201607_0370 Bruges, Rosary Quay, Magic Light
Bruges (Dutch: Brugge ; German: Brügge) is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the northwest of the country.
The area of the whole city amounts to more than 13,840 hectares, including 1,075 hectares off the coast, at Zeebrugge (from Brugge aan zee meaning "Bruges on Sea"). The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO. It is oval-shaped and about 430 hectares in size.
The city's total population is 117,073 (1 January 2008), of whom around 20,000 live in the city centre. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 616 km2 (238 sq mi) and has a total of 255,844 inhabitants as of 1 January 2008.
Along with a few other canal-based northern cities, such as Amsterdam and Stockholm, it is sometimes referred to as The Venice of the North. Bruges has a significant economic importance thanks to its port and was once the chief commercial city in the world.
The place is first mentioned in records as Bruggas, Brvggas, Brvccia in 840–875, then as Bruciam, Bruociam (in 892), Brutgis uico (toward end of the 9th century), in portu Bruggensi (c. 1010), Bruggis (1012), Bricge (1037, in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle), Brugensis (1046), Brycge (1049–1052, again in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle), Brugias (1072), Bruges (1080–1085), Bruggas (c. 1084), Brugis (1089), and Brugge (1116).
The name probably derives from the Old Dutch for "bridge"; cf. Middle Dutch brucge, brugge (or brugghe, brigghe, bregghe, brogghe), and modern Dutch bruggehoofd ("bridgehead") and Brug ("bridge"). The form brugghe would be a southern Dutch variant. The Dutch word and the English "bridge" both derive from Proto-Germanic *brugjō-.
Bruges was a portal to The Amber Road, a trade route to the East that began in 1600 BC. Very few traces of human activity in Bruges date from the Pre-Roman Gaul era. The first fortifications were built after Julius Caesar's conquest of the Menapii in the first century BC, to protect the coastal area against pirates. The Franks took over the whole region from the Gallo-Romans around the 4th century and administered it as the Pagus Flandrensis. The Viking incursions of the ninth century prompted Baldwin I, Count of Flanders to reinforce the Roman fortifications; trade soon resumed with England and Scandinavia.