Belfry of Bruges

Bruges, Belgium

The belfry of Bruges, or Belfort, is a medieval bell tower and one of the Bruges' most prominent symbols. The belfry formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives, and served as an observation post for spotting fires and other danger. A narrow, steep staircase of 366 steps, accessible by the public for an entry fee, leads to the top of the 83-metre-high building, which leans about a metre to the east.

The belfry was added to the market square around 1240, when Bruges was prospering as an important centre of the Flemish cloth industry. After a devastating fire in 1280, the tower was largely rebuilt. The city archives, however, were forever lost to the flames.

The octagonal upper stage of the belfry was added between 1483 and 1487, and capped with a wooden spire bearing an image of Saint Michael, banner in hand and dragon underfoot. The spire did not last long: a lightning strike in 1493 reduced it to ashes, and destroyed the bells as well. A wooden spire crowned the summit again for some two-and-a-half centuries, before it, too, fell victim to flames in 1741. The spire was never replaced again, thus making the current height of the building somewhat lower than in the past; but an openwork stone parapet in Gothic style was added to the rooftop in 1822.

The bells in the tower regulated the lives of the city dwellers, announcing the time, fire alarms, work hours, and a variety of social, political, and religious events. Eventually a mechanism ensured the regular sounding of certain bells, for example indicating the hour.

In the 16th century the tower received a carillon, allowing the bells to be played by means of a hand keyboard. Starting from 1604, the annual accounts record the employment of a carilloneur to play songs during Sundays, holidays and market days. In 1675 the carillon comprised 35 bells, designed by Melchior de Haze of Antwerp. After the fire of 1741 this was replaced by a set of bells cast by Joris Dumery, 26 of which are still in use. There were 48 bells at the end of the 19th century, but today the bells number 47, together weighing about 27.5 tonnes. The bells range from weighing two pounds to 11,000 pounds.

Belfry of Bruges is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Belfries of Belgium and France.

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Address

Markt, Bruges, Belgium
See all sites in Bruges

Details

Founded: c. 1240
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Belgium

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

William Chase (20 months ago)
An absolutely stunning view across the entirety of Bruges at the top and a lovely experience listening to the bells chime up close. There are, however, two small issues we found: 1. The significant, but expected, queue; 2. The steep and slim staircase which was difficult to climb with people constantly going up and coming down.
William Perkola (20 months ago)
If able, climbing the Belfry is a must when visiting Bruges. After numerous narrow and winding stairs an unobstructed 360 degree view over Bruges opens up. There are markings in the directions of larger cities to help with orientation and if you are lucky you might experience the powerful sound of the tower bells.
Fabio Diglio (20 months ago)
As in many other Belgian cities, the Belfry, the perfect look-out in case of war, fire or any other calamity, dominated the Markt Hall. This tower stands 83 metres tall. If you are fit or brave enough, after a 366 steps climb, your efforts will be rewarded with a panoramic view of Bruges and its surroundings.
Robb Nelson (2 years ago)
Great example of how to do a UNESCO site right. Its 12 euros to go up, less for kids. Climbing the 300+ steps provides great views of the surrounding city and countryside. Definitely worth a visit when in Bruges.
Jiří Mladěnka (2 years ago)
Visited Bruges two weeks ago and it was amazing. The city is very nice with a lot of narrow streets and interesting buildings. The main square looks also very nice. I really must recommend this town to visit. It is really Venice of the North!
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