional. The mill remains fully operational, and you can actually buy meal produced by it. This is supposed to be a great novelty. The long boards that you see supporting the upper sections were not part of the original structure, but were added in modern times. The forces produced in the mechanism take a great toll on the ancient structures. For a small fee you can take a tour of the mill, climb all the way to the top, and see all of the moving parts. Very educational !
Most types of heavy machinery including mills were powered by the wind throughout Belgium and the Netherlands. Technically the term windmill would only apply to mills, but the name is commonly applied to all such wind driven operations.
I walked to one of the city gates from the city square towards the encircling canal and found not one, but two windmills on elevated grounds. Walk up to it and you will be offered a panoramic view of the city skyline, dominated by the Belfry tower and the spires of the Church of Our Lady and the Cathedral of St Salvatoris (the Most Holy Redeemer?).
This is the 1st windmill we approached. It's on a hill looking over the canal and the city. After a long walk through the streets of this charming city, we made a short stop here.
The windmill's called St. John's mill and now it's a museum.
I spent a bit of time tracking down some windmills in the lowlands. If only I had known that 5 minutes out of the city centre are four windmills in a row. Originally there were 25 of these windmills. The one called Sint Janshuysmolen was built by a group of Bakers in 1770. It still grinds grain today and has a small museum inside.
I guess windmills are second nature for Belgians and Dutch. Gosh they know how to make something out of wind too :) They aren't lacking in beer and chocolates either :) Anyway, a few hundred meters from the city center (you know .. Brugge is such a lovely small city) .. you will find not just one windmill .. but whole row of them. I really don't know (yet) if these were working windmills or they are just there for the tourists, but I'll figure that out. What is important that it really gives a kick to the already enchanted eye. Am I being overexcited about Brugge? :)
These windmills on the Kruisvest are still used to make flour.
St. Janshuis' Mill (1770) still stands in its original position which is exceptional!
The Koelewei Mill (1765) was relocated close to the Dampoort in 1997.
There is one area of Brugge where you can find about 4 windmills lined up. We were lucky to have been there late at night when the sun was setting to get this great picture. It seems that the sun doesn't set there until about 9:00 or 10:00pm.
I took a bicycle cruise around the canals surrounding the old town and was pleasantly surprised to see a number of windmills, one actually turning.