I spent an indulgent day in Bruges as part of a Christmas market cruise with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines in December 2015. Bruges is the most beautiful city it has been my fortune to visit so far, with every building a traditional work of art. I was particuarly struck by how clean it was, not like most European cities which are covered in a thick layer of pollution, every building here looked like it had just been jet washed.
The Christmas market was on during our visit and was very picturesque and busy with little wooden huts, christmas music and twinkling lights in all directions. It was a smaller market than you would find in Germany, but still had everything you could want and more. The little stalls were filled with everything from wooly hats to sparkling decorations, delicious foodie treats to hand painted russian dolls.
The quaint little shops were warm and inviting and we stopped in far more than we should. Our guide told us that Bruges is home to 56 chocolate shops but it seemed like much more. The scent from the chocolate shops filled the streets and it couldn’t help but make your mouth water. We watched taffy and chocolate making demonstrations in some of the shop windows, snacked on bratwurst from the Christmas markets and browsed the traditional stalls for decorations and gifts to take home. My travel companions had steaming mugs of glühwein from one of the stalls.
My favourite stop was “The Old Chocolate House” where we had bucket-sized mugs of hot chcolate. these were served to us as a mug of hot sweetened milk and a little chocolate pot full of solid chocolate chips. We dropped the entire pot into the milk and stirred it until is melted to make the most delicious and indulgent hot chocolate I have ever tasted. Hot chocolate isn’t hot chocolate in my book without marshmallows so I topped mine with mini-marshmallows for my own little mug of heaven. We also ordered Belgian waffles with a range of toppings. I chose butterscotch sauce and whipped cream and was shocked when it arrived to see it was roughly the size of a dinner plate! This was a definite must return to spot in the world for me.
We went ice-skating in front of the imposing Provincial Palace at the main Christmas market on a temporary rink which was fantastic fun, but quickly exhausting!
This is a lovely area to be, with the main market square, lots of places to eat and drink and the Medieval bell tower. For a small charge you can walk the 366 steps to the top of the belfry and be rewarded with a spectacular view of the city. As it was a rather cloudy day and our legs were still aching from ice-skating we chose to leave this for another time.
The “Historium Brugge” is also here which is basically a museum of the history of Bruges. You must pay to go in, but there are many interactive experiences to enjoy and an English audio guide is available as part of your ticket.
Time for a rest and we located the 2be Bar with it’s renowned Beer Wall. We gathered in the beer garden under the welcoming patio heaters and my companions sipped on various different flavours of Belgian Beer including coconut and raspberry. As a non-drinker I stuck to soft drinks, but they were all very impressed with their drinks and enjoyed them immensely. It wasn’t until I had been sitting in the beer garden for a little while that I realised exactly where I was sitting, in possibly the most iconic place in Bruges, an image I had used so many times in the course of my job to illustrate Bruges. After our drinks we walked around to the other side of the canal to take our own photos of this famed location.
Just time to pop in a few more chocolate shops and purchase a lovely tin of chocolates for my family to enjoy on Christmas day and it was time for us to head back to our ship for our final night on board.
There are many chocolate shops in Bruges and they are not cheap. You are paying for quality here so don’t be tempted to go for the cheapest as it will not be as good as the more expensive goods. Do shop around though. Some of the shops off the main shopping streets are slightly cheaper to be competitive.
There are many other shops in Bruges other than foodie shops. Plenty of clothes, gifts and everything else you might need if you are on a diet!
There are public toilets in the “Historium Brugge” on the main market square.
Go to the Old Chocolate House, order a bucket of hot chocolate and a waffle that’s bigger than your head and I promise you will die happy.
there are many other things to do in Bruges during a longer visit than we were able to enjoy. Take a tour of the Chocolate Museum, enjoy a canal river excursion or take a guided tour of one of the local breweries.