Every year since moving to Ireland, we spend two weeks celebrating the festive season in a new place in Europe; pretending that we live there for a short while. Last year we spent Christmas in Bruges, Belgium. It’s a magical time of year to visit. Here are fifteen reasons why.
1. Christmas Markets
Let’s start with the obvious...Christmas Markets. The Grote Markt in Bruges is covered in a sheet of ice and visitors skate arm in arm under the shadow of the Bruges Belfry
. Unlike German Christmas markets there are no commemorative mugs but I’ll forgive this one oversight.
2. Quaint Architecture
Step gables, ornate brickwork, and fascinating weather vanes will greet you as you stroll the streets.
3. Cobbled Streets *Not* Overrun by Tourists
And did I mention that the streets are cobbled? And not overrun by tourists? Bruges is an extremely popular destination in the warm weather months. Only heartier souls visit in the winter which means you can enjoy the town without the crowds.
4. Marzipan Logs
Window shopping is always a treat but what’s more fun is seeing something you like and going inside to taste it first hand. We simply had to try these colorful marzipan yule logs.
5. Serene Canals
Belgium is one of the ‘low-countries’ and has the canals to prove it. Take advantage of the quiet time of year for a canal-side stroll. Duck down a side street and you’ll feel like you have the whole town to yourself.
6. Festive chocolates
Belgium is synonymous with chocolate and this is definitely true of Bruges. We enjoyed browsing the shops and spotting Santa caps and reindeer among the chocolate creations.
7. Cozy Pubs
Belgium is well known for beer and Bruges has its fair share of pubs. We tried de Garre (nestled down a tiny alleyway just off the Grote Markt). They are famous for their house beer which weighs in at about 11% alcohol content so watch out! We also visited 't Brugs Bieratelier which had fantastic atmosphere including an old timey cash register. Our favorite part was the fact that they do tasting flights to give folks the opportunity to sample a variety of beers. Variety is the spice of life!
8. Horse-drawn Carriages
We didn’t take a ride ourselves because it felt a bit touristy but the reindeer antlers on this fellow made me smile.
9. Irreverent Window displays
Bruges features some amazing window displays and some are particularly irreverent. I loved these two angels including one that seemed to have fallen victim to a practical joke. Seems a little breezy, eh?
10. Twinkling Lights
Taking a stroll at night in Bruges during the holiday season, you’ll be treated to a display of festive twinkling lights. 'Tis the season.
11. Backlit Towers
Walking the quiet streets at night, it’s hard to get lost. All the historic towers in this UNESCO heritage town light the night sky. Use them to triangulate your position and find your way home.
12. Windmill Walk
Despite the winter chill in the air, we took a walk around the canal that rings the city past a series of old windmills. It was a charming site to behold and took us back in time.
Tis the season for swans in Bruges. We enjoyed watching our feathered friends float along Bruges' signature canals.
14. Bistro de Schilder
Bistro de Schilder is a cozy restaurant stationed inside an old gabled canal house. There are some disturbing paintings of clowns on that wall, but that aside, the food was quite excellent. I managed to eat an entire pot of mussels in their signature beer sauce. Plus, don't forget the frites! Bistro de Schilder is an ideal spot for Christmas dinner.