Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Bruges Pre Christmas Is Always A Good Idea

olivier-depaep-bruges during christmas time

Pre-Christmas getaways are just as popular as the regular weekender and experiencing the Christmas spirit in another country is always a big winner to get into the festive mood even more for many. 

Having said that, coming from Germany I'm already spoilt by the traditional markets in Dresden in Leipzig which are beautiful, however, there's one more city which has Christmas written all over it and to me that is Bruges. Protected by the UNESCO World Heritage, this medieval 13th-century town has everything to give you all the festive feels: adorable fairy tale buildings, chocolates galore, seasonal decorations, enchanting lights and a good portion of chilly winter weather. 

A visit to this fantastic little town is a treat trip extravaganza, so be prepared for lots of food, cosy cafes, and unforgettable food comas.

How To Get To Bruges & When Is The Best Time

The fastest and easiest way to get to charming Bruges from London is via Eurostar. Keep in mind the Eurostar train is not for the spontaneous as tickets are expensive on short notice. Therefore, start as early as possible to monitor for deals - as early as three months in advance and be flexible with dates. You can also gamble and wait for the BlackFriday Deals but better avoid the disappointment of missing out by checking prices regularly beforehand. 

I managed to get return tickets from St Pancras for £60 for a two-day trip in mid-December. A one night stay is just about the right amount of time to explore all the festive markets and roam the fairy tale cobbled streets at night, which is an absolute must! 

vanveenjf-bruges at night
The journey to Bruges will take you all day, even though it's only 1h away from Brussels and the Eurostar journey from London to Brussels is a straightforward 2h trip. It can take and feel longer as there's the 1h time difference when crossing the Channel and it depends how quickly you can catch a connecting train in Brussels. So if you leave London shortly after lunch, you'll be there for dinner time.   

Christmas in Bruges - What To Expect

The town with its many medieval 12th and 13th century stone buildings and warehouses creates already a unique flair but decorated with whimsical twinkling Christmas lights, the city gets an added cosy charm which is enchanting and magical.

However, the markets in the grand market square are slightly underwhelming, though the smell of caramelised almonds, mulled wine and spicy gingerbread will linger from every house around. The town is decorated in its finest with light chains, Christmas stars and candles everywhere. 

After dark, it is a special experience just to roam and get lost in the labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets, enjoy Hot Chocolates to get warm again and admire the countless little independent shops. De Witte Pelikaan is a fantastic local Christmas shop with intricate decorations and there's also a small Käthe Wohlfahrt near the main market. Very bizarrely have a look at McDonald's which is located inside a medieval warehouse. The wooden constructions inside are spectacular!

In the daytime, you can take a canal tour which costs 8 EUR and you get to see Bruges from a different perspective. You'll learn The Church of our Lady area is extremely interesting as there used to be a medieval hospital and cloister. The Bonifacius Bridge nearby could be a setting straight out of The Lord of The Rings and has been used in various films. 

bonifacius bridge in bruges
canal tour in bruge passing historic buildings
medieval bruges explored by boat on a canal tour in december

The ride in one of the horse carriages costs now 50EUR and unless you can maybe split the costs with friends, it's not really worth it, if I'm honest. I've done the tour on my first visit in 2005, and it cost us a tenner each between my group of three. The ride itself lasts for about 30mins and takes you through most of the inner city which by then you'll have walked a few times yourself anyway.

And of course, don't miss out on the opportunity to sample all the chocolate shops. Every second shop is a chocolatier and there's a reason why Belgium chocolate is rated as the best in the world. I can recommend Dumon, which has three individual stores in the town centre and sells delicious chocolate-coated Florentines and confectionery.

Where To Eat & Drink In Bruges

When you visit Bruges in December, you do exactly two things: you'll head outside admiring the town and its festive decorations and then you get back inside to warm yourself up and eat - don't worry, you won't starve in Bruges, as the town is a treasure trove for food.

Most eateries are quite expensive, especially around the main market where it is super touristy. I found Ellis Gourmet Burger in the smaller market Stevinplein, a 5mins walk away, a nice and affordable alternative. It's a burger specialist with a very pretty and modern interior which is far from a typical fast-food style. 

Café-wise, BlackBird in the North of the city is worth a visit. The cute tea room is beautifully decorated and if you're lucky and manage to get seated by the window, you get excellent views over the canal. 

Black bird cafe inside in Bruges
christmas white hot chocolate served at black bird cafe in bruges
prime spot at black bird cafe in bruges

For the ultimate chocolate kick, you have to go to The Old Chocolate House at the entrance of the city. It is sooooo good if you love (hot) chocolate just as much as I do! There are hundreds of options to choose from including chocolates with 70% cocoa, waffles, confectionery and special branded chocolate options such as Oreo, M&Ms or Snickers.

the old chocolate house in bruges during christmas
snickers hot chocolate served at the old chocolate house in bruges
snickers hot chocolate from the old chocolate house in bruges

I ordered the Snickers one and received a bowl of steaming hot milk, a stirrer, and a massive Snickers cupcake, purely made of sugar, caramel, and hazelnuts. It was almost too sickly to eat but then I got the hint and dissolved the ENTIRE thing in the milk.

I'm still alive but one thing is for sure, you won't have to eat for a while and you might feel oversugared for the rest of your evening.

Thanks for reading,

Till next time,

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