You’d be forgiven for thinking that Bruges was the whimsical set of a blockbuster fairytale film, but this gorgeous city is actually one of the best-preserved in Europe. Located in Northern Belgium, Bruges is a city frozen in time. Here, churches and reaching towers line narrow cobbled streets, and canals give way to stunning lakes. The center of Bruges is the epicenter of this immense historical significance, with numerous world heritage sites and the world-famous Markt.
Bruges has maintained its quaint and charming personality despite being one of the most heavily touristed cities on the planet. The cult black comedy ‘In Bruges’, raised the city’s profile even further and attracted a new generation of visitors. Whilst the gay scene in the city is small, it is no less passionate, proud, and vibrant than any other. Belgium is one of the most gay-friendly and progressive countries in Europe, and this combined with endless cultural value and a beautiful cityscape makes Bruges an extremely attractive destination for gay travelers.
Basilica of the Holy Blood
Not just any old church, the Basilica of the Holy Blood is a 12th century chapel in central Bruges that is home to a vial containing a piece of cloth soaked in the blood of Christ, supposedly. The church is beautiful in its own right, with stunning stained glass windows and preserved features, however, the blood of Christ is the real attraction here. It’s said that following the crucifixion Joseph of Arimathea wiped the blood from Christ. The cloth was brought to Bruges following a crusade and has been preserved ever since.
Whilst the church is one of Bruges’ top tourist attractions, it’s also a place of immense religious importance and as such visitors are required to remain respectful in the building, this means generally staying silent and not taking photographs. Since 1291, the Bishop of Bruges has carried the blood-stained cloth through the city’s streets as residents perform biblical stories. The event is a true spectacle.
Bruges’s gay scene is small. The proximity of Antwerp and Brussels means that many LGBT+ people in the city will travel to these larger cities for the gay nightlife. That being said, there is a gay scene here, and it’s a tight-knit, inclusive, and friendly one. Made up of just a few bars and clubs, it’s easy to experience all that gay Bruges has to offer.
@ The Pub is Bruges’s premier gay bar, welcoming a diverse mix of locals and tourists. The bar is housed in an intimate and cozy building, serving as a popular hangout for the city’s LGBT+ population. @ The Pub runs a weekly gay chat cafe, where visitors are encouraged to chat and meet new friends, a perfect place to meet friendly gay locals. There is a wide range of drinks and cocktails on the menu and there are frequent deals and themed nights. @ The Pub is a must-visit destination for any gay traveler in Bruges.
You cant get more central than the Markt. Located in the heart of Bruges and surrounded by historical banks and gilded houses, the square has been the center of life in the city since 958. For over 1000 years the Markt square has been the location of a weekly market where traders from across the city sell handcrafted items, local produce, and art. A hub of architectural wonder, many of the city’s most famous and treasured buildings can be found around the square, including the Belfry and the Cloth Hall.
One of the most popular experiences at the Markt is the Historium, an immersive and fascinating museum that transports visitors back to the middle ages. Film, music, sound, and actors are all part of the attraction and the museum consists of a series of connected rooms and environments where visitors can experience life in Bruges during the medieval period. The Historium is not just for children and is sure to pique the interest of any visitor.
Just a 20-minute walk from the center of Bruges, Minnewater is one of the city’s most picturesque and charming spots. This small neighborhood is situated around the Lake of Love- an area of extreme beauty. The lake itself is surrounded by turreted houses, quaint cottages, and dense foliage. It’s easy to forget you’re in a major city after just a short stroll around Minnewater. The lakes and canals that characterize the area were once utilized for the transportation of goods around the city. Textiles, wine, cattle, spices, and sugar were all ferried along the waterways and kept the city running before rail and road.
The area is also home to a number of historical defenses and the remains of a range of fortresses and towers can be observed. One of the most significant sites is the Gunpowder Tower, a structure that was once a vital part of the city’s defense system. The spacious green spaces of Minnewater are the perfect places to enjoy a picnic or just to enjoy the charming and intimate neighborhood.
The Belfry is Bruges’ most iconic and striking tower. 83 meters high and a protected world heritage site, the 13th-century tower soars above the city’s skyline. The Belfry has served many functions since being built in 1240, including textile manufacturing and housing the city’s archives and treasury. The tower and the entirety of Bruges’s archives were lost following a devastating fire in 1280 and was subsequently rebuilt to near-perfect replication.
Today the Belfry’s tower can be climbed via an astounding 366 steps, and visitors will be treated to the best views of Bruges’s stunning skyline- you won’t find vistas like this anywhere else. The building also serves as a museum and the original treasure can be toured, where visitors can view historical and preserved charters and other original documents. The interior of the tower also houses a working clock and those who survive the climb can get unrivaled access to the inner workings of one of Europe’s most famous tower clocks.
And on a Saturday morning, you’ll find the Belfry actually plays some pretty camp tunes on its bell tower. See below for its particularly good rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive at the Belfry Tower Bruges.
by George Pizani | On: Gay Bruges