Every winter, the beautiful, historic, medieval, and old town of Bruges (also known as Brugge) transforms into a magical winter wonderland with sparkling lights, Christmas trees, and wonderful Christmas markets. This guide will walk you through one of the best Christmas markets in Belgium. It also includes market opening times, what to see, what to eat, and where to sleep.

Christmas in Bruges: dates and times

The Bruges Christmas festivities usually take place from the third weekend of November up to and including the first weekend of January. You can visit the Bruges Christmas markets daily from 10.30 a.m. until 22.00 p.m. (23.00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays).

Main Bruges Christmas market at the Market Square

The Market Square (Grote Markt), Bruges’ central square, that is framed by the grand distinctive Belfry of Bruges and the Provincial Palace, is each year transformed into a magical winter place. You will hear Christmas songs and find a huge Christmas tree, dozens of wooden chalets with Christmas items, gift items, handicrafts, and many stalls where you can enjoy hot chocolate, mulled wine (glühwein), refreshing gin, sausages and hot waffles.

Second Bruges Christmas market at the Simon Stevin plein

There’s a second Bruges Christmas market at the Simon Stevin square, a central square in the Steenstraat, one of the main shopping streets in town. By foot it only takes you a couple of minutes from the Market Square to walk towards this market. The rectangular square is symmetrically aligned with trees and Christmas stalls. Especially all kinds of Christmas decorations, handmade gifts, and winter equipment can be found here. This market is smaller than the one of Grote Square but much less crowded.

Photo by Olivier Depaep

Ice skating rink and winter bar at Minnewater

Previously the ice skating rink was located at the Market Square, but from 2019 onwards, you can find the traditional ice skating rink and winter bar at Minnewater. It is a cozy place to visit! Skating is possible from 11 a.m. onwards and tickets are sold until 8 p.m. (9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays).

Burg Square Christmas tree

If you visit most cities at Christmas time, there will almost always be a giant Christmas tree dressed up in thousands of lights to tower over one of its big, famous squares. In Bruges, Burg Square is the place to be and to take the perfect photo of the city in all its festive glory.

Light and experience trail

In Bruges you can enjoy a light and experience trail that will guide you through town while seeing atmospheric lighting and projections. The light spectacle is both a great experience and a glimpse of Bruges’ rich history and architecture. Lights will shine brighter as you approach your destination. Each year, there are two illuminated trails that can be visited from 15h30 until midnight.

Treats to try when celebrating Christmas in Bruges

When celebrating Christmas in Bruges, there are some things you should try:

  • Belgium is famous for many things, but one of the first that pops to mind is chocolate. Bruges does not disappoint for chocolate and quirky Christmas themed creations. The Old Chocolate House is a cozy teahouse and chocolaterie where you enjoy some really good hot chocolate and other chocolate treats.
  • Try the traditional Christmas dessert; Yule log (kerststronk in Dutch and Bûche de Noël in French), a sponge cake covered in chocolate buttercream and decorated to resemble a wooden log.
  • Enjoy the best waffle of Bruges at the food truck on the Burg square, next to the town hall.
  • Try a Belgium Christmas beer. Look out for Glühkriek and Bush De Noël. Grab a table in one of the city’s cosiest beer bars where you can drink in the warmth of an old, Brugean pub away from the bitter cold. Two well-hidden beer cafés in Bruges are ‘t Poatersgat and De Garre.

Other wintery things to include in your Bruges Christmas itinerary

Bruges is known as one of the most romantic cities in Europe. During winter, the city is even more romantic and beautiful. Here are some other wintery things to do in Bruges during your Christmas break:

  • Go for a romantic stroll around Bruges old town and the canals. Every corner is like a scene from a fairytale. The Minnewater Park or just the narrow streets of the old town are great places have a romantic stroll.
  • Snuggle up under a blanket during a horse-drawn carriage ride (available at the Market Square) and admire beautiful Christmas atmosphere throughout town. 
  • Climb the 366 steps to the top of the Belfry of Bruges to enjoy the best possible view over the Christmas Market at the Market Square. If you don’t like climbing that much, you can also have a drink at the panorama terrace of the Historium café.
  • Take a boat tour. Yes, it is a bit chilly to take a boat tour in winter, but it is an unforgettable experience. It is beautiful to experience the Winter Wonderland of Bruges from the water.

Bruges Christmas shopping

If you’re looking for unique Christmas presents, Bruges is one of the best places I’ve visited. The massive selection of Christmas decorations, the unique shops, and the beautiful handmade Christmas gifts, are a real treat. The beautiful themed Christmas boxes with Belgium chocolate are always a good idea. These Christmas shops might have the item you’re looking for:

  • Kerstbrugge (Breidelstraat).
  • House of Christmas (Wollestraat).
  • Christmas World (Zuidzandstraat).

Where to sleep in Bruges?

During my holiday in Bruges, I have stayed at Den Bustel. Den Bustel is located in an old broom factory that is transformed into a nice holiday home by a friendly couple. The holiday home has two bedrooms, an equipped kitchen with a dishwasher, microwave, and oven, a bathroom with a shower and sauna, and a living room with flat-screen TV. It only took around 15 minutes to walk to the city center. You can also take the train or bus. The surrounding area offers excellent cycling and the property can arrange bicycle rental. The holiday home offers a great breakfast with delicious treats. I can really recommend this place!

Winter is an excellent time to visit Bruges. Will you be spending Christmas in Bruges this year? Or will you be traveling elsewhere to visit the Christmas markets? Let me know in the comments.

Author: Daphne

This article is part of the GPSmyCity iOS app. You can download it, read this article offline and obtain travel directions (by foot, car or bicycle) to the places mentioned in this article. Click here to download it.

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