Oldest town hall in Belgium (1376), it is certainly one of the most beautiful, a Gothic wedding cake of pointed spires and elaborate statuary adorning the stone facade in uniform rows, the effect marred only by the fact that most of the statues were removed from their niches and destroyed by those soldiers of the French Revolution in 1795—they have not been replaced, though plans are constantly announced to do so. Inside, you wander about through lobby and halls till you see the evocative painting of the Burgomaster receiving Napoleon on his visit to Bruges, then return to the lobby and immediately head up the red-carpeted stone staircase to your left to the immense, scarlet-colored Gotische Zaal (Gothic Room), with its stalactite-like ceiling completed in 1402. The immense pride of medieval people in their civic institutions, the majesty and might of medieval cities, literally resounds from the lavish detailing and decor of the walls, ceiling and floor of this richly-ornamented chamber. Have you ever seen a latter-day civic room, or a meeting room anywhere, to equal it?

A much later addition to the splendor of the Gothic Room are its dozen wall murals completed in 1895; imagine them as bearing consecutive numbers starting near the chimney piece, and you'll enjoy a mini-course in the history of Bruges by perusing: 3 (Derek of Alsace, Count of Flanders, arriving with the Relic of the Holy Blood in 1150); 6 (Philip of Alsace, a later Count of Flanders, granting a charter to Bruges in 1190); 1 (The Triumphant return of the troops of Bruges from the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302); 4 (Lodewijk of Male, Count of Flanders, laying the cornerstone of the Town Hall in 1376); 5 (A burgomaster of Bruges visiting the studio of Jan van Eyck in 1433).