Bruges 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.
Bruges has most of its medieval architecture intact. The historic centre of Bruges has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.
Many of its medieval buildings are notable, including the Church of Our Lady, whose brick spire reaches 122.3 m (401.25 ft), making it one of the world's highest brick towers/buildings. The sculpture Madonna and Child, which can be seen in the transept, is believed to be Michelangelo's only sculpture to have left Italy within his lifetime.
Bruges' most famous landmark is its 13th-century belfry, housing a municipal carillon comprising 48 bells. The city still employs a full-time carillonneur, who gives free concerts on a regular basis.