Explore the pretty city of Bruges this winter
© Flickr user Carlos Andrés Reyes
When I take my family to northern France about twice a year, we often extend our trip so that we can spend a week or so visiting the beautiful country of Belgium. The new year is the perfect time to visit a new city, and where better to start than the famous city of Bruges. If you’ve never been before, it’s an absolute must. I’ve been several times and still love to visit with my family.
It might sound cliché, but Bruges in winter really is a picture-perfect destination. It’s one of the world’s most well-preserved Medieval towns, and when strolling through the Market Square and exploring its many quaint shops, you’ll understand why it’s so popular with travellers.Bruges is home to incredible architecture
© Flickr user Rod-20
Stop at small towns along the way
Driving means that we have the freedom to stop at all of the pretty local towns on our way to our final destination. The drive to Bruges from Calais is just 1 hour 28 minutes by car, so you’ve got time to stretch out the drive if you choose. There are a couple of different routes you can take, but I love travelling along the northern coast and passing through small towns such as De Haan, which has a fantastic weekly market every Monday (perfect for picking up snacks for the drive).
Pick up gifts for loved ones back home
Bruges is famous for its lace and chocolate shops, so when you’re exploring the city, pop into a few traditional stores and get gifts for loved ones back home. It’s important to note that many of the shops here sell the same sweet treats, so try to look out for individually-owned stores selling real artisan chocolate.
Some of my favourites include The Chocolate Line, which is where many of the locals get their chocolate fix. Owned by Dominique Persoone, this shop is famous for its innovative flavours, such as chocolate and bacon (yum!) and bitter ganache, marzipan and wasabi. Another brilliant Master Chocolatier is Fangio De Baets, owner of Pralinette.Blocks of chocolate at one of Bruges’ most famous chocolatiers, The Chocolate Line
© Flickr user Kristina D.C. Hoeppner
Winter is a great time to visit Bruges, as you avoid the summer crowds while enjoying the many winter events taking place. Each January, the Costumés de Venise takes place, with dozens of people dressed in elaborate baroque costume parading the streets, accompanied by music, shopping stalls and children’s entertainment, such as face painting.
The following month, in early February, the city hosts its famous Beer Festival. In 2017 the event will take place on 4th and 5th February, and will see 89 brewers showcasing their finest beers and ales.
Choose a cosy place to stay
When choosing where to stay in Bruges, I often pick a local B&B, as these often offer a more unique experience. Anna’s B&B is a beautifully-decorated bed and breakfast, and when we visited Anna provided us with brilliant insider-information on where to go in the city. It’s possible to park outside, too, which is handy when you’re travelling with a car.
If you prefer to stay in a larger hotel, Hotel De Orangerie is housed in a beautiful 15th century cloister, overlooking the Dijver canal, with crackling fireplaces to welcome you after a long day walking around the city.Sleep in style at Hotel De Orangerie
© Flickr user Piutus
Feast on Belgian cuisine
If there’s one thing I love about winter, it’s eating warm, hearty foods. Whatever your taste or budget, in Bruges there will be something to suit. A favourite gourmet restaurant in the city, Den Dyver offers a lovely prix fixe lunch, which is a brilliant way to try the menu if you’re considering it for dinner. The food is beautifully-presented, so it’s a great option if you’re looking to celebrate or simply want to make the most of your time in the city.
For me, there are fewer dishes heartier than the spaghetti found at L’Estaminet. In a cosy, pub-style setting, the interior is decorated with wood, candelabras and mirrors throughout, and the food is simple but incredibly tasty. It’s a great place for a cosy lunch away from the outside chill.
This year, just say “oui” and experience new destinations with ease. Travelling with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle takes you from Folkestone to Calais in just 35-minutes, giving you more time to plan those last-minute adventures.