Bruges is touted as “The Venice of the North” and the best preserved medieval city in all of Northern Europe. It’s picture postcard gorgeous. The beauty and romance are enhanced by the canals that weave through the town.
Before I knew anything about Bruges or its beauty, I wanted to go there because of the Brangwyn Museum. Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956) was born in Bruges but spent most of his time in England, where he is still celebrated as one of Britain’s greatest artists. I have over seventy books on the guy. Brangwyn is a huge favorite of mine, obviously.
Any medium or artistic field you could name, whether it be oil paintings, ceramics, furniture design, watercolors, etching, wood block prints or murals, to name a few — Brangwyn was a master.
As soon as Dean Cornwell got his mural commission from the Los Angeles Public Library, he went to England to learn how to paint murals, studying under Brangwyn. Got it? Brangwyn’s The Man.
On my first trip to Bruges my cab driver had trouble finding the Brangwyn Museum. He finally stopped to ask someone, since we knew it was in our immediate vicinity. The local directed us to the museum.
I was unhappy to learn that there was no longer an entire museum devoted to Brangwyn. I couldn’t believe it — Brangwyn, the most lionized artist in in the UK, now relegated to just one or two rooms in what was once his entire museum. The rest of the museum was devoted to local crafts now.
I asked a lady at the museum what had happened.
“When this museum was solely devoted to Brangwyn, we had twelve English visitors each year and one American. Congratulations! You are our American this year! When we downsized the Brangwyn exhibit into it current size and began showcasing local crafts, the museum attendance boomed.”
Aaaargh! as we say in the comics.
We got to the museum too late this time to see the Brangwyns but I was able to buy three more Brangwyn books I didn’t have in the still open museum shop.
My wife and I continued to explore Bruges via a canal cruise.
If I couldn’t see Brangwyns, at least this time I could enjoy the sights of the city.
Bruges has a particularly wonderful chocolate shop:
We stocked up with a box of Madame Dumon‘s irresistible ganaches and continued our stroll through Bruges.
Much of Bruges is very Tenggren-esque, reminding me of Gustaf Tenggren‘s designs for Walt Disney’s Pinocchio.
The architectural styles alone (and their fine preservation) are reason enough to visit Bruges.
Lucky us! We got to spend two nights in Bruges, something I didn’t have time for on my first trip there.
Like most European towns, Bruges is an incredibly safe city. It’s fun to stroll down narrow cobbled streets and past spectacular architecture at night.
We had a surprisingly crappy dinner our last night in Bruges but we stayed at a well-located hotel that I’d readily recommend: Hotel Malleberg.
It’s a great, trippy little place with very friendly staff. Great chill music plays during the hotel’s generous breakfast, which is served in a charmingly refurbished underground cellar.
Our last morning in Bruges was market day. I LOVE perusing markets in other countries, examining the vast variety of exotic foodstuffs.
After the market we took off by train for one of my favorite European cities, Brussels.