St John Altarpiece by Hans Memling
© Sarah Burles
Explore the delightful medieval town of Bruges, characterised by its fine churches, canals and cobbled streets, from a base in the heart of the city
Discover the works of the Flemish Primitives, including Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling, with visits to the Groeningemuseum and Hospital of St John
Enjoy a private reception at the extraordinary Adornes Domain and Jerusalem Chapel
"Revelatory! So much beauty and information"
"Sarah was an excellent communicator, very conscientious and completely on top of her subject as well as being a very nice person"
"We have very much enjoyed this gentler tour. The arrangements were excellent [and] the hotel was first class"
- ACE customers on a previous Bruges tour with Sarah Burles
The city of Bruges has been described as the ‘Manhattan of the 15th century’ – a vibrant trading metropolis that was the jewel in the crown of the Dukes of Burgundy. The city’s wealth and prosperity attracted large numbers of cosmopolitan traders, and provided patronage to some of the greatest artists of the period, whose work became famous throughout Europe.
The historical centre of Bruges is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, and retains much of its medieval character, including the original pattern of streets, squares, canals and open spaces. It is the perfect city to explore in a relaxed manner on foot, with all the main sites within a short distance of one another.
Walking through the Cloth Halls and out into the Markt, it is easy to imagine this square as the city’s medieval commercial hub, dominated by the Belfry tower and, up until the 18th century, by the Water Halls, where ships moored to be loaded and unloaded. Look up, and you see Bruges’s unique skyline dominated by the towers and spires of St Saviour’s Cathedral and the Church of Our Lady, whose 115.5 metre brick tower is the second tallest of its kind in the world.
We will visit the Groeningemuseum, home to a stunning collection of paintings by the Flemish Primitives including Jan van Eyck’s famous Van der Paele altarpiece, Hans Memling’s Moreel Triptych and Gerard David’s Baptism of Christ. St John’s Hospital, established in the 12th century, holds six paintings by Memling, four of which were commissioned by members of the hospital community.
We will also visit the Gruuthusemuseum, recently redisplayed and renovated. This luxurious city palace of the Lords of Gruuthuse hosts outstanding collections of furniture, sculpture, tapestry, lace and silver, and the oratory which links the palace to the Church of Our Lady.
The Treasury at St Saviour’s Cathedral contains a small but fascinating collection of paintings and applied arts, while the Church of Our Lady boasts Michelangelo’s beautiful Madonna and Child and a dramatic triptych over the altar by Bernard van Orley.
A little further afield, we will visit the extraordinary Jerusalem Chapel built by the Adornes family in the 15th century and based on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. We will hear the story of Anselm Adornes: businessman, diplomat and knight, his friends included the Scottish king and Charles the Bold. We will enjoy a private reception in the Adornes mansion, still lived in by the family.
We will stay at the four-star Hotel De Tuilerieën, an elegant 15th century patrician house that has been transformed and extended into a luxurious contemporary hotel. Situated in the heart of Bruges overlooking the Dijver Canal, it is minutes from the Groeningemuseum and other sites on our itinerary. Dinners will be taken at local restaurants.
Art historian Sarah Burles, MA, will lead this tour. Sarah read History of Art at Cambridge before going on to a career in museum and gallery education. This included twelve years at the Fitzwilliam Museum as well as work in other Cambridge museums. Sarah has a passion and enthusiasm for making museums and their collections accessible, as well as a growing interest in the lives of the collectors whose legacies have shaped the museums we see today. Sarah looks forward to introducing another ACE group to Bruges’s artistic treasures in 2022.
Included: return travel, accommodation based on sharing an executive twin or double bedded room, breakfast, one lunch, three dinners with water & coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities.
Not Included: travel insurance, comfort double room for single use supplement £185. Executive double rooms for single use and rooms with a canal view are available at a supplement – please contact the ACE office for more details.