Belgium – Bruges, Ghent & Antwerp 

Bruges is one of the most well preserved medieval cities in Europe. It is a port city in the northwest of Belgium, and a common excursion for people visiting Brussels.

Bruges was the home of the first stock exchange in the world! The name Bruges is derived from the Dutch word “brugga,” meaning bridge. Like Amsterdam​, it’s sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North. Luxembourg was called the Gibraltar of the North, is the south somehow the height of civilization or did they just do it first?

I liked the main square, and it had particularly colourful examples of a house design the was common in both Belgium and The Netherlands.

Even though I had recently been to the Bruges of the South, I still really liked the canals. 

Spared damage in both world wars, though still occupied by the Nazis, Bruges was liberated by none other than the Canadians!

Bruges is actually the capital of West Flanders, which is a name that should be a little familiar to Canadians. 

What I remember most about Bruges is simply how picturesque it is. 

Bruges was only an hour train from Brussels. The town of Ghent was a half hour between the two, so Luke and I decided to make it a full day and visit there as well.

Having recently visited Belgium, my dad recommended Ghent to me which I’m grateful for because it was also beautiful. Upon leaving the train station​, our first encounter was with a forest of bikes.

We started walking downtown, aiming for the castle.

We had lunch at an Italian place that was playing Chuck Berry and Blondie, so I was happy.

It was apparent when we finally reached the medieval part of the city.

Ghent is the capital of East Flanders, so if you’re ever in Brussels I would recommend this Flanders capitals tour. 

We eventually reached the castle: Gravensteen.

It had medieval weapons, armour, and instruments.

Of course, it also had a pretty great city view.

I’m not sure what Luke thought of the 15km we walked that day, but at least he’s smiling in that picture. 

Negotiations here resulted in the Treaty of Ghent that ended the war of 1812 between the Americans and the British. I wouldn’t have expected Ghent to have been the site of negotiations, but it was a significant city for many years.

The city centre was just one beautiful huge church after another.

On our way to The Netherlands, we stopped for the day in Antwerp. Since we were between hostels, we had our luggage with, or on, us. We survived.

Antwerp has the second largest port in Europe, and is the most populous city in Belgium. 

Luke wanted to check out a famous tunnel that went under the river, which had these cool wooden escalators.

Antwerp is where the Bernoulli family of mathematicians originally lived. I appreciated them while studying Differential Equations, not so much when I was forced to take statistics.

What I wanted to see in Antwerp was the Diamond District. About 84% of the world’s rough diamonds pass through this district, as well as $16 billion in polished diamonds annually.

I was able to see Jewish men selling diamonds, which was the Antwerp experience I was looking for. 80% of the city’s Jewish population works in the diamond industry. 

Belgium was a good opportunity to see some northern examples of Medieval Europe. Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, and Brussels have all been significant world cities, and visiting them was a privilege.

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