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Christmas in Bruges
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Christmas in Bruges

Christmas in Bruges distils the fairytale essence of Christmas. And if there’s one word that sums up Bruges, it’s chocolate. You can’t walk the streets before encountering an intoxicating scent of pralines and Belgian waffles. But if sweets are your weakness, then let me warn you, prepare to muster up all your self-control.

Long known as one of the most historic and well-preserved Medieval towns in the world, Bruges seemed almost too perfect a place for this time of year, a most ideal Christmas town. But in many ways, Bruges exceeded my expectations. I envisioned a town much smaller and a whole lot more touristy than what I discovered.  

How Long Should I Stay for Christmas in Bruges?

From my trip research, it seems the consensus for most travelers heading to Bruges is to either treat it as a “pass through” destination or maybe stay a night or two. Considering that time is often a traveler’s constraint, I can see how some folks opt to see it all in only a day. But if time is not an inhibition, then why not spend longer here?

This led us to believe that Bruges is no bigger than a tiny town square when in fact, it’s really quite expansive. This historic Medieval trading post consistently ranks on multiple lists as one of the most beautiful towns in all of Europe, so I found it difficult to believe that two nights here would suffice.

Personally, I’d rather see one place really well than the surface of five different ones. For this reason, we chose to spend five nights in little ole’ Bruges and just one night in Brussels simply because we headed out of Brussels airport back to Tokyo the next morning. I think overall, five nights worked well to spend Christmas in Bruges.

Christmas in Bruges
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If you’re like me and prefer a more laid-back style to traveling, then I recommend staying a bit longer than two days in Bruges as there are plenty of day trips to explore from there. I think four or five nights will allow you to see everything at a leisurely pace and really get a good feel for the town.

How Christmas in Bruges Brought Back My Christmas Spirit

Before visiting for Christmas in Bruges, a part of me felt genuinely worried about feeling disappointed by crowds of tourists, buses, and the same kinds of souvenir shops waiting to sell mass produced crap. But that didn’t happen and the town didn’t feel staged to me. It felt real. I felt most pleasantly surprised when we arrived mid-week to discover a vacant market square, very few tourists, countless boutique stores and restaurants and a unique local scene.

However, we also stayed through the weekend and finally crowds of tourists arrived in the city though I didn’t mind it; we actually welcomed the spirited change in energy. 

Christmas in Bruges
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When one travels to Bruges for Christmas there’s plenty to do. My favorite pastime in any place is merely wandering the streets and immersing myself in the city’s energy, especially if it has a vivid historical past. The well-preserved and old-world cobble streets can keep your heart occupied for hours, especially if you’re a photographer.

And although it’s possible to walk the entire city in a day, it’s most fun to stop off at the various chocolatier shops, museums, and Christmas markets. Bruges is the chocolate capital of the world and I won’t attempt to dispute this claim.

READ  Best of Travel 2014

At times I counted eight chocolate shops near the same corner! With the clinking of horse hooves on the cobblestone streets and the hourly chiming of the belfry tower, it’s easy to lose yourself in this alternate reality while sipping a cup of hot chocolate to the narration of Christmas music. Christmas in Bruges is unforgettable.

Tours in Bruges

Viator offers an excellent of tours around Bruges and its neighboring cities. If you don’t have a car, then booking a tour is an excellent way to go.

Day Trip from Paris to Bruges

Ghent and Bruges Day Trip from Brussels

Bruges Day Trip From Amsterdam Including Bruges Walking Tour & Canal Cruise

Brussels Super Saver: Brussels Sightseeing Tour, Antwerp Half-Day, Day Trip to Ghent & Bruges


9 Things to Do During Christmas in Bruges

The Bruges Canal
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1. The Hot Chocolate Capital of the World

I must have drunk twenty cups of hot chocolate while in Bruges. Seriously. It’s long been my beverage of choice in life and I’ve finally found a place in the world that understands me. Hot chocolate was once prepared as an elixir for the wealthy, though now, it’s the Belgium beverage of choice. Here’s a shot of my first hot chocolate in Bruges. My favorite hot chocolate in all of Bruges was at The Old Chocolate House. They brag about having the best in the world. I’m not sure about that, but it was definitely my favorite in town! You can’t spend Christmas in Bruges without a few cups of cocoa!

The Best Hot Chocolate
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The Best Hot Chocolate
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2. Christmas Ornament Shopping at Käthe Wohlfahrt

One of the best ways to spend Christmas in Bruges is to ornament shop. You can stop over at Käthe Wohlfahrt to shop for some traditional German Christmas decorations. We ornament shopped for over an hour and spent a good amount of time admiring their impressive cuckoo clock collection. This store somehow resuscitated my Christmas spirit…and dented my bank account. But I highly recommend going on a weekday because weekends are a lot more packed.

Ornament Shopping
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Cuckoo clocks

3. The Grand Hotel Casselbergh Bruges Christmas Lounge

Our hotel The Grand Casselbergh Bruges delivered top-notch service and its Christmas decorations were by far the best part of the entire stay. The hotel lobby consists of a speakeasy-style bar that includes five large and elegantly decorated living rooms with elaborately decorated Christmas trees, each reflecting a glow of white lights onto the large floor to ceiling window shutters that open up to glistening cobblestone streets. I can’t recall witnessing a more picturesque Christmas scene in my life. The only comparison I can think of is the final scene in Home Alone 2 when everyone wakes up on Christmas morning at the immaculately decorated Plaza Hotel suite. Yea, this place reminded me of that….We spent our nights lounging on their sofas listening to Christmas music, writing, drinking hot cocoa or wine. I can’t think of a better way to spend Christmas in Bruges.

Inside the hotel
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The beautiful hotel lobby

Sitting next to the Christmas Tree
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4. The Bruges Belgium Christmas Market at Grote Markt

The Grote Markt is the largest market of its kind in Bruges and offers about twenty or so stalls of traditional market food and items. There’s also an ice skating rink. You’ll find a lot of festivities and of course, there are plenty of restaurants and chocolate shops next-door. But I found this market to be much more crowded, but ice skating and sampling market treats is a must-do during Christmas in Bruges. See my next point.

Christmas in Bruges
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Christmas in Bruges
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Ice skating
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5. Simon Stevin Market

We stumbled upon this market thinking that the only market in town was the Grote Markt. Not true! We both actually liked this Bruges market better. It’s smaller but it’s also less crowded and a whole lot nicer. The sausage looked lots better and you won’t find litter all over the ground. And also, the restaurants around this area are much better (most locals we encountered recommended avoiding the restaurants around the Grote Markt). Be sure to check out the restaurant Poules Moules nearby.

READ  Best of Travel 2014

6. Chocolatiers
Bruges Christmas
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I thoroughly researched the best chocolate in Bruges and this content is much too vast for this article. But Christmas in Bruges won’t be complete without a thorough tour of all the chocolatiers!

Chocolate shopping
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Chocolate shopping
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Chocolate shopping
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Chocolate shopping
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Chocolate Shopping
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7. Basilica of the Holy Blood

This makes for an especially meaningful experience, especially for Christians. The Basilica of the Holy Blood is a 12th century basilica that houses a relic – a phial with a cloth with the holy blood. According to Wikipedia, “Recent investigations have showed that the phial, made of rock crystal and dating back to the 11th or 12th century, was a Byzantine perfume bottle made in the area of Constantinople. It was never opened since its arrival in Bruges. Its neck is wound with gold thread and its stopper is sealed with red wax. The phial is encased in a glass-fronted gold cylinder closed at each end by coronets decorated with angels. The date “MCCCLXXXVIII die III maii” (May 3, 1388) is engraved on the frame.” Wow. Fascinating stuff. Definitely worth a visit even if you’re not into religion. Definitely a must-do on any trip to Bruges during Christmas time.

Christmas in Bruges | Basilica of the Holy Blood
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Technically it’s the building to the far right…off the photograph. But it’s located here in Burg Square. I felt this Christmas tree was the prettiest one in the whole town.

8. Burg Square

As much as I love the Markt square, Brug square is just as beautiful in a different way. And according to UNESCO, “for some 1,000 years the Burg square has remained the symbol of the alliance of religious and civic authorities, as well as the seat of several public institutions, including the dispensing of justice.”

Burg Square
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Burg Square
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9. Admiring Window Displays 

One of the best ways to spend your Christmas in Bruges is to admire all the beautiful window displays. I’ve never seen such decorative and festive window displays, but they certainly brought up my Christmas spirit!

Amazing Window Displays
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And some other pictures of Christmas in Bruges…

Great City Restaurants
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Plenty of great restaurants to choose from
Christmas in Bruges | Surreal Views
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Surreal Views
Watching a Candy Demonstration
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Watching a candy demonstration
Famous Chocolatier Dumon
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Dumon chocolate
Chocolate shopping
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Chocolate shopping

Christmas in Bruges
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Christmas in Bruges | The Beautiful Canal
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Morning breakfast
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Christmas in Bruges
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Christmas in Bruges
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Drinking wine
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Our Beautiful View
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Snowy Streets
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View of the Square
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Bruges from Above
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Visitor Tip for Bruges or Christmas in Bruges

  • Go to the Visitor’s Center in the Markt Square. If you buy a Brugge City Card, it will grant you access to numerous museums and sites around the city. And with this, you’ll receive a VERY handy guidebook – more handy than any book I picked up before the trip. Maps are also included.
  • Christmas in Bruges: A Short Story

Are you planning on spending Christmas in Bruges? Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

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18 Comments

  1. October 26, 2017 at 10:51 am — Reply

    I love this so much!! Planning a trip to Bruges this December 🙂

    • October 26, 2017 at 8:54 pm — Reply

      Glad you found it helpful!

  2. Marc
    October 12, 2017 at 1:20 pm — Reply

    Great blog

    You really have captured the magic of Bruges at Christmas.

  3. Sam
    December 13, 2016 at 12:35 pm — Reply

    Hello,
    Really interesting blog. My girlfriend and I will be in Bruges for this Christmas (23rd till 28th). We wanted to have Christmas in peace with occasional visits to Christmas Markets and other beautiful sights. Considering the dates, most places will be shut during the holidays. Please suggest places which are on your must-visit list and activities on your must-do list.
    Thanks

  4. Marialena
    November 21, 2016 at 11:29 am — Reply

    Hi Stephanie! 😀 great pics! this place looks magical! I am going to visit Bruge with some friends at New Years Eve. Do you have any idea about activities that take place that day? Keep travelling! 😀 Thank you!

  5. November 12, 2016 at 2:25 pm — Reply

    We’ll be there for Christmas this year! How cold is it? Is there snow? Any tips for what to wear? 🙂

    • November 20, 2016 at 7:41 pm — Reply

      Sounds fun! It was a little cold but not too bad. I dressed warmly and didn’t have any issues. I like to wear thermal layers which make it a lot easier to layer. Have fun!

      • January 16, 2017 at 6:53 am — Reply

        Hello Stephanie,

        I wanted to do a White Christmas. Am I to assume by your article and photos that there wasnt snow there?

        btw, loved the description.. so Bruges is on the travel list for sure.

        Thanks in advance for your time and response

        • January 20, 2017 at 11:00 pm — Reply

          Hi Niraj,

          Bruges was so beautiful for Christmas, I loved it! but I don’t remember there being snow when we went. But I’m not sure what’s typical or not.

          • Niraj Shah
            February 6, 2017 at 12:54 pm

            Thanks Stephanie.. if you travel to India, do mail me.. I can help .. cheers

          • February 9, 2017 at 8:10 pm

            Hi Niraj! Thank you! I hope to get to India soon this year!!

  6. Lisa Neath
    August 29, 2015 at 9:44 am — Reply

    HI Stephanie.

    My husband and I are planning to stay in Bruges this Christmas, from the 24th – 27th December.

    There seems there are plenty of things to do but are the normal attractions still open over the festive period?

    Also are you aware whether restaurants are open on Christmas Day?

    Many thanks

    Lisa

    • September 7, 2015 at 5:32 pm — Reply

      Hi Lisa, I apologize for the late reply!

      We actually left town on Christmas Eve, but as I understand it, Belgians celebrate mostly on Christmas Eve. There are a lot of nice restaurants in town and it’s probably best to make a reservation at a good one far in advance for Christmas Eve dinner as it will book up. As far as Christmas Day, I’m not sure what’s open. A good bet is perhaps staying at a nice lodging where you can be certain that the hotel restaurant at least will serve Christmas Day lunch and dinner.

      There is so much festive activity in Bruges, I can’t see the entire city closing down on Christmas day, but I’m not sure. There are plenty of tourists in the city this time of year. Hope this helps!

  7. Oui In France
    February 8, 2015 at 5:27 pm — Reply

    Gorgeous pics! Bruges is such a beautiful city. I was there a few years ago but not during the Christmas season. Will have to go back. Looks magical!

    • February 10, 2015 at 10:58 am — Reply

      Thank you! It’s really a great Christmas city. I can’t imagine it any other time now!

  8. Jacob
    January 2, 2015 at 8:06 pm — Reply

    Great Post! Love the pictures!

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