“The belfry, with its well-known carillon bells, is the symbol of the cities in Belgium.”
The Belfry (or Belfort in Dutch) of Bruges, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, is one of the most famous belfries in Belgium. This 83 meter tower hosts, on the top, the emblematic carillon bells and dominates proudly the skyline of Bruges. It represents the power and the wealth of the city during the Middle Ages, and now it’s a must in Bruges and marks the main point of the city, the Grote Markt or Market Square.
THE ORIGIN OF THE BUILDING
The origin of this belfry was a first wooden towerbuilt in 1240 in the central square of the city. At the bottom of this tower we could find the cloth and wool market, and it had an administrative purpose linked with the city government: inside, the town archives and the city treasure were kept and the judges and magistrates used to meet.
However, the oldest town archives disappeared because of a fire that destroyed also this first wooden tower in 1280. After that and after the construction of the City Hall in the Burg Square, the archives were moved to this building with the whole of the administrative activities. The tower was rebuilt in 1296 with stone foundations and a wooden spire on the top.
The bottom part of the building, housing the market, was enlarged along the XV century and the tower got higher from 1483 to 1487, when an upper octagonal part was added, with a wooden spire bearing a Saint Michael statue.
FIRES IN THE BELFRY.
However, several more fires damaged this historical symbol of Bruges. For example, in 1493 another fire destroyed again the upper part, the bells and the wooden spire and it was replaced againby another top part, this time with lion sculptures. In 1741, a third fire harmed the foundations of the tower and finally, in 1822 the belfry got its current appearance.
SOME FACTS ABOUT THE BELFRY
The tower is 83 meter high and it is made in a brabantine gothic style. We can reach the top and in our way, climbing one by one the 366 steps, we will find the 47 Belgian carillon bells, one of the symbols of this country. Above the entry to the tower we can find a balcony, a placed used in the Middle Ages to inform the population, gathered in the Grote Markt thanks to the ringing of the bells, about the enacted laws or the public announcements. In Dutch we call it “de Hallegeboden”.
THE BELFRY, MUCH MORE THAN A SYMBOL.
The belfry was the symbol of a city, the representation of the power and the wealth, the way of proving the city status in the feudal system and a way to assure the importance of the city face to neighboring cities.
These belfries had a lot of roles, but in every city and every moment of the history, those roles could be different. It was very common to use them as watchtowers to warn the population about dangers such as fires or enemy invasions, but the belfries were also used as court houses, as meeting points for magistrates, as the treasures room, as prisons…
But maybe the most important role was the organization of the city’s life. The bells from the belfry announced the time, the sunrise, the curfews, the working hours, the dangers or the moments to gather in the Market Square. Furthermore, the carillon bells are also important because they had in the past, and have nowadays, a major role in Belgian festivals and celebrations.
Do not miss our guided tour around the city of Bruges!
OPENING HOURS AND PRICES INFORMATION
The Belfry is open every day of the year except for the 1st January, the 25th December and the Ascension Thursday (which is normally in may), when Bruges celebrate the Procession of the Holy Blood. Visiting hours are from 09H30 to 17H00, but we can buy our ticket only until 16H15. Entry is 8 € for adults, 6 € for seniors (+65) and for youngsters under 25, and it’s free for the children under 5 years old.
Markt, 8000, Bruges, Belgium.
HOW TO GET THERE
If you want to get to the Belfry, you will probably get there following the two most common ways. On one side, if you follow the way proposed by us visiting the monuments of Bruges, you will arrive from the Burg Square, walking along the Breidelstraat Street. This Street will take you to the Market Square, and we will see the Belfry on the left. On the other side, if you go by car, you can park it in the parking located in the Zand Square and walk along Zuidstraat Street, where you will see a lot of shops, cheap restaurants and The Sint-Salvator Cathedral, the cathedral of Bruges.
- Burg Square (100 m).
- Jan van Eyckplein Square (275 m).
- Sint-Salvator Cathedral (350 m).
- Groeninge Museum (375 m).
- Gruuthuse Museum (425 m).
- Zand Square (500 m).