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The city of Brugge dates its history back two thousand years to an origin as a Gallic-Roman settlement. Overrun briefly by Romans and then Germanic tribes, in medieval times Brugge would become a leading international port city in the region then known as Flanders. Dubbed the Venice of the North, the hub of Brugge’s history lies in the late Middle Age and early Renaissance periods. Like Venice and other port cities of pre-Renaissance Europe, Brugge was instrumental in using its status as a commercial center and cultural nexus to bring about the advent of modern Western civilization.
Trade was already a substantial force in Brugge as early as the first millennium, when contacts with Norsemen brought both Viking culture as well as a name for the city—Brugge comes from the Old Norse “Bryggja,” which means landing stage.
By the fourteenth century, Brugge had become the trade capital of Europe north of Italy, with inhabitants numbering over 40,000—a population twice as large than what
the city hosts today. Brugge would thrive off the trade of Flemish wool and other goods until after the Renaissance, at which point commerce would decline to the nadir of the city becoming the poorest in Belgium by the mid-nineteenth-century.
Relatively passive during Revolutions Industrial and French, World Wars I and II, Brugge’s middle age holds the heart of its past. The city’s medieval cityscape left unspoiled for centuries, Brugge’s ancient architecture has practically been shrink-wrapped, allowing an incredibly successful tourist economy to thrive to this day.