The Belfort-Hallen (Bell Tower and Covered Market) dominates the Grote Markt (Market Square). Although not the tower of Pisa, the 83-metre Belfry leans one metre- -disconcerting for those climbing on aching legs its 366 steps. The breathtaking view of makes the climb worth the effort.
The original Belfort-Hallen dates from 1240 though it has undergone rebuilding. Like other Belgium cities the belfry tower preserved the city's important documents. Inside hung bells, each bell having a distinct sound and role (for example: bells for danger, bells for important announcements and bells to announce the time). Nowadays, the Belfry tower charms the visitor with the pleasant music of a carillon, which consists of 47 bells.
The covered market and courtyard would have been crammed with traders shouting orders, the air heavy with the smell of spices. Originally a canal below the covered market allowed direct shipment into the market.
In the centre of the Market stands the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck--local heroes. They took part in the Flemish 1302 uprising against the occupation by the French king--known as the Battle of the Golden Spurs. This battle was also the central theme of the book 'De Leeuw van Vlaanderen' (the lion of Flanders) written by Hendrik Conscience in 1838. He romanticized the Flemish uprising and it became a symbol of the Flemish movement, which fought for recognition of the Dutch language, and Flemish culture in the French-language dominated Belgium of the 19th century.
On the Northern side of the Market is the Provincial Hof. It stands on the site were the medieval cloth halls used to stand. This was a covered hall where ships could unload their cargos for storage in the halls or for sale on the market next door. The Provincial Hof is the best example of Bruges’ renovation in neo-gothic style. After demolishing the cloth halls in 1787 houses in classicist style replaced them. In 1850 the provincial government bought the complex, enlarged it, and made it the seat of the provincial government. Members of the catholic and traditionalist political parties demanded more suitable building 'for the beautiful gothic Bruges'. In 1878 a fire conveniently destroyed the building. Different groups took their chance to have it rebuilt in neo-gothic style, the 'house'-style of the catholic party.
On the left side of the Provincial Hof is now the house of the Governor of the Province of West-Flanders. The red-brick building on the right side is the Post Office of Bruges.
Restaurants occupy the other sides of the market and shops located in former private houses as well as in guild houses.
Finally, on the Southern side of the Market stand several medieval-looking houses. Many are modern reconstructions of the medieval styles.
Now stroll down Breidelstraat in the southwest corner of the Markt to the 'Burg' square--administrative heart of the city and a showcase of European architectural styles.