Bruges is a relatively small city of about 120 thousand people, double that if you include the metropolitan area. It is very beautiful and pristine. It’s a vibrant and alive and obsessively clean and not as busy and commercial as Brussels, a perfect place to get a good taste of Belgium.
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.
Bruges received its city charter on July 27, 1128, and new walls and canals were built. Since about 1050, gradual silting had caused the city to lose its direct access to the sea. A storm in 1134, however, re-established this access, through the creation of a natural channel at the Zwin. The new sea arm stretched all the way to Damme, a city that became the commercial outpost for Bruges.