There’s a lot to recommend a visit to Bruges at any time but especially so when the Christmas markets are being held.

The city is one of Europe’s most picturesque and the Christmas markets – which have around 150 stalls – transform the historic centre into a winter wonderland and provide an impressive backdrop.

Before arranging a visit to the Bruges Christmas markets, read this article for tips and advice to make your trip really special.

When are the Bruges Christmas markets open in 2024?

The two main markets are Grote Markt and Simon Stevinplein which make up the city’s ‘Winter Glow’ festival and have become very popular. The markets in Bruges this year will be open:

Bruges Christmas markets: 22 November until 5 January 2025.

Where are the Christmas markets in Bruges?

  • Grote Markt Christmas market: The main attraction is the Grote Markt Christmas market. It’s in the Grote Markt square with lots of stalls selling a range of Christmas goods and local food. There’s also an ice rink and a large Christmas tree to help create a lovely atmosphere.
  • Simon Stevinplein Christmas market: The other is the Simon Stevinplein Christmas market which focuses on artisanal craft products. The ambience here tends to be cosy and is a great place to find unique gifts for loved ones.

It doesn’t really matter which of these you visit first because they are only a short stroll apart!


Christmas in Bruges – What to See & Eat + Where to Stay

This is an interesting video from Les Frenchies about spending Christmas in Bruges and there’s a lot of useful advice.

The thing to note is that they visited on the opening night of the Christmas markets and struggled to find accommodation – they did find a very good B&B close to the centre. Eventually.

They also stress that you don’t need a car or indeed public transport in Bruges because everything is within walking distance.

Among the food items they tried in small family-run restaurants was a fish stew with mashed potato and a rabbit stew with brown beer and plums. They also managed to enjoy a Flemish beef stew with Belgian fries – which did look particularly tasty.

One of the big takeaways from this video is that the duo really enjoyed the Christmas markets for the bargain priced clothes they found. They also really enjoyed the atmosphere.

The narrator explains that the Christmas market in Bruges is something else, and he likens it to walking through a gingerbread village.

The couple explain that the two markets are in two distinct squares, but they are very close to each other. That means visitors get to enjoy the stalls, restaurants and other delightful shops as they travel between them.

This video also explained how easy it is to explore Bruges by boat – a good idea for a city known as the Venice of the North. The canals appeared to be quite busy with boat traffic, but this is undoubtedly a great way to see Bruges from a different angle.

And in a city renowned for its chocolate produce, they also enjoy a hot chocolate from the Old Chocolate House which has a canopy outside saying it’s the place to be to drink the best hot chocolate. Fortunately, the presenters can confirm that the hot chocolate was excellent.

At night, the Christmas markets come alive with lots of food tasting and exploration of stalls with impressive wooden items and Christmas gifts to impress family and friends with.

Ultimately, Bruges Christmas markets offer lots of yummy street food, great festive stalls and the ease of enjoying both without travelling for miles or using public transport.


Why visit Bruges for its festive markets?

The festive markets in Bruges offer a feast for the senses and you can look forward to:

  • Festive treats: Warm yourself up with a steaming mug of Belgian hot chocolate, thick and decadent – especially with whipped cream and cinnamon added. We can also recommend the stalls offering a traditional Belgian waffle dusted with icing sugar or topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream. There’s also the savoury delight called ‘mitraillette’ (Hint: you may see this served as an ‘Américain’). It’s popular with students, apparently, and hungry Brits who get to enjoy a sarnie packed with meat, French fries, meat and a sauce. It’s great for a cold day and very filling. We can also recommend the Belgian treat of Speculoos which is a spiced biscuit made at this time of year and comes in a wide range of shapes.
  • Handcrafted treasures: The markets in Bruges offer a trove of craftsmanship including unique Christmas ornaments depicting iconic Bruges landmarks like the Belfry or the Gruuthusemuseum. Visitors can also seek out cosy woollen scarves and toasty woollen mittens that keep out the cold weather. The markets are also good sources for the famous intricate lace doilies from the country’s rich textile tradition. You will also see skilled artisans, especially at the Simon Stevinplein Christmas market demonstrating their traditional crafts, like lacemaking and wood carving.
  • Festive entertainment: Enjoy the heart-warming and lively performances by local choirs singing traditional Christmas carols. We also enjoyed the dazzling light show which uses the city’s historic buildings and canals as a backdrop for festive patterns and colours. For those who enjoy skating, the ice skate is highly recommended. There are also impressive nativity scenes depicting the Christmas story scattered around.


Bruges, Belgium Christmas Market – Evening Walk in 4K

This video from LDV Spotting offers potential visitors a great view of the city in 4K and this evening walk of the Christmas markets in Bruges is worth watching if visiting the city is for you.

The video begins in the cobbled side streets and as the camera makes its way to the first Christmas market amongst historic buildings there’s a nice, relaxed atmosphere.

Even in the early evening, the streets are busy with visitors and lots of shops are open late to cater for festive shoppers.

There are Christmas lights in the streets and a lot of the shops have made an effort to be festive.

However, as the film nears the Christmas markets, there are more festive lights adorning trees, and the stalls are well lit too.

There’s a wide choice of stalls for visitors to enjoy, from clothes, food and trinkets. For anybody wanting, for example, to buy an unusual or unique ornament for their Christmas tree, then Bruges Christmas Markets probably have something for you.

We thought that having lots of Christmas trees in the Winter Glow area helped to create what is an impressive, festive spectacle.

There are also lots of temporary bars for visitors to enjoy a drink, with a good selection of mulled wine stalls, plus other foodie treats.

The video also offers a good view of how the lights help the historic buildings surrounding the squares to stand out and create a scenic backdrop.

While there’s no narration, the markets don’t appear to be too busy since the visitor is apparently there in the early evening – which is something to take note of. When the markets do get busy, then visiting the stalls will become more difficult.

If you want to know what the Christmas markets in Bruges look like, this high-resolution video gives a very good idea and is worth watching.


The history of Bruges’ Christmas markets

The Christmas market tradition in Bruges dates from the Middle Ages, with records of festive stalls appearing in the Grote Markt as early as the 14th century.

It was originally established as a one-day market for locals to buy provisions for Christmas Eve and the cold, winter months.

Now, the markets have become a major tourist attraction while retaining their warm and welcoming spirit.

We think the markets have managed to keep their historical charm, with many vendors dressed in traditional Belgian attire, adding to the authentic atmosphere.

Why choose Bruges this Christmas?

Including the historical charm, there are several other reasons that make Bruges’ Christmas markets stand out, including:

Medieval fairytale setting: Visitors get to explore an impressive city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its cobbled streets, picturesque canals and magnificent medieval architecture. As European Christmas markets go, the Bruges offering is one of the best.

  • Focus on Belgian delights: We really liked Simon Stevinplein Christmas market because it sets out to be something different from the main market. Here there’s a chance to showcase traditional Belgian delicacies and crafts, and for visitors to indulge in the rich culinary and artistic heritage of Belgium. The main market offers everything you expect a festive market to do.
  • Romantic winter wonderland: It’s known locally as the Winter Glow festival and with the twinkling lights, charming canals and horse-drawn carriage rides, the city offers a romantic and picturesque atmosphere.

Be prepared for your visit to Bruges

Here are some tips to help your trip to Bruges Christmas markets a success:

  • Planning: We found that aiming for a weekday visit is best to avoid weekend crowds, especially during peak season. You will also need to book your accommodation well in advance.
  • Clothing: The winters in Bruges can be chilly, with temperatures hovering around freezing. It’s a good idea to pack warm layers – thermals, a winter coat, hat, gloves, and waterproof boots are essential. If you do forget, there are warm traditional knitted clothes on the market!
  • Currency: Belgium uses the Euro (€) so consider exchanging some currency before travelling or using a debit card. Many stalls accept debit and credit cards, but carrying some cash is recommended.
  • Souvenirs: This is the place to catch unique Belgian keepsakes and that includes delicious Belgian chocolates in a variety of flavours and fillings. There are lots of stalls offering a lace doily or tablecloth that will make for a great Christmas gift. Some of the hand-painted ceramics of Bruges’ landmarks or a quirky figurine are also worth seeking out.
  • Basic Dutch phrases: While Dutch is one of the official languages of Belgium, French is also widely spoken in Bruges. Learning a few basic Dutch phrases will be appreciated by locals: ‘Goedenavond’ (Good evening), ‘Dank u wel’ (Thank you), ‘Alstublieft’ (Please), ‘Hoeveel kost dit?’ (How much does this cost?) and ‘Vrolijk Kerstfeest’ (Merry Christmas).

It helps that in the centre of Bruges, we found lots of people with a good standard of English.

How to get to Bruges Christmas markets

  • Flying: If you want to fly the first issue is that Bruges doesn’t have its own airport. Instead, there is Ostend-Bruges International Airport. The second issue is that there are no direct flights from the UK so travellers will need to fly into Brussels – which is well-served by flights from the UK, and then take a train or a bus to Bruges. Skyscanner highlights flights from the UK to Brussels and then a connecting flight to Ostend. You can fly to Brussels from Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Birmingham. You can fly with British Airways, Vueling and Brussels Airlines. Jet2 has unveiled new routes to popular European Christmas Markets, including Bruges, from 11 UK airports. Fares vary depending on where you fly from and which airline but expect prices from Heathrow to Brussels at around £200. The trains from there are regular and take around an hour to Bruges.
  • Train: You can catch the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Brussels and then another train to Bruges. The travel time is around three hours and fares cost from £66.
  • Driving: You can drive from London to Bruges and use either the Eurotunnel or a ferry. The driving times are three hours and four hours respectively.
  • Coach: The bus journey to Bruges from London is 145 miles and takes 6.5 hours (some operators are longer). We found fares from £52 on FlixBus.

Where to stay in Bruges

Since Bruges is a popular destination all year-round, there’s a lot of accommodation available. Here are some ideas to help you plan:

  • Budget: You could consider the Hotel Central which is opposite the 13th-century Belfry and a two-minute walk from the central market square or the B&B Huis Koning which is also close.
  • Mid-range: The Belfry of Bruges offers modern rooms with prices from £128 per night, the Hotel Navarra Brugge has three starts and is directly behind the Belfry and there’s Martin’s Brugge.
  • Luxury: The luxurious hotels in Bruges include Dukes’ Palace Residence which is an elegant boutique-style hotel; the Grand Hotel Casselbergh which is a 4-star offering.

There are also lots of Airbnb options available in Bruges, from cosy apartments in the city centre to idyllic houses near the Christmas market.

Other things to do in Bruges

Bruges offers a wide range of attractions beyond the Christmas markets, including:

  • The Belfry: Take the chance to climb the iconic Belfry tower for breathtaking views of the city and its picturesque canals.
  • The Groeningemuseum: Explore the impressive collection of Flemish art from the 14th to the 19th centuries, including masterpieces by Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling.
  • A canal cruise: With so many lovely canals in Bruges, why not take a cruise? You’ll get to glide past historic buildings, bridges and charming houses while learning about the city’s rich history.
  • The Chocolate Museum: Learn more about the delicious world of Belgian chocolate at the Chocolate Museum. It gives the history of chocolate making in the country and there are demonstrations by skilled chocolatiers – plus the chance to indulge in tastings of various chocolates.

The users at Tripadvisor have a top 10 that sees the historic centre and Markt in first and second place but trips to the De Halve Maan brewery, Basilica of the Holy Blood and Minnewater Lake are also recommended.

Other Christmas markets to visit

If you are enjoying the Bruges Christmas markets, then consider:

  • Brussels Christmas markets: A bigger market but still with an amazing backdrop of old buildings. There’s a lot to like and do here. The train journey is around an hour.
  • Ghent Christmas market: The vibrant city of Ghent has a charming Christmas market offering local crafts, delicious food and a lively atmosphere. A day trip from Bruges by train takes 30 minutes.

Budgeting for your Bruges Christmas trip

To help you plan a trip to the Christmas markets in Bruges, here’s a breakdown of the estimated costs:

Accommodation: Budget for a hostel or cheap hotel is £25-£40 per night; a mid-range hotel room – £90-£120 per night, while a luxury hotel will be £130-£200+ per night.

Food and drink: Budget – buying Street food and drinks at the market – £5-£10 per day, for mid-range with restaurant meals (lunch/dinner) with drinks – £20-£35 per day, and for luxury fine dining with drinks – £50+ per day.

  • Public transport: Buy a ticket for €2.50 and you can travel on any form of public transport for the next hour. It’s worth noting, however, that most places and attractions in Bruges can be reached on foot.
  • Museums: You can buy a three-day Musea Brugge Card for €33 (£28) to access all of the museums including the Belfry (Belfort).
  • Souvenirs and gifts: Budget – small Christmas market trinkets – £5-£10; mid-range for local chocolates, beers or crafts – £10-£20; luxury for antiques or high-quality lace – £50+.

This is a sample budget breakdown (per person, per day):

  • Budget: Accommodation (£40) + food (£10) + drinks (£5) + transport (£5) + souvenirs (£5) = £70
  • Mid-range: Accommodation (£100) + food (£25) + drinks (£10) + transport (£5) + souvenirs (£10) = £150
  • Luxury: Accommodation (£200) + food (£50) + drinks (£20) + transport (£5) + souvenirs (£50) = £325.

Visiting the Christmas markets in Bruges

For the team, the Bruges’ Christmas markets offer a blend of festive cheer, rich history, and a touch of medieval charm.

It’s a great place to escape the ordinary and embrace the city’s fairytale magic and the markets effectively showcase Belgian crafts and cuisine, its canals and architecture, and the opportunities for exploring the excellent city centre.

There’s no doubt that Bruges promises an unforgettable winter wonderland experience.