on July 12, 2012
Out of all the sights in Bruge the Belfy is the most prominent thanks in part to its location in the main city square but also because it dominates the Bruge city scape and can be seen from nearly every location in the city. For outstanding views of this beautiful medieval city then a climb to the top of the tower is highly recommended. +++++ A little bit of history +++++The medieval Belfry is the symbol of the city and was originally built in 1240 until a fire destroyed most of the building. It was later rebuilt in 1280 and added to in the 1400’s. The top of the tower was originally wood until it burnt only to be replaced again with a wooden structure until this again was destroyed in a fire (you would have thought they would have learnt their lesson after the first time). With the wooden structure never being rebuilt after it was destroyed a second time the tower now stands pretty much as it would have in the 1400’s with the exception of a gothic stone parapet which was added in to the top of the tower in 1822. +++++ Vsiting the tower +++++When I visited Bruge with my partner in May of course I had to go to the top of the Belfry as I feel that no matter where I go I should climb something to be able to get the best view of the city. I thought the entry prices were a little steep to be able to climb the tower. It was 8 Euros each for adults, 6 Euros for students and pensioners and 4 Euros for children. For 16 Euros I was expecting an amazing view and thankfully I wasn’t disappointed. The Belfry will only admit 70 people in at a time (the reason for this became obvious when we were climbing it) and you might have to queue and wait for a little time in high season but when we visited there was no waiting and we managed to go straight through the barrier after paying our entrance fee. Obviously you need to be careful with what footwear you are wearing and you aren’t supposed to wear sandals and people with walking difficulties are not going to be able to manage the steep stairs. The tower is 83 metres high and you need to climb 366 stairs to reach the top so it is perfectly manageable but you will feel it in your legs afterwards. The bottom of the tower starts quite gently and the stairs are wide enough for people to be able to pass each other with ease. About a quarter of the way up there is a room where you can stop to catch your breath and find some information on the tower and its history. After a brief rest we started our climb again. There is another room about half way up again where you can get your breath back and start to admire the views over the city. The rest of the climb is a lot more difficult than the first half. After leaving the second room the stairs become much narrower and steeper and you really do need to be careful so as to not slip and hurt yourself. There is a thick rope which acts as a bannister but with people coming down as you are going up it can be difficult to keep a hold of it. Talking of the people coming down the stairs as you are going up them this is not an attraction for those people who suffer from claustrophobia as it gets extremely narrow in parts. In fact it becomes so narrow that brushing against complete strangers felt uncomfortably familiar but that could just be the British in me. By the time I was almost to the top of the tower the spiral staircase had really started to make my legs work and I was ready for a rest. Luckily the view from the top room was completely worth the climb and because you are so high up you can see for miles around. The view over the gorgeous market square below was worth the price of entry alone. The only problem I had was that the view is obscured by wire mesh, of course there needs to be some sort of measure in place to stop people from falling out but the wire mesh could have done to have been a little bigger so that I could appreciate the view better. As well as the views the top of the tower also houses the Carillion and you could see the bells through a glass partition. They were quite impressive but as bells aren’t really my thing I didn’t pay them too much heed. Because the top of the tower also houses the bells there isn’t a lot of room for people so again this probably isn’t the place to come for the claustrophobic as we were all squashed together trying to look out the windows. After admiring the views it was time to go back down again. Going back down the tower is even scarier than going up and at times passing people was a little precarious but this was all part of the fun and everyone had a laugh with each other when we were all trying to squeeze past. It isn’t until you get back outside and look at the Belfry from the front that you appreciate just how high it is when you can see the people up top who all look like little ants. From the tower the view is amazing but it doesn’t feel as high as it actually is. For me the Belfry is quintessentially Bruges. It is utterly charming to look at from the outside and from the inside is full of history. There isn’t a lot going on in the inside and it is lacking in artefacts from when it was built as I would love to see one of the rooms being used as a small museum but the views are really what you are going for and these more than make it worthwhile to visit.
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