Take yourself off to the Bruges Christmas markets for your winter break. While the city looks like something out of a fairy story all year round, it’s elevated into something truly magical once December dawns.
The Medieval and Gothic buildings are garlanded with glittering tinsel, wreathed in colourful lights, and bedecked with baubles. Between hunting for bargains and presents, you can enjoy some seasonal delicacies, enjoy a warming drink, or even get your bells jingling with a ride on a horse-drawn carriage.
For families, there’s plenty to do and see beyond shopping at Bruges Christmas markets, while yuletide lovebirds will find the city’s character dusted with a liberal sprinkling of romance.
The Grote Markt
Head to the Grote Markt and you’ll find the most famous of Bruges’ Christmas markets. Known locally as the ‘Christmas Village’, the main square is packed with quaint, chalet-style stalls, draped in decorations and selling an astonishing array of unique, Christmas gifts. You’ll find everything from handmade wooden toys and intricate pieces of art made by metal-smiths, to warm winter woollies and delicate jewellery.
While your ears might be filled with the sound of Christmas hymns and carols, your nose will be twitching away to the smells of the delicious food on offer. Enjoy warm waffles, hearty potato dishes, and authentic Belgian hot-dogs. Wash it down with a mug of sweet-spiced mulled wine, or leave some room to sample some of the city’s most famous product: silky, Belgian chocolate.
The Christmas Village has its own ice-rink, where couples and families can either glide gracefully across the ice or clump their way around the edge, clinging to the barrier. With everything overlooked by the imposing belfry, this Bruges Christmas market has something for everyone.
Simon Stevinplein Christmas Market
The Simon Stevinplein Market is another popular one of Bruges’ Christmas markets. Stalls line one of the city’s most beautiful squares, selling unusual trinkets and mouth-watering food. Christmas decorations are something of a speciality in this Bruges Christmas market and you’ll find everything from traditional tree-decorations to huge, glittering figurines and edible baubles.
Although it’s smaller than the Grote Markt, the Simon Stevinplein Christmas Market is popular with couples, who come to soak up the live music and enjoy a drop of spiced wine. Fairy lights add a sublimely romantic feel to the square and the sound of carollers is never far away. If you need a sit-down, there are plenty of cafés in which to sit and watch the bargain-hunters at work. Don’t forget to try a mug of hot chocolate and leave some room for some of the delicious, handmade sweets on sale.
Bruges’ Midwinter Festival
If you want all the feel of a carnival with all the charm of one of Bruges’ Christmas markets, look out for the Balstraat Midwinter Festival. Held in mid-December outside the Folklore Museum, the Midwinter Festival is a fabulous fusion of revelry and retail. The Balstraat is lined with stores and stalls, selling everything from traditional gifts to contemporary goods. The festival tends to attract craftsmen, so many of the products on offer are unique, allowing you to choose that something special for that special someone.
The street-food is more multicultural than at other markets and you can warm your cockles with a spicy curry or hearty soup. Towards the end of the day, there’s a colourful procession, complete with elaborate costumes, flamboyant floats, and live music. If you need a break from present-picking in one of the Bruges Christmas markets, head into the Folklore Museum, where you can watch lace-makers hard at work and even try your hand at creating a doily. A fabulous day out for the whole family.
Have you ever been to Bruges at Christmas time? What bargains did you pick up at the christmas markets? Let me know in the comments below!