For my final trip this year I decided to get out of my comfort zone and book a surprise trip to Bruges for my boyfriend and I. The reason it was out of my comfort zone was because for some unknown reason I’ve never been overly compelled to visit Belgium. There isn’t any real reason that stemmed this thought but I came to the conclusion it was irrational (and it helped that the flights weren’t too expensive!) and I booked a trip to go see the Christmas Markets.
Getting To Bruges
This was a genuine surprise trip so my boyfriend didn’t actually find out where we were going until just before we got to the gate. Because it was somewhere I wasn’t overly excited about visiting it added a little bit of extra fun to it all and I would definitely recommend doing it for someone! We arrived to Brussels Airport and took a train straight from here to Bruges which only came to about €20 each for a 1.5 hour drive. I think you get a cheaper ticket again if you tell them you are under 26 – no student ID required! The train station ins Bruges is pretty central as well which is really handy for getting around once you land. We got to our Hotel that evening, put our stuff down and went out to explore. The hotel was pretty basic but it was still nice, especially if you’re looking to not spend a fortune during your stay.
The Christmas Markets in Bruges are absolutely fabulous. There are a few nestled within the town in various areas – most of them selling food and drink. While you are there you have to try their Gluhwein which is a version of mulled wine. What I wouldn’t recommend is doing what I did, which was drinking so much mulled wine you get sick and then can’t stand the smell of the markets for the duration of your stay! (I am Irish, after all…) . At the markets you can pick up some trinkets, grab a freshly made hot dog or even go ice skating in the rink in the centre. The markets are pretty much busy day and night but they aren’t overly crowded by any means.
Things To Do In Bruges
As far as activities go, the Bruges Belfry Tower is the biggest landmark in the town (if you have ever seen the film In Bruges you will remember this place!). For €8 you can make your way to the top of the tower. The queues are quite long so we never ended up going up but if you want to go, try get there as early as possible. Honestly after that we just explored antique shops and the markets. The town is so gorgeous you don’t really need to go out of your way to find beautiful things to see and do.
We found the nightlife to be pretty good outside of the markets as well. We went to one or two bars on the Saturday night and found there was a great atmosphere from about 11pm onward. Funnily enough their spirits were about €5.50 a glass so they were cheaper than the beer in a lot of places! We went to one or two late bars and didn’t end up getting home until about half 3 so the nights run late enough in the town. We ended up walking the 20 minutes home because there isn’t a huge abundance of taxis available but it is a really safe town.
Food & Drink
I’m not sure what I expected but I was really, really surprised with how expensive the town was. I suppose I should have gotten that by the hotel which was €115 a night for a pretty bog standard room about 20 minutes walk from the markets. Mains for dinner ranged between €25-35 both in the square and outside it. We only went for dinner one night and ate in the markets the second night to spare our pockets!
Even the beer was surprisingly expensive with a 33cl glass of Leffe ranging from about €4.50-€6 depending on where you went. This isn’t insanely expensive but I guess compared to Leffe being roughly €2.50 a glass in Tallinn Old Town and it actually being Belgian beer we were pretty surprised. In the supermarkets you can pick beer up for only about €1 a bottle/can. We actually brought some drinks to the markets and had them while we ate and walked around which saved us a fortune. I’m not 100% sure if this is allowed or not but no one said anything to us about it so I would chance my arm if I was you!
To be honest, I’m pretty annoyed with myself that I was so against Belgium after visiting Bruges. The town is absolutely stunning, particularly at Christmas. I would definitely recommend getting a flight to Brussels and heading here for a weekend to enjoy the gorgeous views and wander through the little streets. It is on the more expensive side compared to some of the other places I have been this year but central Europe usually is. The whole town is like it was lifted out of a fairy-tale. If you ever get the chance to go to Bruges, definitely do!
Have you ever been to Christmas markets in Europe? Have you ever visited Belgium, and did you like it?