Christmas may be over for another year *sobs to self*, but it’s never too early to get planning for next year. If you’re wondering where you can go for a magical escape, filled with markets, cobbled streets and chocolate expertise, then look no further…next stop Bruges!
Having fallen in love with Copenhagen last Christmas, Jacob and I knew we wanted another city break for the holidays. After a simple google of ‘the best places to visit in December’, Bruges was the stand out location. Just 2 hours on the Eurostar to Brussels, followed by a direct train to Bruges, before we knew it we’d arrived in what can only be described as the most twinkling city in Europe…
After checking in at Hotel Navarra, our first afternoon was spent exploring and getting our bearings; it didn’t take long before a lunch-break devouring their famous chips and mayonnaise was calling.
Travel tip: no matter what day of the week, always book dinner reservations in advance. When it came to finding a place for our first meal, we soon realised if you don’t book, it’s near impossible to get into any of the recommended restaurants.
Hotel Navarra is situated on Sint-Jakobsstraat (barely a minutes walk from the main Markt Square) and to our luck Pietje Pek, a cosy fondue restaurant, is beautifully tucked away on the same street. We opted for the cheese fondue with parma ham and bread, accompanied by beer (of course) and wine. The food, service and romantic setting all made for the perfect first evening!
Bruges by night takes the city to a whole new level of spectacular. After dinner it became clear that one of the main drinking, hang-out spots was in the Christmas market in the main square. We were lucky enough to stumble across a pipes and drums performance in front of the Belfry tower.
Whether you’re in the mood for a mulled wine with a shot of Amaretto, a happy shot of any flavour to warm you up from the inside or you can’t resist a Belgian waffle for a sweet treat, this is the place to go…
Day two began after quite possibly the best nights sleep, big applaud to Hotel Navarra for providing the world’s comfiest beds. Whilst in Bruges it’s worth dedicating time to wander along the quant shopping streets; hidden amongst the streets, you’ll often find alleyways leading to traditional lace and beer shops and chocolatiers, all impossible not to take a look inside.
If you’re in Bruges, one place not to miss is 2be. Open from 11am-7:30/8pm it’s the ultimate beer shop, wall and bar (note: it gets even more idyllic at night)…
Admittedly not traditional Belgian cuisine, but highly recommended nonetheless, our second meal in Christmas paradise was at Ribs ‘n Beer. The clue is in the name, providing succulent, slow cooked ribs with beer, your mouth will be watering before you’ve even walked in. For €19,90 you can get stuck into all you can eat ribs with a sauce of your choice (I’d recommend the smokey barbecue), potato wedges and coleslaw.
The sun finally began to shine for day 3; after a morning spent using the pool and sauna within the hotel, we managed to grab a seat outside one of the brasseries in the Markt.
Stomachs lined, it was time to take a trip to the Bruges Beer Experience where, after learning all about beer in the museum, the bar awaits for you to get tasting!
Travel tip: For a beautiful view overlooking the Markt, head up to the Historium balcony (note: drinks are more expensive here so it’s worth just heading up for a quick look before stopping elsewhere for a drink).
While any hot chocolate stop you make is destined to be delicious, there’s one particular place that promises (and truly provides) the best hot chocolate you’ll ever have…
The Old Chocolate House is both a store and a tea room, meaning you can either taste their famous hot cocoa in store or get one to take away with you whilst wandering through the festive markets. If melted chocolate in milk tickles your taste buds, then this is the place for you; don’t forget to grab a bag of their chocolate buttons and make your own legendary hot chocolates at home.
A trip to Bruges wouldn’t be complete without devouring mussels. Saving the best till last, we headed to Breydel De Coninc for our final meal. Holding the reputation for the best mussels and lobster in Bruges, it’s no surprise that my first experience eating mussels was a success.
Overall Bruges was more magical than I could have ever imagined; every corner you turn presents sparkling lights, music filling the streets and good food and beer to last a lifetime.
We stayed for three nights in total but two would have still been more than enough time to see everything. I’d recommend visiting during the Winter months as the Christmas festivities make it unforgettably romantic.
No matter where we were, our hotel was never more than a 5 minutes walk away which meant going to and from attractions and restaurants was effortless. The staff were incredibly welcoming and eager to share their top tips and recommendations and the Jazz Bar made for the perfect night-cap after the Christmas Market stalls closed for the evenings.
If you’re in need of a quick, relaxing getaway, Bruges should be top of your list!