Bruges Christmas Market: A Comprehensive Guide

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The Bruges Christmas market is the most picturesque the country has to offer. Magical on any given day, Medieval Bruges festooned in twinkling lights and decorative garlands will simply take your breath away. Read on to find out what to do, how to get there, and most importantly what delights to eat!

The enchanting Bruges Christmas Market is nestled within the Historical Centre of Belgium‘s fairytale city. As the air sparkles with seasonal magic, cobbled streets adorned in twinkling lights beckon visitors into a winter wonderland of artisanal crafts, aromatic mulled wine, and abundant chocolate!

As a Belgian, I visit the Christmas Market in Brussels religiously each year. It was my absolute favorite until I discovered Bruges at Christmas and it firmly knocked Brussels off its Christmas pedestal. A day trip from Brussels to Bruges is a perfect way to compare both!

The colorful Market Square with its gabled houses lined with artisanal stalls unveiling a treasure trove of goods, little medieval alleyways decked out in full Christmas regalia and cozy little bars serving piping hot chocolate while Mariah Carey croons in the background. Bruges in December simply screams Christmas! Read on to find out exactly how to make the best out of your visit.


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Bruges Christmas Market Quick Guide

HOTELS IN BRUGES BY THE MARKETS

BRUGES CHRISTMAS TOURS

LATEST DATES FOR THE CHRISTMAS MARKET: Last week of November until the first week of January.

OFFICIAL CHRISTMAS MARKET WEBSITE: Visit Bruges Christmas Market

WHAT TO WEAR: December can be fickle. Some years you need a simple raincoat, while others thermals are required. The general rule of thumb is to dress in layers. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes as the historical center is lined with cobblestones.

WHAT TO AVOID: The first weekend of December is the busiest of the entire year. If you can avoid coming during this time instead opt to visit later in the month.

HOW TO GET THERE: Day tour from Brussels or take the 1h direct train from Brussels to Bruges. Find the train schedule and purchase tickets online.


Christmas Market in Bruges

Where Does the Christmas Market in Bruges Take Place

Christmas in Bruges practically engulfs the entire city. With hotels, restaurants and storefronts pulling out all the stops in a bid to beguile passersby. Born and bred in Belgium, I can firmly say no place in all of Belgium puts on such a sparkling show as the city of Bruges.

That being said, it is noteworthy to mention that while the city is absolutely bedazzling, the Christmas markets themselves have only popped up in recent years and as such are still very much a work in progress. At the time of writing the stalls were still large containers, wooden stalls had not yet entered the group chat yet.

Grote Markt

Opening Hours: Sun to Thur from 10.00 am to 10 pm// Fri & Sat from 10.30 am to 11.00 pm
Contains: Food/Drink; Large seating area; Handful of little Christmas souvenir stalls.

Sprawled out along the Grote Markt (Main Square) are a dozen stalls festooned with brightly lit lights, emitting a mixture of food-baby coma-inducing smells. In previous years an ice skating rink was located on the Grote Markt, this has since been moved to the Minnewaterpark.

Simon Stevinplein

Opening Hours: Sun to Thur from 10.00 am to 10 pm// Fri & Sat from 10.30 am to 11.00 pm.
Contains: Food/Drink; Public Toilets (paid); Merry-go-round

A second Christmas Market in Bruges can be found on the Simon Stevinplein. A cornucopia of stalls peddling artisanal products and goods made by local producers as well as a brightly festooned covered make-shift bar adored the small square.

Minnewater Park

Opening Hours: Sun to Thur from 11.00 am to 9 pm// Fri & Sat from 10.00 am to 10.00 pm
Contains: Drinks; Ice skating
Cost: €7 (US$8)

The Minnewater Park currently holds an artificial ice skating rink, floating on the romantic lake aptly called Lake of Love, with views over the castle. It is a comfortable 10-minute walk from the Grote Markt and one of the stops of the Wintergloed walk (more on that later).

Noteworthy to mention is the ice skating rink and the bar hugging the rink has different opening hours. The latter tends to open in the afternoon and serves a variety of (alcoholic) beverages as well as hot chocolate.


When does the Christmas Market of Bruges Start

The official dates of the Bruges Christmas Markets differ each year but as a rule of thumb, they run from the last week of November up until, and including the first week of January. In fact, Bruges is one of the only places in Belgium that has a Christmas Market running much past the first of January.

OPENING HOURS: for the Christmas Market are the following: Sunday to Thursday 10.00 am to 10.00 pm; Friday to Saturday 10.30 am to 11.00 pm.

WHEN TO GO | Christmas in Bruges is one of the busiest seasons for the already very tourist-laden city. If you can, I highly recommend you plan your visit on a Tuesday or Wednesday. By Thursday the city is positively heaving with weekend goers and flocks of tours disembarking from their Christmas cruises.


Christmas Markets in Bruges
Christmas Market at La Bourse in Brussels

5 Unmissable Things to Do at the Bruges Christmas Market

READ | Is Bruges worth visiting?; Complete One Day in Bruges Itinerary

The Christmas markets themselves are tiny and can easily be visited in half a day. Each of the three Christmas markets are within walking distance from each other, with the furthest taking a mere 10 minutes to get there.

That being said, if you want to experience the true magic of Bruges at Christmas I highly recommend spending one night. As the flocks of tourists make their exodus after 5 pm and only locals are left, the city breathes a collective sigh of relief.

We stayed for two days and opted to take a Christmas in Bruges tour on day one to get a lay of the land. Our guide explained the various Christmas Markets, the best spots to get hot chocolate, and where to find locally-made chocolates while simultaneously delving into the history of the city.

1. Eat the Christmas Foods

Although small, the Christmas Market in Bruges does have a solid offering of foods to try. I am going to expand this paragraph to include various typical foods that can also be found within walking distance of the Christmas Market.

TARTIFLETTE: A French dish that we love around Christmas. Made with potatoes, cheese, lardons and onions. To be found on the Main Square.

CHOCOLATE: Truffles, pralines, chocolate fountains, hot chocolate. You name it, and it will probably be sold in chocolate form at the Christmas Market.

BEIGNETS: Type of fritter, made with deep-fried pastry and generously coated with powdered sugar. We found some on the Simon Stevinplein.

CHURROS: Somehow this typical Spanish snack made its way over to every single Christmas Market in Belgium. Small or big, they will always serve Churos. Fried dough coated in lots of chocolate.

SAUSAGES: Small, large, with or without onions, slide inside a bun or fly solo. Available on both markets.

FRIES: You will be able to eat the typical fries at the Christmas Market in Bruges, though truth be told we Belgians do not tend to eat fries at the Christmas Market.

GINGERBREAD COOKIES: We picked up the most delicious artisanal gingerbread cookies at Maison La Confiance, an artisanal biscuit maker who produces their goods right here in Bruges.

WAFFLES: Head to House of Waffles for a proper Belgian waffle. Widely regarded by locals as the best place for waffles in Bruges. Or make your own in the top-rated waffle-making workshop.

FUN ACTIVITY | Book yourself a top-rated private food tour in Bruges. Includes 10 tastings with classics like waffles, fries, chocolate truffles and a host of artisanal cheeses & beers.


2. Drink Traditional Christmas Drinks

JENEVER/GENEVER/PEKET: A strong spirit that goes by a variety of different names. Genever is a spirit crafted from malt wine and a blend of botanicals, including juniper, coriander, and various spices. It comes in endless different flavors and is served in a shot glass.

MULLED WINE: There is nothing that screams Christmas more than a cup of mulled wine. Red wine with spices like cinnamon, cloves, and citrus zest. It’s sweetened with sugar and often fortified with brandy.

HOT CHOCOLATE: Hot chocolate is another staple at a proper Christmas Market. Most stalls offer regular hot chocolate. The very best hot chocolate we tried however was in the Old Chocolate House

BRUGES BREWED BEER: Either head to the Halve Maan Brewery for the Brugse Zot or the Brewery Bourgogne des Flandres to try the eponymous beer.

BEER LOVERS | Want to delve into the Bruges beer scene a bit more? Why not book a dedicated Bruges Beer Walking Tour and enjoy tasting 5 beers and visit the Bruges Beer Museum.


3. Walk the Light Experience Trail

This was so much fun and a wonderful way to explore lesser-known parts of Bruges. This light trail has been organized for a couple of years and involves 10 light installations dotted across a 2.5km (1.5 mi) trail snaking its way through the historical center & the Minnewater Park.

The lights are switched on daily between 05.00 pm and midnight for the entire duration of the Christmas market season (e.g. from the last week of November until the first week of January). Find out about this year’s installation on the official website.

When we went there was no need for a map. The path was indicated by a set of blue lamps and it seemed to be very popular amongst locals too, we ended up following along as they explored their city. Informative panels are placed in front of each installation to explain the artists’ inspiration.


4. Go Ice Skating

Opening Hours: Sun to Thur from 11.00 am to 9 pm// Fri & Sat from 10.00 am to 10.00 pm
Contains: Drinks; Ice skating
Cost: €7 (US$8) including rental of the skates

The artificial ice skating rink used to be on the Grote Markt but was moved to the Minnewater Park a few years back. The rink is rather small and hovers on the Lake of Love, overlooking the pretty De la Faille castle. When visiting it was choc-a-bloc with toddlers gurgling with laughter and tumbling on the ice.

The Winterbar Vorst overlooks the ice skating rink and offers a limited number of warm drinks, snacks and a select offering of beers. Payment can be done by card. The opening hours of the Winterbar differ from the ice skating rink (Mon to Thur 02.00 pm – 10.00 pm; Fri to Sat 11.00 am to 11.00 pm, 10.00 pm on Sunday). During the Christmas holidays, the bar opens at 11.00 am!


5. See the Christmas Market From Above

While traipsing through the Christmas markets is super cozy, and hunger-inducing (oh those beautiful smells wafting in from everywhere), it can at times be a little too busy. Extricating yourself from the crowds and seeing the beautiful Grote Markt with the Christmas decorations offers a welcome respite.

Climb the Bruges Belfry

Opening Hours in December: 09.00 am to 08.00 PM || Tickets Price: €15 (US$16)// Reservations obligatory as spaces are limited. Get tickets online.

The 13th century Medieval Tower was once a repository for municipal charters and archives as well as a watchtower nowadays the symbol of the city and a great viewpoint. Reaching the top requires climbing 366 steps on a tightly wound, circular staircase. The viewing platform is right underneath the bells, which when rung are very loud. Provides 360° views over Bruges.

See the Bruges Christmas Market with a beer

The Belfry was personally not my favorite viewing point. Head over to the Historium (a very cool interactive museum about the history of Bruges). From here, you have two different options to get a vantage point over the Christmas market. Open daily from 11.00 am to 06.00 pm

OPTION ONE | Skip buying a ticket and head straight for the first floor which houses the Duvelorium Grand Beer Cafe. Order a beer and head out to the terrace which overlooks the Grote Markt.

OPTION TWO | Head to the top of the Historium for the absolute best view – even better than the Belfry I would argue. A ticket to access the viewpoint costs €12 (US$13) or purchase tickets to the Historium and simply pay a small fee of €5 (US$6) to access the viewpoint.


To do in Bruges Belgium
Christmas in Bruges as seen from the Bruges Belfry

5 Additional Things to Do in Bruges at Christmas

1. Attend a Christmas Carol Concert or Christmas Parade

Bruges is filled with concerts around the holidays. Make sure to check out the program of the Concertgebouw which has Christmas-themed concerts right before and right after Christmas. Each year the Basilica of the Holy Blood organizes a Christmas carol concert on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day (entrance fee €20)

If you are looking for a wonderfully folkloric event you will want to head to Bruges the weekend before Christmas to attend the Procession of the Christmas Star (Sterrenstoet). A parade depicting the Christmas story with 100 volunteers including Maria on a donkey and a flock of sheep. The parade starts and ends at Maricolen, Oude Zak 38, Brugge. Small donations are collected for charity along the route.


2. Take a Christmas Tour

I have visited Bruges on multiple occasions, at just about every time of year. The fairytale town is undeniably beautiful but boy is it littered with tourist traps. I wanted to get more information, from a local, about spending Christmas in Bruges and booked the Christmas in Bruges tour.

Our guide took us to his favorite hot chocolate place, showed us where to get locally-made chocolates and the very best waffles while regaling us with a good mix of personal anecdotes and history about the city. I came away getting a much better feel for the city.


3. Indulge in All the Chocolate

One does not visit Belgium without trying copious amounts of Belgian chocolate, this would be very much akin to blasphemy. As you walk down the historical center of Bruges there seems to be an inordinate amount of “Best Belgian Chocolate” signs. So where does one go for the good stuff?

THE CHOCOLATE LINE: One of the few chocolatiers that still produces their chocolate right here in the heart of Belgium. Run by multiple award-winning Chocolatier Dominique Persoone. Also has establishments elsewhere in Belgium.

THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY: A small local chocolatier with just two establishments that still produces chocolates in Bruges. Has a wide selection of pralines available.

THE CHOCOLATE MUSEUM: Perfect for those looking to delve a little deeper into the history of chocolate in Belgium includes a chocolate tasting!

TIP | Book a Chocolate workshop around Christmas and make your very own!


Canal Cruise in Bruges

4. Bundle Up and Cruise the Canals

Bruges, often referred to as the “Venice of the North,” boasts an intricate network of canals that weave through its medieval streets, providing a picturesque backdrop for canal cruises. The city’s canals have a rich history dating back to the 12th century when they were constructed for commercial purposes, facilitating trade and transporting goods.

I must admit, I have taken the cruise three times so far and my favorite was over Christmas. The 45-minute cruise allows you to see the beautifully decorated façades of the city’s well-preserved medieval buildings from a different perspective. Yes it’s touristy, but in the end, who cares!

Boat tours typically cost €12 (US$13) and tickets can be bought from one of five vendors dotted around the historical center. We went to the Rozenhoedkaai and jumped on the boat there. For the best views perch at the very back of the boat. Tours have English-speaking guides.

TIP | Combine a boat tour with a guided walking tour. The top-rated 2.5-hour tour is great value for money as it takes you through the various highlights of the city + includes a boat tour for only €18 extra versus the single ticket for a boat ride.


5. Shop Christmas Decorations in the 365 Christmas Store

Address: Vlamingenstraat 23 || Opening hours: Daily 10.00 am to 17.45, closed on Monday

Walking into this store felt like a slice of Christmas heaven descended upon me. A cornucopia of Christmas decorations, beyond even my wildest dreams, is sold right here. The store has been in this very spot for over 25 years and sells Christmas decorations year-round.

Though slightly pricier than nearby Käthe Wohlfahrt (a German chain of Christmas stores), it prides itself in selling mostly decorations made in Europe. From luscious ribbons to vintage-style Father Christmas figurines, I wanted them all! Do not miss out on the Christmas cave in the basement.


Where to Stay in Bruges Near the Christmas Markets

READ | 15 Sustainable Boutique Hotels in Bruges

I highly recommend spending one night in Bruges around Christmas to experience the city without the many tourists. The choice of where to stay is important; Further away is easier on the wallet, but less fun after feasting on copious amounts of chocolate and mulled wine, while being closer to the festivities means pricier and the risk of noise pollution. Check out hotels in Bruges.

Where to stay in Bruges
Source: Booking.com

MOST AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE: B&B Bonifacius ($$$)

A beautiful medieval wooden house with views of the iconic Boniface Bridge. Step back into time as you stay in this cozy, locally-run B&B.

Where to stay in Bruges
Source: Booking.com

A no-nonsense 2-star hotel located right on the Grote Markt, opposite the Bruges Belfry. Great value for money and unbeatable location. Tends to book out very fast.

Hotels in Bruges
Source: Booking.com

Located in a stunning historical mansion with a tranquil garden overlooking one of the many picturesque canals of Bruges. Locally run with 4 rooms, 350 meters from the Main Square.


Best Hot Chocolate in Bruges
The Old Chocolate House has the best hot chocolate in Bruges

Where to Eat & Drink Around Christmas in Bruges

READ | 12 Vegetarian Restaurants in Bruges

Best hot chocolate in Bruges

THE OLD CHOCOLATE HOUSE: Hands down the very best hot chocolate we tried in all of Bruges. This chocolate store has a little tearoom on the first floor serving various types of hot chocolate. We had the speculoos special, with extra marshmallows. One of the only places we came across that had the option to have non-dairy-based milk.

What is the best chocolate in Bruges

THE CHOCOLATE LINE: One of the few chocolatiers that still produces their chocolate right here in the heart of Belgium. Run by multiple award-winning Chocolatier Dominique Persoone. Also has establishments elsewhere in Belgium.

THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY: A small local chocolatier with just two establishments that still produces chocolates in Bruges. Has a wide selection of pralines available.

THE CHOCOLATE MUSEUM: Perfect for those looking to delve a little deeper into the history of chocolate in Belgium includes a chocolate tasting!

Best waffles in Bruges

HOUSE OF WAFFLE: Widely regarded by locals as the best place for waffles in Bruges.

OTTO WAFFLE: Try the specialty Bruges waffle! This one-of-a-kind waffle is baked in the shape of lace, dairy-free, gluten-free and sprinkled with coconut blossom sugar. I can assure you, it’s divine!

WAFFLE MAKING WORKSHOP: If you find yourself with a bit more time on your hands, why not learn how to make your very own Belgian waffles.


What to do in Bruges at Christmas

Practical Tips for Visiting the Christmas Markets of Bruges

This portion of the guide contains a slew of practical details, which might not be the most interesting read but they sure are worth a skim through before you hit the Christmas market.

Are there public toilets on the Bruges Christmas market?

The only public toilets we saw were around the Simon Stevinplein. There were none on the Grote Markt. These public toilets required a payment of €1 (cash only).

When does the Christmas market start

The Christmas Market traditionally starts the last week of November and ends the first week of January.

Can I pay by card at the Christmas market in Bruges

Payment by card is widely accepted. You will need cash to pay for the public toilets.

What should I wear to the market?

Make sure to wear a pair of comfortable shoes as part of the Christmas market runs over cobblestones. As for clothing, you will want to wear layers. Temperatures tend to drop drastically when the sun goes down.

How to get to the Bruges Christmas market

The Christmas market is a 12-minute walk from the train station (Brugge Station). Direct trains from Brussels run hourly and cost €16 (single journey).

TIP | If you are purchasing a train ticket during the weekend, make sure to choose the “weekend ticket” as it is 50% off. Check the schedule and purchase tickets via Omio or directly via the NMBS.


Christmas Decorations in Brussels

Christmas Markets Around Bruges

If you are spending a few more days in Belgium and want to get in some more Christmas vibes, you might want to consider visiting one of the nearby cities.

BRUSSELS // 1h Train Ride from Bruges
The Brussels Christmas Market is the largest in all of Belgium and the most multicultural. Spread out across the historical center with the largest clustering of stalls at La Bourse and the Marché aux Poissons. Runs from the last week of November until the first week of January. Daily 12 pm – 10 pm

ANTWERP // 1h20 Min Train Ride from Bruges
Once the most important city of the Low Countries, now the fashion capital of Belgium. Antwerp is a vibrant city. The Christmas market is held on the Grote Markt, Suikerrui, Steenplein and Handschoenmarkt. Runs the second week of December to the first week of January. Open daily from 12.00 pm to 10.00 pm

GHENT // 22 Min Train Ride from Bruges
Nearby Ghent is an absolutely fantastic town to visit. Akin to Bruges in terms of architecture, it is however absolutely brimming with locals and has less of a museum-like feel to it. The Christmas market centers around the Sint-Baafsplein and St. Veerleplein. Opens the first week of December and runs for 3 weeks until end of December. Daily from 12.00 pm to 12.00 am (and 01.00 am on weekends).


Christmas in Bruges

Minimize Your Impact When Visiting Bruges in Winter

Christmas markets are wonderful to visit, not just due to the abundance of food and general merriment but also because the support the local economy and provide a welcome opportunity for artisans to showcase their work.

Yet there is also a flipside to that Christmas coin: mountains of single-use plastic, heavy congestion due to additional traffic, and high-priced rent for stalls pricing out local artisans in favor of larger companies with mass-produced goods. Below are a few pointers to make your visit more sustainable.

TAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Ditch the car, chances are high you will only end up in a nerve-wracking struggle to find parking anyway.

PURCHASE LOCAL: If you are in the mood to buy a souvenir, ask where it was made before you purchase. There are still local artisans showcasing their goods.

STAY A LITTLE LONGER: Consider making your visit to Bruges a weekend trip instead of a day trip.

THE HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGES CONUNDRUM: The horse-drawn carriages in Bruges are subject to rigorous rules with mandatory rest days and a maximum of 8 hours work daily. When temperatures soar above 30°C, the horse-drawn carriages are legally not allowed to operate. That being said, personally, I am not a fan of any tourist attractions involving animals, rather opting to walk around instead.


in Bruges Belgium

Is Visiting Bruges at Christmas Worth It

Bruges is the single most visited place in Belgium, even beating the capital Brussels. Receiving an estimated 8 million tourists each year, eager to catch a glimpse of the UNESCO World Heritage city. Roaming the cobbled streets reveals picturesque canals, enchanting squares, and centuries-old buildings that are unparalleled anywhere else in Europe.

What makes Bruges even more alluring is its festive spirit during Christmas. The city transforms into a winter wonderland, adorned with twinkling lights and festive decorations. No place in Belgium does Christmas as well and magical as Bruges. And I say this as a Belgian.

I do feel it is important to add a caveat to the above. The magic of Bruges at Christmas attracts a lot of visitors. December is one of the busiest months for the city, causing the city to struggle with overtourism. If at all possible, try and plan your visit during the week.

Bruges Christmas Market: A Comprehensive Guide

MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING BELGIUM

BRUGES: One day in Bruges
BRUGES: Bruges vs Brussels: Which city to visit
BRUGES: 15 Sustainable Boutique Hotels in Bruges
BRUSSELS: One day in Brussels: A local’s guide
BRUSSELS: Christmas Market in Brussels
BRUSSELS: Day Trips from Brussels by train
BRUSSELS: Where to stay in Brussels
BELGIUM: Beautiful places in Belgium to add to your bucket list
BELGIUM 16 Castles you can actually stay in Belgium

Bruges Christmas Market – Pin it
Christmas in Bruges Belgium
Christmas Markets in Bruges

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Caroline Muller

Thanks for dropping in! With this blog I hope to harness the power of travel to do good in the world. Think connecting with local cultures, sustainable tourism and in-depth guides to known and lesser-known adventures. 

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