Movie Tourism In Bruges

The comedy In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, and Brendan Gleeson, takes us to various locations in the city of Bruges, Belgium where the movie was filmed. Bruges is a frequent first stop for travelers arriving at Ostende from the UK, or for visitors to Europe from other countries, a short train ride from Brussels. Tourists will find a well-preserved town, a World Heritage Site, remaining relatively untouched by industrialism and the modernism of other tourist destinations. Often called the “Venice of the North,” Bruges is known for canals, medieval architecture, music, and art, as well as for over 300 varieties of local beer, fine Belgian lace, and delicious chocolate and pralines. It is a fascinating place with numerous attractions, so we will cover some of these scenes from the movie.

Couples and romanticists will discover the Minnewater “Lake of Love” and park a delightful retreat across the old bridge from town and away from the tourist crowds. Stroll through the grounds or watch the swans that have symbolized Bruges through the years float gracefully on Minnewater. In July, the summer Cactus Festival is a popular 3-day event where people can enjoy a variety of music in outdoor concerts by well known international artists in a beautiful setting.

Admission: $50 – 1 day, $89 – 2 days, $117 – 3 days.

Much of the Old World charm, history, and culture of Bruges can be found in its museums. The significance of beer making dates back to the 15th century and to the wealthy, powerful Gruuthuse families. Lodewiik van Gruuthuse and other lords of Gruuthuse made a fortune in the sale of Gruut, barley or wheat, and built a splendid mansion filled with medieval treasures of art, furniture, lace, and tapestries. In 1865, the Archaeological Society of Bruges recognized the value in these great collections, and by the late 1800’s the palace had undergone a complete renovation to become a grand museum. Officially taken over by the city in 1955, the Gruuthuse Museum is now a main attraction in its extensive variety of exhibits and memorabilia from the Middle Ages. Visitors will find impressive wood, ivory, and marble sculpture from the 16th century, different styles of furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries, religious and domestic silver, and an extensive collection of metal objects including the original fireplace and chimney from the kitchen of the Gruuthuse family. The museum also houses ceramics from various regions in Europe such as Holland’s Delft, France, and Germany, as well as tapestries, a small stamp collection, and some musical instruments.

Hours: Tues – Sun, 9:30am to 5pm. Admission: $8, Ages 6-15, $1.50, Under 6 free.

Travelers interested in the Fine Arts may want to visit the Groeninge Museum, which features paintings from the 14th through the 20th century. Some of the highlights include masterpieces by the famous Flemish painters, Jan Van Eyck, Memling, and David. Other artwork on display is from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and the Herbert collection of Flemish expressionist paintings, acquired by the museum in 1985.

Hours: 9:30am to 5pm. Closed 1 Jan, 25 Dec, and most Mondays. Admission: $10 – Adults, $7 – Ages 13 to 26, 60+, and groups of 15 or more.

Featured in the movie is the Relais Bourgondisch Cryce hotel where Farrell and Gleeson, the two hitmen, hide out while in Bruges. Although pictured as a somewhat modest establishment managed by Fiennes, it is actually a highly recommended upscale waterfront hotel on Rosary Quay. Chosen for the Cultures Choice award and the Best Luxury Hotel Worldwide by Travelers Choice in 2008, this small 15th century hotel of 16 guestrooms is elegantly furnished throughout with antiques and designer accessories. A lavish breakfast buffet complete with champagne and famous Belgian waffles is served in the cozy 17th century Flemish tea room of the hotel. Breakfast – $30. A 5-minute walk along the canal takes you to the hotel restaurant, Maria van Bourgondie, with its menu of gourmet specialties. Travelers can find less expensive accommodations in the city, but this family owned hotel has a distinctive, romantic appeal for those interested in the movie and its popular location for photographers, writers, and artists.

Room Rates: Standard – $258, Superior/Classic – $481 and up. (canal view)

Other scenes from In Bruges were filmed at the well known Cafedraal restaurant near the city center, a friendly bistro/bar with an outdoor garden terrace and a choice of soups, seafood, and wild game entrees.

Prices: $30 to $50 Hours: 12Noon – 3pm, 6pm – 11pm. Closed Sundays.

While in Bruges, travelers may be interested in seeing the historic 250-foot Belfort or Belfry Tower, built in the 13th century in the market square and rebuilt three times, as portrayed in Longfellow’s poem, “The Belfry of Bruges.” The original carillon of the 17th century was replaced by a set of 47 bells in the tower that ring every 15 minutes and where concerts are given throughout the week. A climb up 366 steps takes you past the 2nd floor treasury room of the town’s archives to the top for a panoramic view of Bruges and the countryside.

Admission: $11

Of great historical appeal to many is the Basilica of the Holy Blood located in Burg Square. This Catholic shrine consists of two chapels connected by a brick stairway, the lower one first built in simple 12th century Roman style, followed by the upper chapel of more elaborate Gothic architecture, stained glass, and murals. Sealed in an unopened crystal container, the sacred Holy Blood is thought to have been preserved and brought to Bruges from Jerusalem by the Count of Flanders sometime after the 2nd Crusade. The Basilica Museum also houses a golden statue of the Virgin Mary and other religious objects. The annual May celebration of Asuncion Day is a parade of Bruges citizens in historical costumes led by the bishop who portray the Procession and the arrival of the Count in Bruges.

Hours: Open Daily. April – Sep, 9:30am to 12Noon, 2pm to 6pm; Oct – Mar, 10am to Noon, 2pm to 4. Closed Wednesday afternoons.

Admission: Free to the Basilica. Museum – $1.50 & $.75.

Bruges, like most European cities, has a central marketplace or Grote Markt, which is framed by the Belfry Tower and the Provincial Court where ships unloaded and products were stored in the old guildhalls or sold at the open market. Statues of Breydel and de Coninck, the two Flemish leaders in the 14th century uprising against French occupation, stand proudly in the center of the Grote Markt. Here you can spend the day away from city traffic while exploring the restaurants, shops, and the remarkable reconstructions of medieval homes that line the square.

While in Bruges, travelers will enjoy a wide range of things to see and do from museums, churches, and open air markets to excellent food, fun, and Flemish hospitality.

Sharon L Slayton

Filed Under: Movie tourism

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