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

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jon Page (2 years ago)
Obvious must see. I hear the stairs are very narrow though... Genuinely, We visited and noticed a sign in the courtyard for 'Concert 7pm' We waited in anticipation of instruments being produced, but instead, beautiful chiming from the Belfry started to sound. It was was a Belfry concert, and it was enchanting. I thoroughly enjoyed the tranquility of it, and the quiet in the square. Everyone was taking the time to listen and enjoy. Go, go.
Robert Mander (2 years ago)
A unique experience. Many narrow steps with regular interruptions to let others pass on the journey up and down. Once at the top, virtually deafening musical bells played by a man on the floor below (formally fully automated using a giant drum) and a brilliant 360 view of Bruges. Excellent and definitely worth the admission fee!
Josh (2 years ago)
Phenomenal view from the top, and a really interesting look into historical clockwork. Met a friendly local guide at the top who told me information about all the different landmarks and the history of the city which I hadn't heard from other sources. I would recommend going in the evening, or whenever it is least busy while you're there as it was great to be able to experience it peacefully and not have to awkwardly pass by loads of people on the steps up.€12 is a bit steep but at the same time there's not much like it so worth it in my mind.
Luis Dalbem (2 years ago)
If you have only one day in Belgium you must go to Bruges. The whole city is incredible... We had a chance to try lots of local beers, there was an special event happening in the city... So it was perfect.
Bianca W (2 years ago)
Absolutely worth a visit! It's a bit if climb on the narrow stairs, but definitely worth it. The view from the top is stunning. The stairs are very uneven and it's a squish when people need to pass in the other direction, but keep going, you won't be disappointed. I do have to say, it wasn't as high as I expected it to be, but it was still a great view!
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