Winter is coming in Bruges

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With the holiday season on our doorstep, the city of Bruges is gearing up for the winter season. Wintry events are popping up everywhere, adding to the already cozy atmosphere. Thanks to thousands of lights, pine scent, hot waffles and glühwein, the intimate city centre is that little bit more extra magical.

First and foremost of to-do’s in the city is the christmas market. In the beautiful inner city of Bruges, two christmas market take place. The illuminated ice skating rink on the Markt is a top recommendation. The ice rink is a kid’s favourite and while the christmas market itself is not that big, it’s very atmospheric. The Burg sports a huge christmas tree and on Simon Stevinsquare you can go christmas shopping to your heart’s content. The stalls and boots offer a lot of christmas decorations but you can easily pick up a new wintery outfit as well to brave the season’s cold. Feeling a little chilly regardless? Take a sip of the delicious glühwein on offer, or munch on a scalding hot waffle to get your blood flowing again.

Has the glühwein made you a little sleepy? Maybe a ride on the tallest ferris wheel in Europe (60 meter or 196 feet high) will wake you up. The ferris wheel is bound to offer a fantastic view of the city. Being up that high will almost certainly give you ideas of where to go next but we will tell you some of our favourites anyway.

On the Stationsquare, our yearly Icesculpting Festival is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Disneyland Paris. Artists from across the globe create a fairytale world of ice starring your most beloved Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars figures. About twentyfive truckloads of crystal clear ice are dumped under the roof of a gigantic fridge where the temperature is a constant -6°C. We recommend stopping by the christmas market first to pick up some warm clothes. The gigantic 2 to 6 meters sculptures are sure to awe and inspire you.

In the event that none of these tickle your curiosity, you can always visit the historic Old Saint John’s Hospital. “Winter Moments With Flowers” takes place in the magnificent décor of the hospital by the idyllic Reien at the heart of our medieval town. International artists scatter winter flowers throughout the hospital in the theme of “Christmas around the World”. Inspired by the ingenious books by Jules Verne, the artists attempt to enchant visitors with an inspiring array of flowers.

No matter where you go in Bruges during the winter season, you’re likely to sniff up some of the holiday cheer. It’s a fantastic way of seeing the city at its best, to relax and to brighten up your winter blues.

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300 Years of Fine Art in Bruges

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This year, the Bruges Academy for the Fine Arts celebrates its 300th anniversary of founding. Established in 1717, the Bruges Academy may count itself as one of the oldest art institutions in the Lowlands. To celebrate this occasion, the Groeningemuseum has organized an exhibition of paintings from its collection by the most important local Bruges artists from the second half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century. For a solid three hundred years, children, adolescents and adults have been tutored by experienced teachers and artists, and so contributed to the artistic culture of Bruges.

The Bruges Academy also played an important cultural-historical role in Europe. When the city government of Rijsel wanted to found their own academy, they came to Bruges for inspiration. In 1761, the Bruges Academy for the Fine Arts was named “the very best” (alongside an institution in Antwerp) by the General Governor de Cobenzl of the Austrian Lowlands.

Today the Academy serves as an art school for young and old alike . During the celebrations, they will base themselves on the history of the Academy to look at the present and future of the school. This month (November) the Academy will be organizing great, themed expositions in the Stadshallen and the Poortersloge.

The exhibition in the Groeningemuseum will feature works from the golden age of the Bruges Academy. The Academy trained a number of painters who later finished their education abroad. One of those painters named Jean-François Legillon was even appointed as a member of the prestigious ‘Académie Royale’ in Paris. Some of his paintings will be on display among the works of Matthias de Visch, Jan Anton Garemijn, Gerard de San, Jean-Bernard Duvivier, Albert Gregorius, Joseph-Denis Odevaere and François-Joseph Kinsoen.

At the Stadshallen, six themes will be featured on the exhibition presented by the Bruges Academy. All of these themes are contemporary but also offer a window in to history. One of these themes is “freedom”. Starting from November 8th, artist are allowed to draw, paint and sell their works. The Bruges Academy was the only democratic  Academy. Anyone with talent was allowed to enter, no matter your status or rank.

“Networking” is another theme because in the world of today, who can live without it? In 1771, Joseph-Benoît Suvée won the Prix de Rome, which was pretty much the UEFA championship for painters back in the day. He enabled dozens of Belgian painters to advance their careers in Paris and Rome.

If you erased all of the buildings where architect Louise Delacenserie had a hand in, not a whole lot of downtown Bruges would remain. “Public Landscape” is a theme chosen by the school because Louise Delacenserie was an alumni and principal of the Academy. The other themes that surface in the Stadshallen exhibition are “Arts & Crafts”, “Feminism and Emancipation” and “Individualism”.

We could go a little more in depth on all of  these wonderful events, but I advise you to explore them for yourselves. After all, beauty (or art for that matter) is in the eye of the beholder.


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