Christmas in Bruges
Updated: May 9, 2020
One day earlier this year, I woke up and suddenly decided that I needed to spend Christmas in Bruges, so off I went to book Eurostar tickets and find a nice hotel. I had very high expectations as all my friends who went to Bruges came back with glowing reviews. So now that Christmas has come and gone, I can tell you all about my trip.
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The town certainly delivered bucketfuls of old-world charm. The beautiful architecture with tiled roofs and brick houses, the windmills, the cobbled streets and the canals created a lovely atmosphere. I think I can let the photos speak for themselves here:
Apart from the general beauty of Bruges, I do have some more thoughts that I might come in useful if you are planning to travel there.
Things I was wondering about and now have clarity on:
- If you are travelling by train, changing trains in Brussels can be a bit of a pain. The screens with the trains and platforms on them only have the final stations displayed and Bruges (as well as Bruxelles Midi on the way back) is just one of the stops en-route, so you have no idea what train you need. My advice is to check out the timetable beforehand on the Belgian Rail website to avoid queueing at the information point.
- What it's like to visit on actual Christmas. I was mainly worried about finding somewhere to eat on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as I couldn't find any definitive information on whether restaurants and shops would be open or closed online. So if you are planning to go there next Christmas, this is what it was like for Christmas 2016:
We arrived on the afternoon of Christmas Eve and as we left the hotel around 4:30pm, the shops were closing down, but there were some restaurants that remained open longer, especially around the central square. The Christmas market was also open, so if all else fails, you can grab a bite there.
On Christmas Day, the town was almost dead - the vast majority of the shops were closed with the exception of some chocolate shops. Some restaurants were open, so you could still find a nice place to eat, but quite a few had notices in the windows that they were fully booked (this was around lunchtime). The Christmas market was open. There were some tourists walking around, but overall it was rather empty.
On Boxing Day, most of the shops were open again and there were masses and masses of people on the main streets to the point where it got really difficult to move - might be worth planning a tour around the less touristy parts for that day.
Things I expected from Bruges but didn't get:
- One of the things on my wishlist was an awesome Christmas market experience and Bruges just didn't deliver. There were two Christmas markets within a short walk of each other, one with an ice rink in the middle and the other one with some rides. The stalls in both markets were disappointing - there weren't that many, the food selection was rather blah and the range of non-food products on offer also left to be desired. I have certainly seen better markets in Germany.
Things I didn't expect from Bruges but got:
- The town centre is linked to a single sound system. As you walk along the shopping areas, you can spot little Bose speakers on the walls which are all playing the same music. That is a rather ingenious solution and contributed greatly to the Christmassy atmosphere.
- There is chocolate everywhere. And by that I mean literally everywhere. I mean I know Belgium is famous for its chocolate, but I just didn't expect every other shop to be a chocolate shop. Truffles, bars, dark, milk, white, hot chocolate, you name it. And some shop windows were particularly creative with their designs:
- The restaurants in Bruges are expensive - moules frites (mussels with french fries) are sold almost everywhere at ~€20. Rather a lot for a main I think. That said, the quality of the mussels was fantastic - better than the ones I had in the south of France!
So all in all, I had a lovely time. If you are thinking of whether or not to go to Bruges for Christmas, the answer is definitely yes! Just don't expect too much from the Christmas market. And to wrap this up, here's a short video compilation of my trip: