By Leah Martindale, Film & TV Editor
Leah Martindale explains how a trip to Bruges will get you in the true spirit of Christmas. From the Bruges beer experience to the chocolate museum, the Belgian city might take your Christmas experience beyond just Bristol of Bath's Christmas market!
Christmas is renowned worldwide as one of the most magical times of the year. When Christmas at home doesn’t quite cut it, there are Christmas markets across Europe that can whet your Chrimbo whistle. The medieval Belgian city Bruges makes a beautiful city get-away for that all-important festive frivolity.
In November of 2015, three friends and I took ourselves to Bruges for a long weekend of wildly alcoholic mulled beverages, ice-skating of dubious stability, and general yule-tide cheer. With two full days and an evening in the city, we saw as many sights as our inebriated eyes could manage and stock-piled on snacks for the hibernation period to come.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site city centre amounts to an easily-walkable 430 hectare oval; the perfect shape for wandering aimlessly, dipping out to souvenir stores, cafes, and bars, and reenter at the point you left off for more spiralling. The centre of the circle houses the ice-skating rink and a series of bars, hot-dog stalls, and other Christmas market classics.
We travelled using a Co-op holiday deal, and paid about £125 each for Easy-Jet flights and a four star hotel reasonably near to the centre. In hindsight, for what we got it was overpriced - but the convenience of not having to book the hotel, and the comfort of our first holiday away as a group certainly made it worth it.
As someone with dietary requirements, Belgium struck a slight challenge. At least in 2015, veganism was a fairly foreign concept to Belgians. As a relatively large city, it would be easy to assume that more niche food requests might be more possible, but I learned the hard way that that was ignorance speaking.
One of our favourite haunts from the holiday was a bar officially called ‘de pub’, which cycled through the names ‘de kitchen’, ‘de pub’, and ‘de club’ over the space of the day. The atmosphere in de pub was unlike anything we were used to at home.
The top floor had benches with people dancing, watching sports on TVs, and the occasional single red rose seller. With a DJ playing from a caged ledge hanging over the makeshift dancefloor, you might have mistaken the bar for a truly wild night. However, the environment was extremely trustworthy, with patrons hanging their jackets from hooks on the walls and leaving them.
‘De Pub’ encompassed much of the city of Bruges. Most busy cities easily start to feel dangerous or skeevy, especially with the addition of alcohol, but in Bruges we felt safe to wander apart, day drunk, with bags hanging off our shoulders and little thought to pick-pockets - except my friend Wallis, who kept her Euros in a much-mocked velvet bag tied around her neck.
With horse-led carriage rides, boat tours, and cycle rickshaws, there are countless ways to see the city. From the torture museum to the Bruges Beer Experience and Choco-Story, the chocolate museum, there are daytime activities for any sensibilities. There are hot chocolate stalls, mulled ciders, and potent mulled white wine with a shocking amount of absinthe.
As short as it was, my Christmas in Bruges was perfect to get me into the Christmas spirit. From the beautiful scenery to the wonderful decorations, Belgium certainly knows how to do festivities. With four years to mull it over, I can definitely recommend the beautiful city to anyone looking for a getaway this Christmas season.
Featured Image credit: Unsplash/ Alisa Anton
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