Bruges Christmas market guide 2020 – FULLY UPDATED

It’s hard to imagine a more mesmerizing Christmas setting than the historic center of Bruges. Every winter, the city’s old town is transformed into a magical winter wonderland with sparkling lights and decorated Christmas trees against a backdrop of gingerbread-like houses. This postcard-worthy setting with its convivial atmosphere combined with Belgian’s many culinary delights results in an incredible Christmas experience. We’re lucky enough to live under an hour away from the action so we know the ins and outs of Christmas in Bruges pretty well. Here’s the ultimate guide to the Bruges Christmas market 2020.

If you’re visiting Belgium over the winter, then you’ll be pleased to learn that Bruges can easily be combined with a day in Brussels or another seasonal day out to the Brussels Christmas market or the Ghent Christmas market.


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Christmas in Bruges 2020 dates and times

Note that, due to COVID-19, it’s uncertain whether this event will take place (in its usual format). We closely monitor the news reports and will update this paragraph accordingly.

The Bruges Christmas festivities will take place from Friday 20 November 2020 up to and including Monday 3rd January 2021. You can visit the Bruges Christmas markets daily from 10.30 a.m. untill 10.00 p.m. (11.00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays).

Special events:

  • 19th December: Christmas dive in the Bruges canal Langerei (at the Carmers bridge). Warm-up starts at 4 p.m., Santa arrives at 4.30 p.m. and then you’re free to jump in (only if you registered here beforehand).
  • 19th and 20th December from 2.30 p.m. onwards at the Oud Sint-Jan site: “Christmas Star procession” (Sterrenstoet in Flemish), a folkloric re-enactment of the Christmas story. Featuring over a hundred actors, an orchestra and even a herd of sheep. More info here.
  • 22nd December at 8.00 p.m. at the Concert building ‘Concertgebouw Brugge’: Christmas ballet performance “The Nutcracker”.
  • 24th December: Midnight Mass at the Saint Saviour’s Cathedral (Sint-Salvatorskathedraal in Dutch) on Christmas Eve. Note that it’s not always at midnight, sometimes during the evening. If you prefer the festive atmosphere without the religious connotation, you’re invited to listen to the carillon concert at the Markt a little before midnight.
  • 25th December at 11 a.m. at the Basilica of the Holy Blood: Christmas singing event. More info here.
  • 31st December from 10.45 p.m. onwards at ‘t Zand square: Sing-along event with dozens of Christmas songs (classic and pop) in different languages. More info here.

Bruges Christmas market locations

The ensemble of enchanting settings that make up the Brussels Christmas market is known as Bruges Winter Glow. The idea is to make visitors of all religions feel welcome during this festive period. Each square has its own, unique attraction and they’re all connected by a twinkling light and experience trail, which starts from the Bruges railway station.

Bruges Christmas market at the Market square

The Markt is Bruges’ central square, framed by the grand Belfry of Bruges, the Provincial Palace and the iconic guild houses with stepped gables. It’s the gorgeous medieval decor for Bruges’ main Christmas market featuring dozens of food and Christmas decoration chalet-like stalls. It’s a festive experience for all senses: the twinkling lights in the tall Christmas tree, the classic Christmas songs, the aroma of glühwein (mulled wine) in the air and that cup of hot chocolate warming your hands.

There’s no more ice rink at the Markt like there used to be in previous years. Ever since last year, however, it’s located at Minnewater. Continue reading to find out more about this wintry activity.

Bruges Christmas market at the Simon Stevin square

There’s a second Bruges Christmas market which we actually prefer because of its more intimate setting. It’s located just a few minutes from the main Christmas market, at the Simon Stevin square adjacent to the main shopping street called Steenstraat. The rectangular square is symmetrically aligned with trees and Christmas stalls. Oh, how we love checking out the many Christmas decorations and handmade gifts with a delicious, warm Belgian waffle in hand.

Christmas tree at Burg Square

Our favorite Christmas tree in Bruges can be found at Brug Square, where you’ll find the Town Hall and the Basilica of the Holy Blood.

Light and experience trail

Two innovative light and experience trails with guide visitors from the railway station to the Bruges Christmas markets. Lights will shine brighter as you approach your destination.

  • The first experience trail will lead to Zand square in the center, close to Markt square and Simon Stevin square. Light projections will illuminate the square around the decorated Christmas tree.
  • The second experience trail will lead to the new location at Minnewater.

Ice skating rink and winter bar at Minnewater

As mentioned, you won’t find the traditional ice skating rink on the Markt. The city council has decided to follow the sustainable trend and therefore the ice rink makes no longer sense. But there’s an alternative: an artificial ice skating rink on a pontoon at Minnewater. A large winter bar completes the picture. We love the new setting, it’s the most romantic spot in Bruges. It appeared to be a successful addition to the Bruges Christmas activities without affecting the festive charm at the main Markt location.
Skating is possible from 11 a.m. onwards and tickets are sold until 8 p.m. (9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays). Tickets cost €8 per person (free for toddlers until the age of 3).

Treats to try when celebrating Christmas in Bruges

When celebrating Christmas in Bruges, there are some things you should try:

  • There’s a local delicacy during the winter period, one that you’ll hardly find outisde the Belgian borders. It’s called speculoos: a crunchy spice-biscuit with a blend of white pepper, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg. We love it and our guess is… so will you.
  • The Bûche de Noël is a glazed, chocolate crème au beurre cake that’s been rolled to a cylinder to look like a log of wood. A handful of countries have this as part of their Christmas tradition, all in a local variation. So, make sure to try the Belgian one at one of the Bruges Christmas markets.
  • Another heart-warming tip: You’ll usually find the fluffiest waffles in Bruges at the food truck of De Ijsbeer at Markt or the one at Burg square, next to the town hall.
  • Do you know marzipan, the sweet European treat based on almonds? There’s this little shop in the Mariastraat, next to the Church of Our Lady, where you can get marzipan in dozens of flavours as well as nougat.
  • Did you know that Christmas beer is a thing in Belgium? It’s said to be historically inspired after Scotch Ale. Look out for Glühkriek and Bush De Noël. Two well-hidden beer cafés in Bruges are ‘t Poatersgat and De Garre.

And some things you should take into account:

  • Most museums are closed on Mondays, on Christmas day and on New Year’s day.
  • Should you want to spend Christmas eve in one of the Bruges restaurants, then it’s recommended to book well in advance.

Other wintery things to include in your Bruges Christmas itinerary

It’s no secret that Bruges is one of the most romantic cities in Europe. Now, imagine this same beautiful landscape covered by a snowy blanket. But even without snow, there’s something enchanting about visiting Bruges in winter. Here are some ideas to maximize that cozy feeling during your Christmas break in Bruges:

  • Snuggle up under a blanket during a horse-drawn carriage ride. Admiring the beautifully decorated shops, houses and historic buildings from a comfortable position is one of the essential things to do in Bruges at Christmas.
  • Climb the 366 steps to the top of the Belfry of Bruges to enjoy the best possible view over the Christmas village at the Markt. For an alternative – though much lower – viewpoint, have a drink at the Historium café.
  • You just can’t visit Bruges without taking a boat tour. Yes, it might get a bit chilly but Bruges by boat is an unforgettable experience, whether you’re visiting in summer or winter season.

Bruges Christmas shopping

You can’t leave Bruges at Christmas without a souvenir or a gift for your loved ones. Chocolate is always a good idea… especially when they’re Belgian and come in these beautiful themed boxes.

Handmade glassware, unique baubles, wooden decorations, delicate angels and lavishly decorated Christmas trees galore in some specialized Christmas shops. Hunt for the perfect Christmas ornament and you’ll always remember that magical Bruges Christmas experience. These Christmas shops might have the item you’re looking for:

  • De Witte Pelikaan (Vlamingstraat).
  • Käthe Wohlfahrt (Walpein).
  • Kerstfeeërie (Breidelstraat).
  • House of Christmas (Wollestraat).
  • Christmas World (Zuidzandstraat).

Do note that many shops will be closed on Sundays (except for the first Sunday of every month).

What you won’t find during Christmas in Bruges

No more ice sculptures

Up until 2018 there was an Ice Sculpture Festival near the train station in Bruges but, contrary to what you may find on other blogs, it no longer takes place in Bruges. It was canceled in the light of global warming.

No Santa… but there’s Saint Nicholas

If you’re planning on celebrating Christmas in Bruges with your kids, then it’s important to note that here’s no official meet and greet with Santa Claus. You might occasionally come across Santa in the streets, or even see him steering a boat on the canals, but you never know when and where he might show up. (There is such thing as the House of Santa at the B-Park shopping centre, in between the shops Maisons du Monde & Leenbakker, outside of the historic center. Bus 23 will take you there.)

The main reason for his absence is that there’s another tradition in Belgium with a legendary figure that’s more popular than Santa. His name is Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) en he’s assisted by the Pieten (Peters). They too bring candy and presents. Oh yes, Belgian kids are pretty spoiled in December (so are the Dutch).

Sinterklaas will be making his official entry in Bruges on Sunday 29th November (the old man supposedly lives in Spain). Kids often bring drawings and are treated to candy. You might come across a Sinterklaas in the shops too, for a meet and greet with kids and you’ll see typical chocolate figurines and speculaas biscuit in the shops and bakeries.
On the evening of 5th December, children put their shoe next to the chimney with a carrot for the horse and a list of the gifts they wish for. At night, the Pieten then pass through the chimney to bring gifts and treats. That’s why their faces are black. The Saint Nicholas celebrations end on 6th December.

Practical information for the Bruges Christmas market

– Getting to Bruges

Belgium is small country so it’s easy to get around. To get from Brussels to Bruges you take the IC (direct) train from either Brussels Central or Brussels Midi station to the station of Bruges. From there it’s a 20-minute walk to the historic center. Bruges makes an excellent day trip from Brussels but certainly deserves more of your time, especially during the Christmas celebrations.
Check train timetables and rates on Eurail (non-EU passport holders) or Interrail (EU passport holders).

– Where to stay in Bruges for Christmas

Our absolute favorite hideaway is a bed and breakfast in Bruges called The Secret Garden Luxury Suites. Located in the heart of the city, with a beautiful garden that features a heated pool and hot tub. Other wonderful accommodations are the elegant Hotel de Castillon, that takes Christmas spirit and decoration to another level, and the sophisticated Hotel Sablon, featuring one of the most gorgeous hotel interiors we’ve ever come across. All of these suggestions are located withing walking distance of the Bruges Christmas markets.

If hotels aren’t really your thing, you could stay at one of the many gorgeous Airbnb’s in Bruges. Here’s my personal selection:

It’s highly recommended to book your accommodation well in advance. Visiting Bruges at Christmas is an unforgettable experience and so the city books out pretty quickly.

Other Christmas markets in Belgium

There are more Belgium Christmas market destinations than just Bruges. How about visiting the Brussels Christmas market, which takes place at several location across the city? The Antwerp and Ghent Christmas markets are smaller and more intimate. You could easily see them during a day trip from Brussels. No matter which (combination of) Belgium Christmas markets you choose, we’re sure you’ll enjoy the magic.

Want to see more of Belgium? Check out our in-depth comparison on Bruges vs Ghent.

Now, we want to know all about your winter plans! Will you be spending Christmas in Bruges this year? Or will you be traveling elsewhere to visit the Christmas markets? Let us know in the comments. But wherever you go: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Pinning this post would be much appreciated!


This article contains affiliate links. Clicking on such a hyperlink and/or making a purchase to the website it refers to, may result in a commission for CosmopoliClan at no additional cost to you. It allows us to dedicate enough personal time and energy to this blog. For more information, visit the Disclaimer page.

4 Comments

  1. Maria H

    Hi Sarah,
    thanks for this post! I am an expat living in NL and this November, my sister is visiting me and we would like to find a nice Christmas market to get the season feeling and also some more traditional Christmas ornaments etc. Would you suggest the Bruges Market? We have never seen that city so we definitely going to visit it anyway as it looks magical!
    Thanks!!
    Maria

    1. Sarah

      Hi Maria, thanks for passing by! Yes, I would suggest the Bruges Christmas market. Especially now with the new concept, it’ll be even more enchanting as ever before. (I just added a paragraph on the light experience trail that was announced today.) You’ll find handmade Christmas ornaments in the chalet-styled stalls but I’d certainly recommend to visit the Käthe Wohlfahrt and De Witte Pelikaan shops too. These specialize in traditional and exclusive ornaments. I’m sure you’ll love Bruges as much as we do, especially during the winter celebrations. Wishing you and your sister a magical end of year, Maria!

  2. Anu Dhesi

    Hi Sarah,

    We’re visiting Bruges at the end of November – I wondered if you had any tips or advice for families travelling with small children? We have 4 year old & 18 month old girls who would be keen to visit a Santa’s grotto or similar – do they have one at the Bruges market?

    1. Sarah

      Hi Anu
      Great to hear you’ll be coming to Belgium with your family. Unfortunately, there’s no meet and greet with Santa in Bruges. This might change with the new Bruges Christmas concept but so far, nothing has been scheduled.
      The main reason is that there’s another tradition in Belgium with a legendary figure that’s more popular than Santa. His name is Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) en he’s assisted by the Pieten (Peters). I’ve added a paragraph to this blog post with more info.
      So, not the old man you were hoping to see but it might be fun for the kids to see this mystery person and for you to be part of this cultural event. Have fun!

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