Why Bruges is Best this Christmas

Take advantage of ultra-cheap cross Channel day returns for an extra special Christmassy day out in Belgium’s most beautiful city.

Bruges is an easy daytrip, the parking is cheap and convenient, and you don’t need winter tyres.

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Christmas in Bruges.

The city centre Christmas ice rink, Bruges.

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This was no time for lactose intolerance. The mug of hot chocolate, served in a disposable toby jug, first sipped then glugged, was made entirely out of cream.

Okay it cost €3.50 but worked as both lunch and desert combined so wasn’t actually bad value.

Kids slithered and shouted their way around the ice rink in the centre of Markt – right in the centre of town – while their parents stood around in clumps blowing steam clouds and chatting. The smell of roasting nuts wafted over the crowd while the band played umpah versions of the Christmas classics.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Bruges – known as Belgium’s most beautiful city – lives up to that, even under cold grey skies. Markt is lined with immaculately preserved historic buildings in the ‘Dutch style’. Bruges – or Brugge – is in Flanders, the Dutch speaking part of northern Belgium. The whole city centre in fact – laid out around a network of canals – is in tip top condition.

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Markt

Bruges from the Belfry: historic, well preserved and flat.

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Probably on a sugar rush we dived into the stalls and emerged a while later with a set of sparkly reindeer with glitterball eyes to hang off the tree, bushels of neon tinsel and some outrageously rude wrapping paper.

Away from the main square, the cobbled side streets are full of quirky little shops – antiques, art galleries, woollens, crystal – for presents that will last out the season.

Amazingly we’d arrived in Bruges exactly one hour after leaving the boat at Dunkirk. It’s only 48 miles away (72 miles from Calais) every inch on motorway or dual carriageway. The city centre – Centrum – and parking is signed directly off the ring road. It couldn’t be easier.

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Cannals

Bruges: built on a network of canals.

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Almost best of all, we paid €1.20 to park for two hours. The maximum rate is €8.70 for 24 hours. All-day next to the central station is €3.50. The Park & ‘Ride’ sites are free. All are within walking distance of the city centre.

Bruges is a lovely place to stroll around, not least because it’s flat. ‘Winter Walk’ guided tours are available until 30 December to take in all the major sights costing €9 for adults, free for under 12s.

P&O Dover-Calais is currently advertising day trips for £25 (plus six free bottles of wine). Eurotunnel’s midweek half price special offer comes in at £23 until 12 December. MyFerryLink Dover-Calais day returns start at £29. DFDS Dover – Calais or Dunkirk is £29 until 13 December.

The Dunkirk boat is best for Bruges. It takes 30mins longer than Dover-Calais, costs the same, but drops you 25 miles further up the road. Like Calais, Dunkirk has plenty of hypermarkets where you can bulk up on Christmas basics.

Rest assured, while snow and ice mean you must have winter tyres to visits the – equally great – Christmas markets in Luxembourg and Germany, no such rules apply in Belgium.

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For more information, see the official Bruges website or @Visit_Bruges.

All special offers were correct at the time of publication.

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