Last week I visited Bruges, Ghent, and Brussels. I loved it, and needless to say I think you should go there too. I’m going to feature stories and photos from each of these places over the course of this week. That way you can see the Belgian markets for yourself, whether you can get there this year or not.
Here’s the first: A photo essay of Christmas Markets and wintertime travel in Beautiful Bruges.
Bruges Christmas Markets
Sure, we make our own attempts here in North America, but there’s just no emulating the real live Christmas markets of Europe. Belgium’s markets are relatively new and much smaller than the centuries old markets of Germany and Austria, but they’re cozy and wonderful just the same. And by visiting the markets in Belgium you can also sample the plethora of Belgian beer, chocolates, and waffles on offer, each of which are the best in the world.
At the markets you can browse the food (brats, beer, and cheeses) as well as buy Christmas ornaments to take back home. Markets were uncrowded as you can see in the picture above, and there was even an ice skating rink right in the middle of it all.
Of course, there’s far more to Bruges than just the Christmas markets. The scenic waterways which meander through the city, punctuated by distinctive Belgian architecture keep the visitors coming throughout the year.
Despite the high levels of tourism, the city maintains a comfortable, small town feel. The pace of Bruges is unrushed and relaxed, a place where you can hop into a nearby restaurant and take your time enjoying a coffee while sitting next to the fireplace, watching the world go by.
Like many cities in Europe, Bruges does an excellent job of lighting the city during the holidays. Buildings and streets are decorated, imparting a very festive feel to the town.
While there I also took the opportunity to employ a heart shaped bokeh technique. This simple technique involves placing a piece of paper with a small heart cut out over your lens, and throwing your lens out of focus such that the lights become shaped like the hearts. The overall effect is abstract but beautiful, and it’s a unique way to look at any scene with a lot of lights. It’s perfectly suited to a place like Bruges.
Where I stayed
Hostelbookers was kind enough to set me up with complimentary accommodation in Bruges in the popular Bed and Breakfast called Het Colettientje. It’s right near the main square, and it has great reviews. The owner Maria is disarmingly nice and excited to share her beautiful city with visitors. I felt at home in the large rooms, and the breakfast was amazing. I would happily stay there again.
The holidays are a perfect time to see Bruges. Streets are less crowded than the other seasons, and the Christmas markets are just great. I was also very impressed with how friendly everybody was, from the people I met at the markets to the servers at the bars and restaurants. Everyone seems just plain happy to be there.
I really enjoyed my time in Bruges this winter, and I can’t wait to go back someday.