Used as a marketplace since 958, this square is still one of the liveliest places in Brugge. In the center stands a memorial to the city's medieval heroes, Jan Breydel and Pieter De Coninck, who led the commoners of Flanders to their short-lived victory over the aristocrats of France. On the east side of the Markt stand the provincial government house and the post office, an excellent pastiche of Burgundian Gothic. Old guild houses line the west and north sides of the square, their step-gabled facades overlooking the cafés spilling out onto the sidewalk. These buildings aren't always as old as they seem, though—often they're 19th-century reconstructions. The medieval Belfort (Belfry) on the south side of the Markt, however, is the genuine article. The tower dates to the 13th century, its crowning octagonal lantern to the 15th century. Altogether, it rises to a height of 270 feet, commanding the city and the surrounding countryside with more presence than grace. The valuables
of Brugge were once kept in the second-floor treasury; now the Belfort's riches are in its remarkable 47-bell carillon, which rings even truer thanks to the new bells it was given in 2010. (Impressing Belgians with a carillon is no mean feat, as Belgium has some of the best in the world.) However, their playlist can be a little limited, and after listening to at least a half-dozen renditions of "It's a Long, Long way to Tipperary," you might wish that they'd skimped on the quality a little. If you haven't walked enough, you can climb 366 winding steps to the clock mechanism, and from the carillon enjoy a gorgeous panoramic view. The base of the belfry is a gallery containing a permanent collection of sketches and watercolors by (of all people) Salvador Dalí. Back in the square, you may be tempted by the horse-drawn carriages that congregate here; a half-hour ride for up to five people, with a short stop at the Begijnhof, costs €44 plus "something for the horse."