On the coach back from our Amsterdam trip, the driver popped In Bruges on the DVD player to get us in the mood for our afternoon stopoff in the town often referred to as ‘The Venice of the North’. And Bruges is not, as Colin Farrell’s Ray would put it, “a shithole” – but in fact, an absolutely bloody beautiful place to visit. Plus there’s loads of beer and chocolate which are TWO OF MY FAVE THINGS. We decided to do some Christmas shopping in Bruges, and pick up some Belgian delights as we explored the city for an afternoon.
Despite the sky intermittently deciding we needed a wash (which we probably did after four hours on a coach that was often reminiscent of a sauna – saves money on the spa day I had planned, I guess), we mostly managed to dodge the rain and got to do quite a bit in the five or so hours we had there. First stop was a wander round the Christmas markets which got me all stupidly festive.
Actually, I tell a slight lie – first stop was the first stall of the Christmas markets to pick up some mulled wine and beer to accompany us on our wander. The markets were pretty epic – loads of decorations and Christmassy bits and bobs everywhere. Some of my favourite stalls featured some mildly terrifying Santa models and my one of favourite ever festive drinks, Advocaat. Obviously, we bought both. Who could resist these creepy little faces… #squadgoals
As well as markets, there were also loads of shops – particularly ones selling chocolate and all kinds of interesting beers. I ended up picking up quite a few to take home, mostly fruit beers to drink in the bath, and spending a lot of time just browsing the huuuuge selections in the bottle shops – including the perfect beer for your friendly neigbourhood goth.
The architecture and buildings and, well, EVERYTHING in Bruges is all basically like something out of a fairytale. Seriously. I half expected a long-haired lady to start yelling at me from a tower and blokes to be riding around in tights on their noble steeds in search of fair maidens.
There seemed to be barely any cars, instead horses and carts trotted around, and although ruddy-faced Christmas shoppers seemed to be out in force, the whole town felt very relaxed. I’d go off on one describing how beautiful the whole place is but seriously, just look at the pictures.
See? Told you. While we were walking about, our tour guide bumped into us and mentioned the Bruges Beer Museum – seriously, 48 hours with this guy around and it’s like he knew us. Er, either that, or we’re just really obvious booze fiends. My money’s on the latter, to be honest. We decided to pop our heads into the museum during another sky-cry moment and actually weren’t particularly impressed, aside from enjoying going around doing the quizzes.
It was a pretty dry, stale affair – who knew beautiful beer could be…well, pretty boring? However, the musuem’s saving grace was the tasting bar afterwards, where we picked up some generous-sized beer tasters in a variety of different flavours. With the tour price of €12 including three tasting glasses each, it wasn’t too bad – but for €10, you can JUST do the tasting AND you get five each instead of three. So my tip is to skip the museum and go straight to the tasty stuff.
Before returning to the coach, we couldn’t not pick up an absolute local classic – a Belgian waffle, topped with whipped cream and chocolate. Delicious.
Christmas shopping in Bruges is a wonderful experience, in such a beautiful city. It has such a magical feeling, especially around Christmastime. It definitely doesn’t come across as party central if that’s your vibe, but it’s easily somewhere manageable as a day trip or stop off when travelling through Belgium. Also, did I mention that they have beer and chocolate?