The narrow lane which begins as a vaulted passage between the Oude Griffe (Old Recorder's House) and the Stadhuis is called Blinde Ezelstraat (Blind Donkey Street). There are various theories about how this street got its name ranging from blindfolding donkeys to enable them to negotiate the narrow alley when fully loaded to describing customers from a nearby tavern who became as drunk as blind donkeys after consuming the cheapest beer in town! If you take a walk down this street you will cross a bridge over the canal to Steenhouwersdijk, one of the most picturesque parts of Bruges and home to the Vismarkt (fish market).
The Vismarkt (fish market) built in the early 1820s is one of the few notable architectural mementoes from a time when Belgium was ruled by the Netherlands. Fresh fish from the north sea is still sold here from stone slabs beneath the classical colonnades from Tuesday to Saturday between 8am and 1pm.
If you take a stroll south from the city centre you will come to the Begijnhof (or B é guinage in French). Begijnhofs were set up for widows and unmarried women in the time of the crusades to live in a convent-like community. However, unlike nuns, they did not have to take any vows and were able to return to the secular world whenever they wanted. The inhabitants of a Begijnhof were known as b é guines and they led pious, secluded lives and dedicated themselves to charitable work. The gatehouse entrance to the Begijnhof is reached by crossing a picturesque old bridge across the canal. Inside you will find a wonderfully tranquil green surrounded by whitewashed gabled cottages where in the spring the grass is covered in daffodils. The last b é guine died in the late 1920s but today you will still see Benedictine nuns who took over the site in 1930 quietly go about their business and make the walk across the green to the church.
A short walk alongside the canal from the Begijnhof leads you to the Minnewater. The Minnewater, a broad stretch of water which is connected to the canals (and eventually the sea), was once one of Flanders' busiest docks. Today it is a quiet backwater where you can take a walk or enjoy a picnic while watching the numerous swans.
In 2002 Bruges was selected as Cultural City of Europe and in anticipation of the event Bruges city council organised an international architecture competition to find a designer with the best plans for a concert hall. The winners came from Belgium and the four-year project was successfully completed in time for the 2002 celebrations. This innovative, state-of-the art building includes a 1200 seat concert hall and a 300 seat court-yard style chamber music hall which is overlooked by a spiralling balcony which rises up through a 28m glass-walled Lantern Tower. At the top of the tower is a café/restaurant from which you get views right over Bruges and beyond as far as the coast. The Concertgebouw is right in the city centre on Zand square.