Winter in Bruges: What to do & Where to go

18 Nov 2015
Intimate cobbled streets, meandering canals and show-stopping Gothic architecture combine to make Bruges a fairy-tale medieval city. Throw in the beer, chocolate and lace for which it is also rightly famous, and it’s easy to see why Bruges is hot ticket at any time of year.

There’s no bad time to go (although you can certainly expect it to be more crowded in summer), but we particularly like this Belgian city in winter, when crisp clear days (and a dusting of snow if you’re lucky) give the place a near-magical atmosphere.

You could see a 12th-century bell tower, ride on a horse-drawn carriage around the city and choose from Michelin-starred restaurants and market-stall dishes - the variety of things to see and do (whatever the season) 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 at 46€ for a 48-hour card.

Hiring a bike is also a great way to explore the city. The Bruges City Card gets you discounts at a number of hire shops. For something more atmospheric, take a horse-drawn carriage tour from the Markt (Market Square) or explore the canals by boat. Pick one up from Coudenys, Gruuthuse, Michielssens, De Meulemeester or Stael. Trips cost around 5€ per adult.

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Culture fix and winter fun

The medieval 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 and the city is home to around 80 lace shops. Be careful, though - some shops only sell lace from China, so head to Breidelstraat for authentic Belgian lace.

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

Festive fixtures

The annual Christmas ice rink (main picture) is set up in the Markt from late November to early January. Entrance is 6€ per person. Try the glühwein, and shop at the market stalls for Belgian chocolate and handmade decorations. There's more Christmas-market goodness on offer at nearby Simon Stevin Square.

You can also get into the festive mood by visiting the Ice Sculpture Festival, held annually in the Railway Station Square between November and January. Don't forget to take some winter warmers, as the temperature inside the exhibition is a constant -6°C.

For foodies & beer lovers

When it comes to food, you can alternate between Michelin-starred restaurants and 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 – here you’ll find 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 the city'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 to visit. "It's a 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.

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One word of caution: 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!

Click here to see our latest deals for Bruges.

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