Christmas in Bruges is so picturesque it’s like stepping into your very own Christmas card. The medieval town, in the Flemish region of Belgium, is aglow with sparkling lights, Christmas markets and gothic churches. Shops selling the prettiest of Christmas decorations are draped in festive foliage, cobblestone streets echo the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages and chocolate shops fill the narrow streets. A visit to Bruges in December is guaranteed to leave you feeling festive.
The historical heart of Bruges, The Markt, is lined by grand medieval architecture as well as pretty gabled houses painted in festive colours. A perfect Christmas palette!
The medieval belfry of Bruges, The Belfort, with its bell tower watches over the Grote Markt and is the subject of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who wrote in “The Belfry of Bruges”, “Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o’er the town”. And it does so beautifully, lit gold, in the dark night. I’d liked to have climbed the 366 knee-crunching steps to the top of the 83m tower for the best view of the Market Square but sadly no time on this trip. The belfry features prominently in the film ‘In Bruges‘ and had an added interest for me as I sat on the next table to, one of the stars of the film, at breakfast earlier this year. I wished I’d had the nerve to say good morning!
How many chocolate shops in Bruges?
There are currently 42 chocolate shops in Bruges (heaven) and I did consider taste testing them all but with only 24 hours in the city I couldn’t quite fit them all in. The Chocolate Line is a charming little shop where you can see cocoa confections created through a window at the back. Be warned – not all chocolate is equal – and there’s a lot to choose from in Bruges so my tips are: don’t buy at the first shop you stop at and don’t buy the most expensive – it might not be the best.
The opulent, ornate City Hall of Bruges dominates The Burg. The historic Gothic monument dates back to the late 14th century and the entire square is edged with medieval buildings showing off gothic turrets, towers and corbels. It’s well worth taking a look inside the town hall at the beautiful vaulted ceiling. Sitting to the left of the 14th-century city hall you’ll see the renaissance architecture of the old Court of Justice.
Blonde or Brown beer? Being a brunette I went for the brown beer which was not as sweet as the blonde and which, after a taste test, I decided was stronger too and I felt quite fuzzy by the time I’d finished my glass. Try for yourself at The De Halve Maan (The Half Moon) which is the only active family brewery in the city. There’s a lovely outside garden for good weather and inside there’s a lively atmosphere in the brewery pub which also serves food.
Bruges Christmas Markets
The spicy aroma of warming ghluwein and refreshing scent of pine filled the air in Markt Square as the swish of skates cutting through the centre-piece ice rink sliced through the night. Wooden chalet-style stalls sold handmade gifts, decorations and local delicacies – the crisp waffles covered in silky Belgian chocolate sauce were to die for.
Bruges is famous for lace-making and local artisans carry the art into their Christmas creations. Fairytale woodland characters and rustic baubles dangle in the breeze and knitted scarves and hats will keep you cozy. There are other smaller markets in Bruges but it’s a compact town so they’re within easy walking distance and it’s magical wandering through the town as the lights twinkle against a backdrop of medieval architecture. In a nutshell Bruges is the perfect way to get that festive feeling and indulge in a little Christmastime magic.