Bruges is the capital of province West Flanders and is often referred to as Venice of the North, and open-air museum. Bruges is was a very important town throughout the history of the country. This city is based on the network of canals, which in the past was used for transportation of goods, as the town was a trade center and lace manufacturing center. Also, the town had formed "Bruges Forward: Society to Improve Tourism" in 1909, making it one of the first tourist centers in Europe. The historic center is under the protection of UNESCO.