Bruges is a beautiful city at any time of year. Walking its quaint cobbled streets and admiring its medieval architecture, you can’t help but be reminded of childhood fairy tales.
The winter months bring even more sparkle and shine. At this time of year you’ll find gingerbread-style houses touched with frost, and Christmas lights twinkling in the canal.
The magical centre of this winter wonderland is the Bruges Christmas markets.
The 2017 Bruges Christmas markets open from 24th November to 1st January. They’re based in the city’s central Market Square, which is overlooked by the lofty medieval bell tower. More stalls can be found on Simon Stevinplein where you can also lace up your skates and head out onto the city’s winter ice rink.
Wandering the markets, you’ll find delicious Belgian chocolates, elegant glassware, handmade Christmas decorations, and lots of traditional handicrafts like knitwear and Belgium’s juniper-flavoured Jenever liquor. Food stalls also feature, with typical Belgian and international fare on offer.
Things to do
While the Christmas markets are a highlight of a winter escape to Bruges, venturing beyond them offers even more delights. The 83m high belfry is a great place to start. A 366-step climb to the top of the tower gives you spectacular views of the city rooves and spires below.
Other beautiful architecture includes the façade of the Stadhuis, built in 1420, and the adjoining Heilig-Bloedbasiliek, which houses a vial thought to contain drops of Christ’s blood.
For a little culture, head to Groeningemuseum, Bruges’ best art gallery and home to Flemish and Renaissance works. Or for a more down to earth experience of Bruges life, past and present, make a stop at ‘t Brugs Beertje. It’s an old drinking hole and one of Belgium’s most famous brown cafés (so-called because the walls and ceilings have been stained brown by many years of tobacco smoke).
Back outside, take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the old town centre, or wrap up warm and explore the canals instead, taking a boat tour where you’ll learn all about the long and intriguing history of Bruges.
Food and drink
No trip to Belgium would be complete without sampling the local cuisine.
Chocolate is a must. Our favourite chocolate shops are Dumon and Pralinette, the latter selling a hard-to-find massive slab of pure Belgian chocolate that can be chopped roughly with a knife and savoured.
Save space for warm, freshly made waffles, bratwurst, glühwein, some good Belgian beer, and a big bowl of frites, delicacies you can find all across the city.
Places to stay
There’s a great selection of accommodation throughout Bruges. The five-star hotel, Dukes’ Palace, sits right in the middle of the action and also provides spa facilities within its palatial interior.
For a more boutique experience, there’s Inn us Hus, a modern and stylish B&B. It’s located on a quiet street but still just a stone’s throw from the town centre.
For something a little different, try Jacquemine Luxury Guesthouse. It offers beautiful rooms, delicious breakfast, and its own gardens and art gallery. There are plenty of apartments and Airbnb options to choose from too.
Direct flights to Bruges from the UK are, unfortunately, few and far between. By far the most straightforward way to travel is by Eurostar from London St. Pancras. Alternatively, you can fly to Brussels and then hop on the train (it takes around an hour) or the shuttle bus (which takes a little longer) to Bruges.
Winter weather in Bruges is chilly, just like in the UK. You can expect average temperatures of around 4C (39F) from December to February, so take warm layers and be prepared to make many a glühwein pitstop!
Bruges is a great destination for a winter getaway, a cultural city break, and a little Christmas shopping too. The city is a winter wonderland that will infuse even the most dedicated scrooge with its festive cheer. For a short winter break over the winter months, medieval Bruges is picture-perfect and inescapably Christmassy.