The sweet smell of waffles glazing, the decadent array of chocolates to taste, endless ornaments twinkling in the storefront that catch your eye, and hearty cuisine that will leave you smitten; these are just a few of my favorite things during Christmas in Bruges. Follow your instincts and explore this European wonder, which has so much more to offer than expected.
Apart from a Christmas overtone that is out of a storybook, Bruges is a town with a strong heritage. The buildings are still maintained in a traditional fashion, with Dutch tops, and local squares are beautifully decorated. You can even catch a horse and carriage ride, which goes quite well with some hot chocolate, Christmas lights, and a sweet someone next to you. If you are looking for a winter escape with a few hidden gems, Bruges should find its way to your bucket list.
TOP ATTRACTIONS IN BRUGES
This square was used as a marketplace since 958, and a weekly market was held here from 985. Today the large square is ringed by banks and many guild houses converted into restaurants. The most prominent buildings on the square are the Belfry Tower and the Cloth Hall. In all four directions of the square are unique buildings that provide a glance of Bruges' glorious past.
Burg Square, with its Palace of the Liberty, Bruges’ City Hall, and the Basilica of the Holy Blood still amazes travelers. Come to this place of power and beauty to experience stunning architecture.
The monumental City Hall (1376-1421) is one of the oldest in the Low Countries. It is from here that the city has been governed for more than 600 years. An absolute masterpiece is the Gothic Hall, with its impressive vault and 20th-century murals depicting the history of Bruges. The adjacent historic hall sheds further light on the governance of Bruges over the centuries, using original documents and paintings.
The most striking tower in Bruges dates back to the 13th century, is 272 ft high and is protected as a world heritage site. Climb the 366 steps to be rewarded with a stunning view of the city.
The double church, dedicated to Our Lady and Saint Basil consists of a lower church that has maintained its Romanesque character and a neo-Gothic upper church, in which the relic of the Holy Blood is preserved.
The beautiful brick church stands 379 ft high, the second tallest of the world, and illustrates the craftsmanship of Bruges builders. Inside you can find a wealth of art treasures, with Michelangelo’s world-famous Madonna and Child as the absolute highlight. The rich church interior contains numerous paintings, 13th and 14th century painted crypts and the 15th and 16th-century tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold.
The Bruges City Theatre is one of the best-preserved theaters in Europe and was fully restored in 2001. Behind the austere, neo-Renaissance façade conceals a majestic auditorium and a palatial lobby in an eclectic style.
Located in one of the oldest historical European prisons, this museum shows the cruel instruments engineered in the past to cause unbelievable pain and suffering on the human body and mind. More than 100 torture and execution devices in the museum are placed and commented in a chronological and judicial context which brings a new light and significance to the origin of torture and the use of these horrifying instruments. Highly rated as an interesting and educational museum.
Bruges museum of fine arts hosts several works by the famous 15th-century Flemish painters Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling.
Hop on a boat to take a scenic float through the canals of Bruges. It’s a fun way to learn a little history of the city and you’ll gain a unique view of the beautiful houses and architecture along the canal.
Christmas In Bruges
Bruges Christmas Market Village
Bruges main square is the focal point of the Christmas Market and is full of local food and beer stalls, handmade crafts, and an ice rink all under the beautiful backdrop of the Belfry of Bruges. The narrow streets leading away from Market Square are lined with countless Christmas shops selling everything from decorations to the famous Belgium chocolate.
World-renowned Christmas ornament store offering high-quality handcrafted decorations. Take home a piece of Bruges with their specialty ornaments.
The first Belgian Christmas shop that is open all year round. Once you step in, you are amazed by the unique and twinkling Christmas atmosphere. Beautiful handcrafted ornaments.
The Grand Hotel Casselbergh Bruges Christmas Lounge
Relax in the Casselbergh’s lounge while sipping on a decadent hot chocolate. During December, the lounge transforms into a Christmas scene that looks similar to “Home Alone.”
THE BEST PLACES TO EAT IN BRUGES
This friendly pink-and-white cafe is known for its bagel breakfasts, waffles, strong coffee and a range of teas from around the world. The decor is gorgeous, warm and vintage all over.
As the name suggests, this place is perfect for brunch! English breakfast, original salads and sandwiches, as well as cupcakes for dessert, fill the menu. During your meal, you can start to read through their enormous library or buy secondhand books by the dozen. Children’s stories, romantic pocketbooks, and literary novels all line the shelves. The atmosphere at Books & Brunch is ‘nice and easy’, and this is reflected in their books and food. Recommended by Locals!
Sanseveria is heaven for bagel lovers. This bagel salon creates the most original breakfast bagels in a vintage living room interior.
BEST Waffles in Bruges! Top-notch sweet, dense, and soft waffles. Try the "Devine with Dark Chocolate" waffle!
Delicious Greek-Mediterranean Cuisine with a contemporary twist. You will find the marrying of flavor and aroma, the crisp tang of traditional seasonings, and the freshest ingredients drawn from the land and the sea. One of our most memorable meals n Bruges! Make a reservation HERE
Located in the historical center of Bruges, Den Amand is a bistro that offers a variety of traditional Belgian food. All the meals, which include meat, fish, pasta, stir-fries, and salads, are fresh and the service is one of the friendliest of the city. Prices are also very reasonable. This is a local bistro that wants to remain authentically Belgian and has been successful in staying connected with its Belgian roots, continuously attracting many locals. Make a reservation by calling +32 (0) 50 34 01 22.
Authentic Belgian cuisine, friendly staff, affordable prices. Menu selection changes often, so we recommend asking your server for suggestions. They were spot on!
Reserve by phone: +32 472 26 05 43
Highly rated! Tender slow-cooked ribs from a local butcher, made with a unique and delicious beer and chocolate sauce! Monday special: All you can eat ribs with a beer- 19 Euros.
Legendary beer pub serving 300 Belgian beers.
BEST CHOCOLATIERS IN BRUGES
Belgian chocolates are famous for being some of the best in the world, and in Bruges, it seems that almost every other building houses a chocolate shop! Tasting your way through all the chocolate shops in Bruges is one of the most fun ways to experience the city. But with dozens of chocolate shops in the city, it’s hard to know where to buy chocolates in Bruges. We sampled lots of Bruges’ chocolatiers to pick the most delicious ones.
A MUST DO in Bruges! Voted the Best Hot Chocolate in the World.
The Old Chocolate House is one of the most charming chocolatiers in Bruges, located in an old two-story building with a shop downstairs and a cozy tearoom upstairs. It’s our favorite place to sit down and enjoy a hot chocolate in Bruges. View their extensive menu and choose a specific variety of chocolates for your cup. You’ll be served a huge mug of steaming milk and a little cup filled with chocolate pieces to whisk in yourself.
Depla Chocolatier is the oldest artisan chocolate shop in Bruges, opened in 1958. The store near Simon Stevinplein is super sleek and stylish, with chocolates on display in a minimal case. I’d recommend trying a mix of classic and experimental flavor here.
Mary is an outpost of a Brussels-based chain founded in 1919. Mary’s interior is gorgeous and feminine, and I loved their beautifully patterned boxes. The chocolates themselves are impressive as well, with just the right mix of sweetness and rich chocolate flavor. Mary offers all the classic flavors, with lots of different dark chocolate ganache and truffles.
Handcrafted delicious Belgian chocolates. Authentic recipes with an innovative touch.
Dumon’s handmade chocolates are produced locally and are incredibly creamy and delicious. All the traditional favorites are here, like ganache, nuts, and fruit fillings with milk, dark, and white chocolate. The chocolates are priced incredibly well for the quality, so this is the perfect spot to buy boxes for yourself or for someone special.
Chocolates are made on-site beginning with the chocolate beans. When you enter the shop, take a peek at the mini chocolate factory. Kids will especially love watching the machines churning melted chocolate.
The shop itself is a feast for the senses! Chocolates are presented as works of art, with creative and unusual fillings and shapes. Many of the flavors are adventuresome ones like bacon or yuzu, or with an adult twist like cabernet or gin. Classic flavors are available too. The chocolates here are the most expensive in Bruges, so I would recommend buying a smaller selection of flavors to taste and savor, then buy larger quantities of classic chocolates elsewhere.
ACCOMODATIONS IN BRUGES
This historic 2 bedroom/2 bath flat was romantic and beautiful. Fully equipped modern kitchen, gorgeous living room with fireplace, and huge modern bathrooms (a treat in Europe). It’s conveniently located right next to Market Square. Look out your window to view the charming cobblestone streets and chocolatier shops. Highly recommended!
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All attractions in Bruges are walkable. This quaint city can be viewed within a 10-minute walk from end to end, so there is no need to rent a car or use transportation unless taking a day trip outside the city.
Public transport from Train Station to City Center
A bus travels between the Station and the City Center and back every five minutes. It’s a relaxing way to get to and from the center of Bruges. A ticket allows you to change bus services as many times as you want for 60 minutes. The ticket price is € 3.00.
Traveling by taxis in Brugge is expensive. There is a higher rate after 10 pm and a lower rate during the daytime. Taking a bus is a lot cheaper; however, the buses do not run at night.
If you happen to arrive at the Brugge train station after midnight, then taking a taxi is the only way for a tourist to get to their destination. A taxi ride during the day for a distance of less than 1 km will cost about €6 to €10. At night, this same ride will cost €8 to €15.
Discover Bruges in a romantic and enjoyable way. Let one of the thirteen carriages take you along winding cobblestone roads, ancient bridges, the Bruges canals, majestic and cosy squares…, accompanied all the while by the relaxed rhythm of horses' hooves!
The carriages depart from the Market Square (on Wednesday mornings from Burg Square) and for half an hour, they will take you past some of the highlights of Bruges, while the coachman gives you more information about the places that you see along the way.
*Price per carriage: € 55.00; Maximum 5 people
Day Trips by Train
Find the best day trips from Bruges by train and discover fascinating destinations in Belgium. From the beautiful architecture of Ghent to European culture in Brussels, there's a wealth of options to choose from. Traveling by rail makes it easy to see these great towns and cities on day trips. You'll arrive at the heart of the city and can dive right into a day of sightseeing. Check out our list below and be inspired to explore Belgium, whether you're looking for an active day out or a tour of the local history.
Trains from Bruges to Ghent only take 30 minutes, bringing you to one of Belgium's most interesting destinations for history. In particular, Ghent is known for its beautiful churches. These include the stunning St Nicholas' Church, built with a Gothic style and dating from the 13th century. The towering St Bavo's Cathedral is another gorgeous landmark in the city center.
Ghent is also a thriving center for art. Tour the Museum of Fine Art, which includes prime examples of masterpieces by Flemish masters. The Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art is also well worth a visit, focusing on contemporary pieces. For shopping and a taste of traditional Belgian food, head to Korenmarkt. This city square is an excellent starting point for exploring the rest of the city on foot.
It takes 1 hour when you hop on a train from Bruges to Brussels. Visit Grand Place, a huge plaza with an impressive array of architecture. Highlights include the Maison du Roi (‘House of the King’), which is now used as the Museum of the City of Brussels. The City Hall is also found here, with guided tours available in English.
Other highlights around Brussels include Mini-Europe, a park with miniature versions of famous European landmarks, and the Brussels Comic Art Museum, which highlights how much Belgium has contributed to the art of comic books.
It only takes 15 minutes to get from Bruges to Ostend by train, bringing you to the shores of Belgium. Take a bracing walk along Albert I-promenade on the seafront, and stop to relax on the sand in sunny weather. Ostend has long been a strategically important point of Belgium, with sites like the Atlantic Wall Open-Air Museum. Discover Ostend's history of innovation across two world wars at this fascinating destination.
Another innovative attraction is the Mercator, an early 20th-century ship docked in Ostend now serving as a museum. It was previously used as a training vessel for Belgium's merchant navy. Originally placed in Antwerp, it now sits proudly in the docks of Ostend.
Trains from Bruges to Knokke take only 20 minutes. You'll arrive at another coastal gem of Belgium, with excellent facilities for bike rides. Bring the whole family for an active day out and enjoy the tranquil seaside views. There are also several boat rental companies here, should you want to soak up the sunshine on a relaxing boat ride.
Knokke-Heist is also known for its SEA LIFE Blankenberge. This aquarium is another ideal place to bring the family, featuring several awe-inspiring creatures to admire. These include piranhas and poisonous frogs in its Amazon Zone. If you'd prefer to spend more time outdoors, head to the scenic Zoute district. It has a distinct resort feel, with stately villas and a golf course you can play at.
Trains from Bruges to Torhout, an inspiring, fairytale-like destination, take only 15 minutes. Go for a hike among the Wijnendalebos, a forest with towering trees and gentle paths to explore. This is also a popular spot for cyclists, so you can rent a bike and see even more of Belgium's natural beauty.
Torhout is equally famous for its collection of castles. These include the mighty Wijnendale Castle, which was originally a medieval fortress and built upon in the 19th century. It's surrounded by a moat, bringing to mind tales of knights and princesses. Ravenhof Castle is right in the middle of Torhout, and also has medieval origins. It's surrounded by the city park, making it a marvelous place to explore at any time of year.
Take a train from Bruges to Ypres in 1h 30m. This is one of the most significant European sites for World War One history. It features the In Flanders Fields Museum, which is housed in the city's Cloth Hall, heavily damaged during the War but since reconstructed.
Ypres is also home to Tyne Cot Cemetery, a burial site and memorial for fallen soldiers in World War One. It's the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, and well worth a visit as part of a historic tour. Close to the city center, Menin Gate is a large memorial to World War One's victims whose remains were never found.
Trains from Bruges to Kortrijk take just 1 hour, bringing you to a traditional and serene Flemish city. Sitting beside the River Leie, the Broeltowers are one of the enduring symbols of historic Kortrijk. Take a walk around them and enjoy the views out across the River Leie. Also be sure to visit Grand Place and admire the Belfry medieval bell tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city is home to several museums detailing the local culture of the area. Kortrijk 1302 describes the Battle of the Golden Spurs in the 14th century, while the Groeninge Museum is an excellent art institution, displaying prime examples of Flemish art from the 1700s and 1800s.
-Day Trip Info provided by trainline
BEST TIME OF YEAR TO VISIT BRUGES
November - March
It's cold and wet this time of year with average lows just above freezing and average highs in the mid-40s. Around Christmas time, Bruges turns into a small Christmas village and is one of the top-rated places to see the Christmas Markets in Europe.
April - May
The city begins to thaw in April and May and has fewer tourists with it being the shoulder season. Average temperatures are in the 40s and 50s range, and the weeping willows begin to green. Travelers this time of year will score deals on accommodations.
June - August
Bruge's peak season experiences its warmest weather between June and August. The average temperature in August is 63F and the thermometer rarely makes it up to the 70s. This comfortable weather brings in popular festivals and crowds of travelers.
September - October
In early fall, temperatures begin their descent into the 50s, driving away tourists, making this the shoulder season. You will need to dress in layers to keep warm and rates will begin to decrease after the summertime high season.
With being outdoors most of the day, enjoying this quaint town, you will need to bundle up in the cooler months with warm jackets, sweaters, jeans, boots, hats, scarfs, and gloves. Wear comfortable walking shoes, preferably flat without a heel, due to the cobblestone streets.
Bruge’s warmer months average 63-68F, so bringing layers would be the best.
Belgians take pride in their appearance. They dress well and are concerned with the impression they make on others. Locals dress conservative and with style, to have a professional image.
CULTURE / ETTIQUETE / TIPPING
Belgium is not a homogeneous country with one national identity. As such, it is therefore difficult to give a general overview that applies to all Belgians. Each area will have its own particularities. The three predominant cultures are 1) in the north, Flanders - primarily Dutch, 2)in the south, Wallonia - primarily French and 3) the northeast - primarily German influenced.
The official language in Bruges is Flemish, a local variant of Dutch. Fortunately, English is widely spoken in Bruges.
Useful Words & Phrases | Flemish
Good morning: Goedemorgen
Good evening: Goedemiddag
Thank you: Bedankt
You’re welcome: Graaggedaan
Please: Alstublieft / Gelieve
Belgian Family Values
Many people remain in the town in which they were raised, which creates close extended families. Appearances are important to Belgians, locals can often be seen washing the pavement or steps in front of their house or even sweeping the street. Cleanliness is a matter of national pride.
Greetings entail a degree of formality. A brief handshake is a common greeting among people who do not know each other. Once a relationship is developed, three kisses on the cheek may replace the handshake. Start with the left cheek and alternate. Men never kiss other men, they always shake hands.
Belgians socialize in their homes and restaurants, although the home is reserved for family or close friends. If you receive a written invitation, the response must be written as well. Dress conservatively. Belgians take pride in their appearance and expect you to do the same. Arrive on time. Punctuality demonstrates respect. Never leave food on your plate. It is seen as both rude and wasteful. Belgians take pride in their cuisine, so praising a meal is a sincere compliment.
Tipping In Belgium
The majority of restaurants in Belgium include a service charge of 10-15% of the bill. Tips in addition to this fee are not expected. If you feel that your service was exceptional and want to leave a few Euros more, then feel free, but you are under no obligation.
In Belgium, there are a variety of tours for you to take. You are not expected or obligated to provide any tip to your tour guides or drivers. If you want, you could tip a few Euros at the end of the trip, but remember that the cost of the tour includes a gratuity. If you want to leave a little extra it will not go unappreciated.
Tipping taxi drivers are not required or expected, but some people leave the change for their driver to round up to the nearest Euro. However, if the taxi driver goes out of his way to help carry bags or is especially helpful in giving directions or comes across some major obstacles in getting you to your destination, consider leaving a small tip. A few Euros is sufficient.
CURRENCY EXCHANGE IN BRUGES
The euro (€) is the official currency of Bruges. Click HERE for an updated currency converter to calculate amounts
ATMs are readily available in Bruges, however, you may be charged a foreign fee on top of the service fees if you are using a regular debit card (see below for recommendation)
The Charles Schwab bank card is THE card to have in your wallet while traveling abroad. This card does not charge ATM fees in any country and does not have any foreign transaction fees. It’s my go-to card for travel. You can set up an online checking account through the Charles Schwab website by clicking here. It's quick and easy! There are no minimum deposits required and no monthly service fees. You’ll never pay a fee with this bank. Their ATM card can be used in any bank machine around the world. To deposit money into the account, set up a transfer online between your bank and your Charles Schwab checking account so you can transfer money through their mobile app anytime.
Often referred to as “The Venice of the North, the photogenic waterways and fairytale architecture make Bruges one of the most lovely cities in Europe.
Bruges is charming and romantic during the holiday season, with a “Christmas Village” feel. Stroll the narrow cobblestone streets to view the holiday window displays and Christmas markets. Smell the sweet aroma of the delicious Belgium chocolate shops and sample the world’s best waffles. This will be a Christmas we won’t forget!
STAY LOVELY, STAY CURIOUS - TRISH FRENCH
-A BLONDE'S WORLDLY WISDOM-
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