Trip to Flanders. In Bruges there is a desire for the future

Dforget the idea of ​​Bruges (or Brugge in Dutch) as a sleeping beauty, a boring sleeping beauty anchored to the past. This city in Flanders, a region north of Belgium, with a perfectly preserved historic center – it is not for nothing that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – romantic streets, bridges over canals and characteristic red brick buildings and the stepped facades, focuses its entire tourist strategy on the contemporary.

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The modern face of Bruges

In 2024, from 13 April to 1 September, the fourth edition of the event is scheduled Bruges Triennialthe event that invites, every three years, artists and architects from all over the globe to propose their interventions on a specific theme: for 2024 we will discuss it Space of Possibilityor how a city, cradle of an unchanged beauty like Bruges, can change, evolve and move faster thanks to art?

Architects and artists will therefore be called to work on site-specific works renewing the face of this pearl of Flanders. Works that will remain and will be destined to change the face of the city, as happened for example with Colonnade, an impenetrable and labyrinthine forest that the Belgian architect duo of Gijs Van Vaerenbergh designed for the 2021 Triennale and which today can be visited permanently in the Barone Ruzette park; or as happened with House of Time, a legacy of the 2018 Triennale, a house of creativity frequented by artists who work here, but also by tourists and families.

The installation “Colonnade”, by the Belgian architect duo of Gijs Van Vaerenbergh. Triënnale Brugge 2021 © Stad Brugge

Bruges between past and present

The city, where past and present coexist, is very determined to tell its story in a new way, not letting tourism made up of souvenirs, banal experiences and fleeting visits prevail over the idea of a place on a human scale: there are many pleasant neighborhoods and placid streets, but there is no shortage of cultural events and contemporary art alongside the great masterpieces of the past, there is great attention to the quality of life, nature and sustainable mobility. In fact, the bike is the preferred means of transport for those who live in the city and also for those who visit it.

It is certainly essential, once landed, to visit the Groeninge Museumwhere the masterpieces of the Flemish primitives, such as the Moreel Triptych by Hans Memling or the Madonna of Canon van der Paele by Jan van Eyck, enchant with their well-known beauty, but it is also good to pay attention to Untitledthe Carrara marble sculpture by the Uruguayan Pablo Atchugarry, located in the museum garden, which recalls the Madonna and Child by Michelangelo Buonarroti preserved in the nearby Church of Our Lady.

A glimpse of the buildings and canals of the historic center of Bruges. (Getty Images)

A crossroads of ancient and modern

He wanders around in the Markt, the lively market squareyou admire the Belfort civic tower, 83 meters high, you peek into the Burg square, the administrative center of the city, or take a photo at the Rosario Pier, where the buildings are reflected in the water of the canal; but, to better understand how ancient and contemporary gently join hands, it is also worth noting the collections of Gruuthuse Museum. Especially its modern entrance pavilion, designed by the noAarchitecten studio and inaugurated in 2019, and the nearby bronze sculptural group of Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1987) by the Belgian Rik Poot, statues with a deliberately disturbing appearance found in the Hof Arents park, which refer, in a modern key, to the knights of Hans Memling’s altarpiece, kept in the San Giovanni Hospital; here too, the trace of the present day is entrusted, outside the former convent, to The veins of the cloistera white marble island by the sculptor Giuseppe Penone, master of “arte povera”, a tribute to the work of the hospital nuns over the centuries.

The churches of St. Anne of Jerusalem and Walburga.

No one leaves Bruges without, of course, a boat ride on the canals, a passage on the Meebrug bridgethe oldest in the city in masonry, which crosses the enchanting Groenerei, a visit to the Gothic church of Sant’Anna, a view of Jan van Eyck square, a large business center in the Middle Ages, and the large ‘t Zand square.

But it will be pleasant to be surprised by disruptive lines of Concertgebouw, concert hall and space for contemporary dance, where you can also visit a collection of modern art and sound installations. And right nearby, in the Capuchin square, the Kapucijnenplein, urban art takes center stage with The Dance of the Madmen by artist Stan Slabbinck, one of the works by the street art collective Legendz that has left its mark in the city. Bruges is wearing a new dress.


Where to sleep and dine in Bruges

Gran Hotel De Passage
Dweersstraat 26, Bruges. Very central historic building, with delightful art deco rooms equipped with everything that makes your stay pleasant. And the prices are great. There is also a family-run and Flemish-style kitchen. Double room from 118 euros.

De Halve Maan Brewery
Walplein, 26. A must go for a beer in a place in Bruges. In this pub open since 1856, and which boasts a three kilometer underground beer pipeline, you can drink some special ones. The most typical is the Brugse Zot, a bitter blonde with citrus hints. Difficult to stop at one mug.

The canals of Bruges. Photo ©jandarthet

What to do

The first thing to do when you arrive in Bruges is to rent a bicycle to get around as those who live there do. At Bauhaus Bike Rental they rent them at really competitive prices: for those who don’t stay in the facility the price is 10 euros for a four-hour ride, 15 euros for the whole day.

What to buy

Dumon Chocolaterie square Simon Stevinplein. The scent of its chocolates reaches the street: in this chocolate boutique you buy small creations that reach perfection. For true gourmands.