Brugge in medieval times was known as a commercial metropolis in the heart of Europe.
The city reflects a considerable exchange of influences on the development of art and architecture, particularly in brick Gothic, which is characteristic of northern Europe and the Baltic. This architecture strongly determines the character of the historic centre of the city.
The 1st century city walls marked the boundaries of the medieval city. Although the walls themselves are lost today, they remain clearly visible, emphasized by the four surviving gates, the ramparts and one of the defence water towers. The medieval street pattern, with main roads leading towards the important public squares, has mostly been preserved, as well as the network of canals which, once used for mercantile traffic, played an important role in the development of the city.
In the 15th century, Brugge was the cradle of the Flemish Primitives and a centre of patronage and painting development for artists such as Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling. Many of their works were exported and influenced painting styles all over Europe. Exceptionally important collections have remained in the city until today.