Bruges Christmas Market is an annual event in Bruges, Belgium, part of the larger “Winter Glow” festival. It happens in two squares: Grote Markt and Simon Stevinplein. Grote Markt features wooden chalets selling Christmas items and local food. An ice rink and large Christmas tree are central attractions. Simon Stevinplein offers a less crowded market with crafts and carnival games for kids. The market runs from November 24, 2023, to January 7, 2024. Stalls open daily from 10:30 am to 10 pm, extended to 11 pm on weekends. No entry fee is required.
Several reasons make this market worth visiting: the historic backdrop, local Belgian cuisine, unique gifts and ice skating opportunities. The Winter Glow festival enhances the experience with light art installations around the city, including a Light Experience Trail. This trail features illuminated art at various locations, viewable from 5 pm to midnight.
Close to the market, visitors can explore the Belfry of Bruges, Burg Square and other museums like the Groeningemuseum. Entry fees for these attractions vary. The Bruges Christmas Market and its surrounding festivities offer an affordable, memorable holiday experience.
What is the Bruges Christmas Market?
The Bruges Christmas Market is an annual event that takes place in the city of Bruges, Belgium. It is part of a larger winter festival called “Winter Glow”, which includes festive lighting displays, an ice skating rink and other holiday attractions around the city. The main Christmas market is located in the Grote Markt, the central square of Bruges' historic district. The Grote Markt is surrounded by the Belfry of Bruges, the Provincial Palace and picturesque medieval buildings. During the Christmas market, over 130 wooden chalet stalls are set up in the square, selling gifts, Christmas decorations, local foods and drinks. Visitors can browse the market stalls while listening to Christmas music and smelling aromas of baked goods, gluhwein and hot chocolate. Popular items to buy include Belgian chocolates, waffles, artisanal cheeses, handmade lace and crafts. The market features a large Christmas tree as the centerpiece and many people come to skate on the ice rink while taking in the charming scenery.
Another smaller Christmas market takes place just a few minutes walk away at Simon Stevinplein. Stevinplein is a tree-lined square that hosts stalls selling crafts, foods and beverages in a quaint setting. Simon Stevinplein Christmas market tends to be less crowded than the main Christmas market at Grote Markt. Some of the attractions for kids here include carnival games and rides.
In addition to the two main squares, Bruges creates a magical atmosphere all around town during the “Winter Glow” festival. Colorful lights and decorations adorn the medieval buildings and line the scenic canals. A light trail experience loops visitors through the city center to see illuminated installations and projections. The nearby Lake of Love, Minnewater, becomes home to an ice skating rink and winter bar.
The Bruges Christmas Market typically runs from late November through early January for around six weeks. The stalls are open daily from 10:30am to 10pm, with extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays until 11pm. Many locals and tourists alike make visiting this picturesque market an annual holiday tradition. The medieval backdrop provides a fairy tale-like setting that distinguishes Bruges' Christmas Market as one of the best in Europe.
When does the Bruges Christmas Market open?
The Bruges Christmas Market is scheduled to open for the 2023-2024 season on November 24, 2023 and run through January 7, 2024. Bruges Christmas Market is part of the larger “Winter Glow” winter festival in Bruges. The official Bruges tourism website has announced these dates for the Bruges Christmas Market in the 2023-2024 season.
The wooden chalets will be open daily from 10:30am to 10pm, with extended hours until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The Christmas market stalls will be filled with holiday gifts, ornaments, local Belgian food specialties, warm drinks and more.
The Bruges tourism office notes that the full schedule is subject to change, but has announced these dates well in advance for travelers to begin making winter holiday plans.
Where is the Bruges Christmas Market taking place?
The Bruges Christmas Market takes place in two main squares in the historic center of Bruges. The largest and most popular market is located in the Grote Markt. Grote Markt is surrounded by medieval buildings like the Belfry of Bruges and Provincial Palace. Dozens of festive wooden chalets selling Christmas gifts, ornaments, foods and drinks fill this square during the market. A large Christmas tree towers over the ice skating rink at the center. The Grote Markt offers a charming backdrop for the main Christmas market. A second Christmas market in Bruges is found just a short walk away at Simon Stevinplein. Stevinplein hosts another section of market stalls in a more intimate setting. Shoppers can find handmade crafts, clothing and food here too.
Bruges lights up its medieval buildings all around the city center. A holiday light trail loops visitors through the streets to see illuminated installations and seasonal decorations. The Lake of Love, Minnewater, also joins the festivities with an ice rink and winter bar on its shores. So visitors to the Bruges Christmas Market will want to focus their time around the two squares of Grote Markt and Simon Stevinplein. The markets are open daily and run for about six weeks from late November through early January as part of the Winter Glow festival. With two central Christmas market locations, plus decorative lighting displays throughout the historic district, Bruges offers a magical and unforgettable atmosphere during the Christmas season.
Why should you visit the Bruges Christmas Market?
Listed below are the reasons to visit the Bruges Christmas Market.
- Fairytale atmosphere. Bruges looks like a medieval fairy tale city, making its Christmas market exceptionally charming. The historic buildings like the Belfry gleam with holiday lights.
- Local Belgian foods and drinks. You cannot resist to Belgian waffles, frites, beers, hot chocolate and more. The market offers a great taste of Belgian cuisine and culture.
- Unique gifts and crafts. Shop for one-of-a-kind gifts like handmade lace, chocolates, glassware and crafts made by local artisans.
- Ice skating. Skate on the rink against the stunning backdrop of Bruges' architecture on the main square or the romantic Lake of Love.
- Fewer crowds than summer. Bruges gets very crowded in warmer months but is more manageable in winter. You can better soak in the ambiance.
- Extended festival atmosphere. The market is part of the larger Winter Glow festival that lights up the city with holiday lights and displays.
- Easy to combine with other Belgian cities. Bruges is a short train ride from Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp and other Belgian cities.
- Memorable Christmas experience. The old-world charm and lively spirit make Bruges' Christmas market an unforgettable European holiday trip.
What is the festivities in Bruges during Christmas?
The main festivities center around two Christmas markets located near each other – one in the Grote Markt (Market Square) and a smaller one in Simon Stevinplein Square. The Grote Markt Christmas market features over 20 wooden chalets selling gifts, ornaments, local foods, gluhwein and treats like Belgian waffles and sausages. An ice skating rink is also set up in the middle of the square, allowing visitors to glide across the ice with the Belfry tower looming overhead. The market exudes a lively, festive atmosphere with Christmas music playing and crowds chatting over mugs of mulled wine.
Just a short walk away, the smaller Simon Stevinplein Christmas market has additional shopping stalls and food vendors, along with carnival rides and games for kids, like mini fire truck rides and claw machines with prizes. The family-friendly atmosphere makes this part of the Bruges Christmas Market appealing for those traveling with children.
Another key festivity is the ice skating rink situated on the Lake of Love in Minnewater Park, considered to be the most romantic spot in Bruges. Skaters can take a spin on the artificial rink while admiring the romantic scenery and stopping for a drink afterward at the nearby Vorst Winter Bar.
The Bruges Christmas Market also incorporates a light art installation trail called Winter Glow featuring illuminated designs and colorful lighting at landmarks throughout the city. Signs guide visitors from one light exhibit to the next as part of the walking tour.
What is the cost for entering the Bruges Christmas Market?
The Bruges Christmas Market does not have an entry fee or tickets required for access. Visitors can explore the market stalls and attractions in the main squares of Grote Markt and Simon Stevinplein at no cost. The Christmas market is free and open to the public as part of the larger “Winter Glow” festival put on by the city of Bruges each holiday season.
While there is no admission cost to enter the grounds of the Bruges Christmas Market, visitors will want to have spending money to take part in activities like:
- Purchasing food, drinks, gifts at the market stalls.
- Renting ice skates to use the rink in Grote Markt.
- Booking an optional canal boat tour.
- Buying tickets for optional museum visits or tours.
So guests can walk around and window shop at the festive market without needing to pay anything. But those who want to indulge in the offerings of the market and Bruges' other attractions will need to budget accordingly. With no entry fee, experiencing the charming Bruges Christmas Market makes for an affordable activity to get into the holiday spirit.
What are the attractions close to the Bruges Christmas Market?
Find below the top attractions close to the Bruges Christmas Market.
- Belfry of Bruges. This iconic 366-step tower overlooks Market Square and the Christmas market. It offers stunning views over Bruges.
- Burg Square. This historic square is home to Bruges City Hall and the Basilica of the Holy Blood. It also has a large Christmas tree.
- Church of Our Lady. A Gothic brick church from the 13th-15th centuries featuring Michelangelo's Madonna and Child sculpture.
- Groeningemuseum. Groeningemuseum houses a world-class collection of Flemish Primitives and expressionist paintings.
- Historium. An immersive museum experience recreating Bruges in 1435 using multimedia techniques and reconstructions.
- Choco-Story Museum. Learn about the history of Belgian chocolate production at this museum near the Christmas Markets.
- Frietmuseum. An interactive museum dedicated to Belgian frites and sauces.
- De Halve Maan Brewery. Take a tour or taste Belgian beers at this brewery founded in 1856.
What is the Winter Glow in Bruges Christmas Market?
The Winter Glow is the name given to Bruges' annual Christmas festival and market. Bruges transforms into a magical winter wonderland from late November to early January each year, with over 500 Christmas trees and 41 streets decorated with twinkling lights and decorations. The Winter Glow incorporates two Christmas markets located a few minutes' walk from each other in the heart of the historic city center. The larger market is in the Grote Markt (Market Square) overlooked by the Belfry tower and lined with stalls selling gifts, treats and decorations. The second market is in the more intimate tree-lined Simon Stevinplein selling local artisanal foods and crafts.
In addition to the markets, Winter Glow features a Light Experience Trail with illuminated art installations placed around the city at landmarks and hidden corners. Visitors can follow a mapped route to see all of the light displays which run from 5pm to midnight each evening. An ice skating rink and cozy winter bar on the Minnewater lake add to the magical atmosphere. The Christmas markets and light trail run daily from late November through early January, with stalls and lights open late into the evening on Fridays and Saturdays. The festival creates a fairytale experience with the medieval architecture providing a charming backdrop. The inclusive Winter Glow welcomes visitors of all religions to enjoy Bruges and celebrate the festive season.
What is the Light experience trail in Bruges Christmas Market?
The Light experience trail is a special feature of the Bruges Christmas Market during the annual Winter Glow festival. It consists of a route through the city center that passes by light installations and illuminations set up at different iconic locations. Artists create unique light artworks each year that are installed along the trail to highlight Bruges' architecture, landmarks, bridges, parks and natural scenery in creative ways using lights, lasers, projections and interactive technology. The light trail allows visitors to explore and discover sights around Bruges in a new, festive light during the evening hours when it is lit up. It aims to showcase the city's beauty and bring its history to life through light art during the Christmas season.
For example, projections of winter landscapes and artistic patterns are displayed on buildings, bridges are decorated with geometric LED lights that visitors can walk under and interact with and trees are wrapped in networks of lights showing the connections between branches and roots. The trail is about 2 miles long and can be followed for free each evening when the light installations are turned on, typically from 5pm to midnight during Winter Glow.
What are the best things to do in Bruges besides the Christmas market?
There are several things to do in Bruges besides the Christmas market. These are the Market Square, canal boat tours, Belfry Tower, Basilica of the Holy Blood, Rozenhoedkaai, Church of Our Lady and Minnewater.
Firstly, what to do in Bruges includes Market Square (Markt). Market Square is a historic open square and vibrant center of Bruges for over a thousand years. It hosts a bustling weekly market selling local produce, cheeses, meats and handmade goods. The square is surrounded by magnificent medieval buildings like the Belfry tower, Provincial Court and colorful gabled guildhouses.
Secondly, the canal boat tour explores Bruges' picturesque waterways and landmarks. It passes sites like the Belfry, Church of Our Lady, Beguinage and picturesque buildings along Rozenhoedkaai. Live commentary provides history about Bruges' canals. Tours run daily on open-top boats holding about 40 passengers.
Thirdly, the Belfry Tower is a 83 meter tall 13th century Gothic bell tower looming over Bruges' Markt square. Its carillon bells historically regulated daily life. Visitors can climb 366 steps to reach the observation deck for panoramic views over Bruges.
Fourthly, The Basilica of the Holy Blood is a Roman Catholic minor basilica. It houses a revered relic, said to be cloth with Christ's blood collected after the crucifixion. The Romanesque and Gothic style basilica was built in the 12th century as a chapel for the Count of Flanders.
Fifthly, Rozenhoedkaai is a picturesque canal offering amazing views of Bruges' medieval architecture and the iconic Belfry tower. With its colorful buildings reflected in the calm waters, it is considered one of Bruges' most photographed spots.
Sixthly, The Church of Our Lady is a 13th-15th century Gothic church renowned for its 115 meter high brick tower dominating Bruges' skyline. Inside is Michelangelo's famous sculpture “Madonna and Child”.
Lastly, Minnewater is a scenic lake situated in a park in Bruges' city center. According to legend, it is named Lake of Love after a young woman named Minna tragically died there. Today it is considered one of Bruges' most romantic spots.
Can you visit the Bruges Christmas Market with kids?
Yes, the Bruges Christmas Market is an excellent destination to visit with kids. The festive atmosphere created by the lights, music and excitement provides a lively environment kids will enjoy, with colorful decorations all around to dazzle young eyes. Kids can lace up some skates and take a spin on the ice skating rink located right in Markt Square, which makes for a memorable winter activity. Occasional musical acts, choirs and other performances offer kid-friendly entertainment. The market at Simon Stevinplein has some rides and games perfect for kids as well. From waffles to hot chocolate, there are plenty of sweets to satisfy young sweet tooths.
On December 6th, Sinterklaas (the Dutch St. Nicholas) arrives in Bruges, which thrills local children. A boat ride around the city's famous canals also delights kids. Plus, several museums offer free entry for those under 18 years old. With fun activities, entertainment and indulgent food, Bruges at Christmastime provides lots of family-friendly experiences. The compact size also makes it easy to navigate with little ones between the main market squares. Visiting the enchanting Bruges Christmas Market makes for a memorable holiday trip for visitors of all ages.
How is the weather in Bruges in the winter?
Bruges has a mild winter climate typical of Belgium. Winter in Bruges starts in December and lasts through February. Daytime highs average around 6°C (43°F) in December and rise to 8°C (46°F) in February. Low temperatures range from 2°C ( 35°F) to 3°C (37°F). It rains frequently, with 11-14 rainy days per month but snow is quite rare in Belgium.
Bruges is absolutely worth visiting in winter. The crowds of summer are gone and chilly temperatures are combated indoors with hot chocolate, Belgian beer and hearty stews. Visitors browse the stalls for handmade crafts, shop for Belgian chocolates and sip mulled wine to the sound of carolers.
The wintertime pace is more relaxed in Bruges. Crowds thin after New Year's. By February, Bruges feels almost deserted, ideal for photography. Rainy days make ducking into churches and museums appealing. Bruges is equally amazing in winter, with fewer visitors to share the magic.
What is the best time to visit Bruges?
The best time to visit Bruges is late spring and early autumn, specifically from May to September. During these months, the weather in Bruges is generally mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 20°C (59°F to 68°F), which is ideal for outdoor exploration. Late spring offers the bloom of flowers, adding to the city's natural charm. In early autumn, the leaves start to change colour and the city is adorned with a beautiful palette of reds and golds. Summer, particularly July and August, can be crowded with tourists, but it's still an excellent time to visit if one prefers a lively atmosphere and doesn't mind the crowds.
Many festivals and outdoor activities are scheduled during summer, adding to the appeal. Winter, though chilly, presents a different charm with Christmas markets and festive decorations, but the weather can be unpredictable, with occasional rain and lower temperatures. Visitors during the late spring and early autumn can enjoy the city's historic sites, canals, museums and outdoor cafes without the extreme cold of winter or the bustling crowds of peak summer. This balance of agreeable weather, fewer tourists and the beauty of the changing seasons makes May to September an optimal time to experience Bruges in all its glory.
Is Belgium worth visiting?
Belgium is absolutely worth visiting for a either long weekend or more. Belgium packs in impressive art and architecture, rich history and world-famous food and drink. Belgium offers charming historic towns like Bruges and Ghent as well as the modern capital Brussels. For art lovers, Belgium hosts works from famous Flemish masters and surrealists. Impressive Gothic buildings fill the skylines. Belgium is also renowned for decadent chocolate, waffles, frites and beer. English is widely spoken in Belgium which makes it a comfortable and accessible destination.
Three to five days allows enough time to see some key highlights of Belgium without feeling rushed. Brussels make a convenient base with quick train connections for day trips. Head to Bruges for strolling the cobblestone lanes and cruising the picture-perfect canals. Don't miss climbing the Belfry tower for panoramic views over this fairy tale city. In Ghent, walk the historical center and visit Saint Bavo's Cathedral to admire the famed Ghent Altarpiece. End with a boat ride along the city's scenic waterways.
Trains connect Brussels, Ghent, Bruges and other cities in Belgium, so unpacking repeatedly isn't necessary. Belgium's small size means destinations are never far to the next city. While Belgium is considered more expensive than other countries like Greece or Spain, it offers good value compared to other major European capitals. Museums are reasonably priced and food can be quite cheap. Visitors could save money by eating in budget friendly restaurants, rather Michelin starred places.
What are the best budget friendly restaurants in Bruges?
Listed below are the best budget friendly restaurants in Bruges.
- One Restaurant. One Restaurant is kown for its delicious traditional Flemish cuisine like Flemish Beef Stew and Meatballs in Cherry Beer Sauce. Reviews mention large portions at reasonable prices.
- Mozart, More Than Just Ribs. Mozart. More Than Just Ribs is nn all-you-can-eat ribs restaurant called a “great value” for unlimited ribs, potato, salad and sauces. Guests comment the prices as very affordable, thus it is considered one of the best value for money restaurants in Bruges.
- Délice Bruges. Délice Bruges is a family-run brasserie highlighted for its tasty food and good value for money. Mussels, stews, pasta and more at moderate prices.
- Bistro Den Amand. Bistro Den Amand is a small bistro focusing on seasonal ingredients. Visitors describe reasonable prices for the sophisticated cuisine.
What are the best hotels to stay in Bruges during the Christmas Market?
Listed below are the best hotels in Bruges during the Christmas Market.
- Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce. Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce is a 4-star boutique hotel in Bruges that offers 16 luxurious rooms and sits along Rozenhoedkaai canal. Ideal for romantic getaways, it's near major attractions like the Belfry and Market Square. Notable features include the hotel's waterside location and historic architecture. It lacks a spa or gym but focuses on sustainability with electric vehicle charging stations. Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce is the ideal place to stay in Bruges during the Christmas Market because it is located right in the historic center, which is right in the Christmas Market location.
- Hotel van Cleef. Hotel van Cleef is located on St. Annarei canal. It is a4-star hotel offers luxuriously appointed rooms and suites. Close to Burg Square and other landmarks, it's great for exploring Bruges on foot. The hotel features Missoni-furnished rooms and spa baths. There's no full spa or gym, but it offers electric vehicle charging and uses green cleaning products.
- Hotel Academie Bruges. Hotel Academie Bruges is a 4-star hotel offering spacious rooms, including an Executive Suite ideal for couples. Located near major attractions like the Groeningemuseum, it also offers a small fitness center and business amenities. The hotel's unique feature is its 19th-century breakfast room.
- The Pand Hotel Small Luxury Hotels of The World. The Pand Hotel is a 4-star hotel offers 26 individually decorated rooms and is located close to the Belfry. Features include an 18th-century carriage entrance and champagne breakfast. It has no significant historical importance but focuses on green operations.
- Hotel Navarra Bruges. Hotel Navarra Bruges is centrally located. It is a 4-star hotel housed in a 17th-century mansion. Ideal for sightseeing, it offers an indoor swimming pool, sauna and fitness center. The hotel has received the Green Key eco-label for its sustainability efforts. Room rates start from €121.
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