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Our guide to a winter break in Bruges

Famous for beer, chocolate and lace, Bruges attracts crowds of tourists every year. With some helpful tips from the Travelzoo team, we have put together a selection of Belgian treats for you to feast on…

Why go?
Take a trip to Bruges and you'll get to see a 12th-century bell tower, go on a horse-drawn carriage around the city, try local Belgian chocolate and chose from Michelin-starred restaurants and market-stall dishes -- the variety of things to see and do makes this one of our favourite city-break destinations.

Getting around
One of the first things you should do when you arrive is buy a Bruges city card. You’ll get discounted or free entry to 26 museums and discounts on public transport, among other perks. Cards are available online or from the Bruges tourist information offices. Prices start from 35€, and cards are valid from 48-72 hours.

Hiring a bike is a great way to explore the city. The Bruges city card gets you discounts at a number of hire shops, or take a horse-drawn carriage tour from the Grote Markt -- trips tend to last around 35 minutes. And you can't miss exploring the canals by boat. Pick one up from Coudenys, Gruuthuse, Michielssens, De Meulemeester or Stael. They cost around 5.20€ per adult.

Culture fix and winter fun
The medieval Grote Markt is dominated by the 12th-century bell tower of Bruges. Climbing the 366 steps to the top of the belfry definitely pays off -- your reward will be 360-degree views of the city.

Lace is one of Bruges's specialities, so it's no surprise the city is peppered with about 80 lace shops. Some shops only sell lace from China, so head to Breidelstraat for authentic Belgian lace.

For the romantics out there Minnewater Lake -- the "Lake of Love" -- is a must. Legend has it you and your companion will be in love for ever if you walk across the bridge.

Get into the festive mood and visit the Snow & Ice Sculpture Festival Bruges 2013, in the Railway Station Square. The exhibition is held in a 1200-square-metre thermal tent with dozens of ice sculptures inspired by the Disney film "Frozen". Drink something on the rocks at the ice bar, and don't forget to take some winter warmers, as the temperature inside the exhibition is a constant -6°C. It's open from 10am-6pm every day from 22 November-5 January. The Bruges city card gets you free entry.

The annual Christmas ice rink is set up in the Markt (market square) from 22 November-2 January. Entrance is 6€ per person. Try the ghlüwein, and shop at the market stalls for Belgian chocolate and handmade decorations. There are two other Christmas markets at the Walplein and Simon Stevin Square.

Be aware that museums in Bruges are closed on Mondays;

For foodies and beer lovers
When it comes to food, there is definitely something for everyone, from Michelin-starred restaurants to market stalls serving frites and mayonnaise. If it's gourmet you're after, Den Dyver is a popular choice. Condé Nast Traveller describes the food as "the gastronomic equivalent of a Mercedes".

Chocolate lovers should head to Place du Grand Sablon, rather than the Grand Place, for cheaper chocolate. Bar Choc in the Zilverpand shopping courtyard is also a must-see, with 44 different kinds of hot and cold chocolate, as well as chocolate fondue, to name a few.

When it comes to beer, Bruges Zot is the one to try. It's Bruges's local brew and is considered one of Belgium's best beers. 'T Brugs Beertje, according to Travelzoo Deal Expert Laura Summers, is the bar the visit. "It's a small little place with beer mats all over the wall and pretty much every beer you can think of." 'T Poatersgat is also a cool cellar bar/drinking hall.

Be careful when asking for a large beer anywhere in the city, as you'll mostly likely be brought a 2-litre stein, and charged 13€ for the pleasure! Try to stick to midweek stays; weekends in the city can be rather crowded.

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Tips by
Katie

Deal Expert, London
Friday, 6 December 2013
See more Tips from
Katie Millington