day out in Bruges: museums, churches, people

even if you can't pinpoint Belgium on a map, it's quite likely you've heard of Bruges. please do NOT call it 'Venice of the North'. it's fucking BRUGES. that is amazing enough on itself. it doesn't need to be belittled into a comparison. nobody calls Venice the 'Bruges of the South'. fucking retarded. anyway, with that fiery introduction out of the way.

in one single day you can't do half of what there's to see. Bruges is really small. you can easily walk to any place within its former city walls, and have a single conversation in the time it takes to reach that place on foot. yet, every single street is so beautiful, there are palaces and churches and chapels and museums and must-see stores and renowned bars and crazy antique stores- to really experience Bruges takes 3 full days minimum. it's also very important to experience Bruges in the morning, the afternoon, and at night. each romantic and charming in its own way.

now, i was there for a few hours today. i knew it was gonna be a back and forth trip. it was my fifth time in Bruges, but i'd never done its two most important art museums. so that is what i focused on today. not sightseeing all over, or going shopping, or finding every hidden secret. i went on my own to visit Gruuthuse museum and Groeninge museum, and the Salvator Cathedral and Church of Our Lady, which both have important artworks and artefacts as well.

first stop: Gruuthuse museum. i'm so very glad i chose this as my starting point as it was the best experience of the day. Gruuthuse is a family name, and is old Flemish for 'big house'. it is a city palace, named after its owners, of great importance. it's basically the biggest and most grand palace of Bruges. the gothic complex is located right next to- and connected with- the Church of Our Lady. i enjoyed the collection it had to offer (some paintings, lots of objects from life throughout the centuries, statues, Flemish tapestry, stained windows, manuscripts) but the building itself was far more interesting to me. and, as the building is quite tall for its surroundings, each window offers a picture perfect view of the orange rooftops with the skyline dotted by church spires and civil towers. the absolute highlight of my day: i think it's clear the Gruuthuse were rich as FUCK; they were super powerful in the city of trade in the 1400s. so rich that, not only did they erect a huge, ornate palace right next to the tallest church of the region, they actually connected it with the church in a super cool way. they built a wooden chapel as a skybridge- above the street below- that penetrates the church walls, and has an actual window INTO the church. they could remain in the privacy of their home by walking into their raised wooden chapel, kneel on the red cushions, and watch the religious ceremonies from behind a glass pane. its literally the coolest thing i've seen in months.

gruuthuse 1

gruuthuse 2

gruuthuse 3

gruuthuse 4

second stop: Church of Our Lady. it's right next door and i just needed to see the private chapel from inside the church. when you come inside, there's a section maybe 1/6 of the church's floor area that's public. the rest is only accessible by ticket. this is not the case for most churches in Belgium but not uncommon in touristic Flemish cities' largest/most important churches. the ticket-section is totally worth it. full of artistic gems. private chapels owned by families, oil paintings by famous painters, objects of devotion, ornate tomb monuments, etc. the first pic under here is the Gruuthuse chapel seen from inside the church (the dark wooden cabin). can you imagine two backlit faces silently watching the ceremony from behind their little window? or perhaps they were whispering and snickering during every sermon. another highlight in the church is the only statue by Michelangelo in Belgium. it's a virgin Mary with child Jesus. honestly, i find the statue of poor quality/shape. it's by the famous artists whom i do love a lot but for his other works. another point of interest was something i'd never seen before. in the 1100s, well-off people of Bruges used to bury their dead in stone caskets. the deceased would be buried the same day of dying. but the family wanted the insides of their caskets painted with biblical scenes that would offer guidance and protection in death. these painters had to paint same-day-requests very quickly, hence why they're simplistic and sketch-like.

church of our lady 1

church of our lady 2

church of our lady 3

third stop: before i went to the second museum of the day, i bought take-away coffee and drank it at one of the best squares of Bruges; De Burg. it houses het Brugse Vrije, the historic city hall and the Basilica of the Sacred Blood. the latter is one of the coolest spots in Bruges but i didn't visit it today. i had enough on my agenda! energized, i visited the Groeninge Museum. this was going to be the highlight of my trip. this museum is the most important art museum of the city. it houses a few Flemish masterworks that greatly influenced the international art world in an artistic and ideological sense. i was disappointed by the museum building itself: in a city full of magnificent gothic, neoclassical and neogothic structures, this was a cheap, 1970s building with cold bland spaces and zero decoration or windows inside the rooms. the lighting was quite good though. i actually didnt know WHICH masterpieces were here, just knew there were some. and i was pleasantly surprised to see some iconic works for the first time ever. my favourite one was right smack in the first room: Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele, Jan Van Eyck, 1434-1436. Van Eyck does faces weirdly but i don't know of any artists who painted fabrics and shiny materials more magnificently, beautifully, intriguingly than him. the close-up is of the carpet the Virgin is standing on and the bottom of her clothing. just amazing. so fresh and clean, fluffy and soft. another great work to finally see irl was The Judgement of Cambyses, Gerard David, 1488. briefly summarized it's a dyptich. the right panel shows a criminal being skinned alive as punishment in front of a crowd to show what happens when you disobey the law. the painting is large, the skin palpable and the scene disturbing- my face was actually frowned in disgust. there were many other medieval paintings that i enjoyed, some i had seen before in books or classes. the rooms with later periods had some great collections as well but less my taste.

brugse vrije and city hall

virgin with child with canon close-up

judgement of cambyses

fourth (last) stop: after visiting two museums and one of the two churches i wanted to see today, i realized i had quite rushed myself out of fear of not having enough time to do all. instead of running to the last church (the cathedral) i decided to breathe and roam around aimlessly like i enjoy doing. first, i needed some food. i went to a little supermarket for triangular sandwiches, a Rockstar can, and a Snickers bar. the woman at the register said something to me in Polish. when i didn't understand, she apologized and said i looked exactly like a fellow Pole she had met before. then she went on to ask about my necklace. i was wearing a pic of child-me as a rememberance that time goes by, i am real, and even though i don't remember 99.99% percent of my thoughts and actions, they still did happen and did shape me as a person. she thought that was really interesting and remarked how my eyes hadn't changed one bit! we went on to have a funny brief conversation about staying young by remaining childlike and ignoring age numbers. i told her that her energy was vibrant and young (she looked to be early 60s at the very youngest). she appreciated that a lot. we said goodbye and i walked to my favourite little square of Bruges to eat and drink: Van Eyck square. it's remarkably unknown it seems, as every time i've been there, it's been empty or nearly empty, even if the Grand Square a 2 min walk away is unpleasantly busy with tourists. but then it started raining. i finished my food under a neogothic porch. i chatted with my American friend hoping for the weather to pass, but the rain only intensified. not going to just sit there, i decided to continue my walking tour. i went to a quiet spot i had never visited before. it was the neighbourhood that made me think "if i had to live here, i'd pick here" the most (second pic). then, i turned around and walked straight to my final destination, the Salvator Cathedral, first passing by the belfry again (third pic). the cathedral really surprised me. by now, it was dark outside: late autumn afternoon + biblical rain. the cathedral was lit very spookily, full of upwards pointing lamps and small orange lights. i slowly walked around the place. there was so much artistry but my head was starting to overheat, so i simply glanced at everything. but this cathedral has one final trick up its sleeve. in a corner is a sign with 'treasure room' and an arrow. strange name, considering this 'room' is wing with a hallway and like 10 additional rooms, all filled with well known medieval paintings, it was so unexpected. this got my artistic juices flowing for one last explosive time. it was very strange actually. these famous artworks, hung in small rooms, with no additional information, supervisors or-- visitors. i was (almost) all alone. i exited the cathedral pondering to stay longer in Bruges or not, but it was raining so hard while i had checked off everything on my 'visit the inside' list, that i decided to cut it while it was still fun and just head home.

jan van eyck square


belfry from shopping street

salvator cathedral

lowkey sexy work

going home (1h45m train ride) i was delightfully sleepy. i picked the good photos from the 100 i took and edited them, then posted them on my instagram story with additional information/opinions. by then i was already almost home.

Bruges is a city where you can just escape into a picture perfect dream world for a day. to me, it's so beautiful and perfect, that it becomes borderline boring after the initial 'wow' effect. i would change NOTHING about Bruges, i'm so happy this city was a personal passion project for a few rich medieval architecture lovers in the 19th century. my personal taste in cities leans towards eclectic cities though, ones with architecture styles mixed together from all centuries. where the ugly intensifies the beautiful and huge contrasts compliment eachother. Bruges is an almost monolithic 'snow globe town' where you can feel the artificial recreation of most of its houses to resemble its prime time (15th century). its history and art however is very real and palpable. i hope to one day visit it again when it snows (which has become rare). i think the city would be so over the top romantic on a snowy day, that it'd become ridiculous. and i'd love to see it.

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Leasha's profile picture

wait r u from Belgium too?????? :o

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by artisy2k1; ; Report

Spoon xPP(FW)

Spoon xPP(FW)'s profile picture

i love churches sm i go into the one in town just cus its so pretty

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yess their vibe and architecture are so interesting huh!!

by artisy2k1; ; Report