A Winter Trip to Bruges – Chocolate, Beer & More

Alix M Campbell

Senior Contributor

The largest city of West Flanders in Belgium joined the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in the year 2000. Bruges’ historical architecture, charming canals, and cobble-stoned streets attract visitors from all over the world year after year. If you add a thriving beer culture and delicious Belgium chocolate to the mix, you can’t go wrong with this destination. Let this historical city charm you during the winter season.

Take a romantic carriage ride at the Market Square

The medieval market square in Bruges, also called the Markt or the Grote Markt, lies at the heart of the city. It’s always bustling with a mix of locals and tourists. The market stalls, where you can usually buy flowers, local goods as well as fruit and veg, are embellished with all things Christmas if you visit Bruges between November and January.

At the northern side of the square, you’ll be able to spot a row of Guild Houses. The richly decorated building on the square is the Provincial Palace. If the Christmas season has you feeling romantic, you can indulge in a carriage ride and see the sights of this charming city the old-fashioned way. The 30-minute ride takes you over old bridges and through cobblestone streets with the coachman pointing out the various highlights along the way.

You’ll stop near the Beguinage at Wijngaardplein to stretch your legs, and the horses are given a well-deserved rest, before the ride continues through Bruges and back to the Market Square to complete your ride.

Enjoy a wintry 360-degree view of the city from the Bell Tower

If a wintry Bruges has you feeling a little chilly, there’s no better way to work up a sweat than climbing the 366 steps to the top of the city’s bell tower or Belfry. It was built in the 12th century and is one of the city’s most famous symbols.

The bell tower used to house the town treasury and municipal archives. Thanks to its elevation, it was used as an observation post to spot fires and other dangers. Once you make it all the way up, you won’t be looking for any lurking dangers, but you’ll be able to enjoy the stunning 360-degree views of Bruges.

After taking some shots at the top and making your way back down again over the winding stairs, you’ve earned yourself a refreshing beer and some delicious fries (and maybe some mussels with it – Moules et Frites). If you have a sweet tooth, try some delicious Belgium waffles, or indulge in some chocolates the city is famous for.

Admire the ancient masterpieces at the Groeninge Museum

Designed by architect Joseph Vierin, you’ll find a treasure trove of artwork spanning over several centuries in the Groeninge Museum in Bruges. The museum was built at the site of the medieval Eekhout Abbey. It houses Belgium art from six centuries including primitives like Jan van Eyck or Hans Memling, neo-classicists like Joseph Ducq or Joseph Odevaere, Flemish expressionists as well as modern art from the 20th century by René Magritte or Raoul De Keyser.

Wandering through the different rooms and impressive collections you’ll also spot works by famous artists like Hieronymus Bosch or Pieter Bruegel the Younger as well as historical items and flower pieces. The museum also offers temporary exhibitions.

Especially during the colder months, it’s nice to warm up inside the museum, while you get inspired by the masterpieces of the past. Once you indulged in all things history and art, you might want to sit down and relax at a nearby café like Gulliver Tree or Books & Brunch.

Visit the Christmas markets and buy souvenirs

Your city trip isn’t complete without a little shopping. The Christmas season offers a special ambience with different stalls lined up at the main market square. Here you’ll find a selection of arts & crafts and clothing as well as waffles, chocolate and Belgian beer.

During the months leading up to Christmas, the streets are festively decorated with Christmas lights. You can stroll through the Christmas markets between the end of November and the first week of January to shop for Christmas presents and souvenirs.

Outside of Christmas, there is still a lot to experience in Bruges during the colder months. You could visit The Old Chocolate House to try one of the best hot chocolates in the city as well as their selection of cookies and gingerbread. Staying with the chocolate theme, Bar Choc in the Zilverpand shopping courtyard offers a selection of over 40 different hot and cold chocolates. If you prefer to enjoy a beer after your shopping spree, you could visit T Brugs Beertje which has a wide variety of beers on offer.

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