3. Step back in time on an architectural walking tour
Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance, Neoclassical and Baroque – Bruges is a real open-air museum of architectural styles and fusions. Testimony to a considerable interchange of influences over its 2,000 year history, Burg Square, a majestic architectural square, is the perfect place to start. In the middle, the 14th century Gothic City hall dominates the skyline with its lavish arches, octagonal turrets, elaborate windows and ornate statuettes, while inside, gaze at the polychrome vaulted ceiling adorned with 19th-century murals. To the left, the former Civil Registry (now housing the city archives) dazzles with its flamboyant Renaissance façade, while, tucked away in the opposite corner, is the rather grim Basilica of the Holy Blood. The exterior, although lavishly decorated with gilded statues and medallions of the Counts of Flanders and their associates, is actually a staircase connecting two contrasting chapels. Be sure to visit both: the Saint-Basile Lower Church for its modest Romanesque character, while the neo-Gothic upper church, alive with color and detail, preserves the venerated relic of the Holy Blood.