I’ve just had the opportunity to spend a few days in Brugge (the view of the Bell Tower was from my hotel window). Although the centre of town was thronged with tourists it was only a few minutes’ walk to quieter districts where the architecture is just as impressive. Tourism is clearly the main industry of the town, although there are also lots of residential districts even within the old medieval city so I guess that there must be a range of other businesses in the outer parts. I should imagine that planning controls must be very tight, as there are no aerials or satellite dishes to be seen, and new developments in the centre seemed to be designed to blend in well with the medieval (and 19th century fake-medieval) surroundings.
The Belgians take their beer very seriously, so a tour of the Half Moon Brewery was near the top of the agenda. Straffe Hendrik is a sharp-flavoured blond beer that goes well with food and that I’ve not yet found a source of in the UK!
If you are interested in things mechanical then the short walk to the eastern edge of the old city is well worth it to see the four windmills placed on the site of the old city walls. Three are displaced from elsewhere, but Sint JansHuisMolen has been on its current site for several hundred years and is the only one still working. Inside is a marvellous example of engineering in wood, with very little use of metal. Look out for the simple idea (as all good ones are in retrospect!) to control the speed of rotation of the sails – a traditional rotary governor attached to the arrangement of levers that adjusts the spacing of the mill stones – as the mill speeds up the governor forces the stones closer together, increasing the friction and providing the necessary negative feedback loop to keep the speed constant.