Bruges is an amazing city and one well worth the title of Venice of the North. When looking at the city you may think this title refers to the many rivers and bridges that make Bruges such a picturesque location. In reality its title was based more on the close ties it had with Venice in trade.
Especially the diamond trade was a main factor for Bruges. In the 15th century Venice was at its peak in splendour and power and a significant part of its economy was based on the trade of rough diamonds. It was in fact the rough stones centre of the world. A large part of its export went to Bruges, opening the way for many diamond centres in the surrounding countries.
The origin of West-European diamond centres
Some examples of diamond centres that have their origins tied to the trade between Venice and Bruges are Paris and several cities in Germany. Also Antwerp started its journey to becoming the diamond capital of the world thanks to Bruges. Antwerp was already known for its many ruby cutters, but in the 15th century it developed into the place to be for diamond polishers as well.
The rise of Antwerp
In the 16th century the power of Venice dwindled and other trading routes became more popular, especially Lisbon gained substantial power and wealth. This made Antwerp even more important as Antwerp was a primary trading partner of Lisbon, while Bruges suffered as Venice lost its influence. In 1582 the guild of diamond and ruby polishers settled in Antwerp, solidifying its place as a major player in the diamond world.
Visiting Bruges – Venice of the North
While Bruges might have lost its title as diamond centre, it’s still an amazing place to visit and gain an insight in the history of diamonds. So if you plan on visiting Antwerp you might want to take a day or two to visit Bruges as well. The city has an amazing architectural style and several attractions like the Diamond Museum of Bruges. This museum is not to be confused with the one in Antwerp, which we think is even more impressive.