Although not particularly interested in Belgium, I booked a trip to Brugge/Bruges for their Christmas Market and for the Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival (Disney themed this year). I found some tips of what all to see in Brugge and marked out our plans on a map I printed off the internet. I booked the trip 3 months in advance and didn’t think about the it again until it was time to go. After all, we had an itinerary to follow, but there was flexibility and mystery because I did not over plan or over research. This time, that method paid off! Driving through Belgium, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the country is. Beautiful farm land gave way to gently rolling hills with scattered windmills. Huge dark red brick farmhouses were sheltered by small groves of trees while bright green and brown dirt fields sprawled around them. We pointed out all the farm animals to our daughter, who did not sleep the entire way there. Arriving early afternoon, it was light enough to find our hotel, check in, and walk around. Was I ever surprised! I was expecting a typical European city: some old buildings, a cathedral, a marktplatz, and maybe a castle or something that was a little further out. I was pleasantly surprised by Bruges! Driving into the historic center of Bruges, this is what we saw:
Saint John’s Hospital Museum (Sint-Janshospitaal) is an old hospital that was run by monks and nuns hundreds of years ago, but was turned into a museum in the late 1700s.
Stunning examples of medieval and gothic architecture make up this UNESCO old town. Many old buildings, ramparts, towers, and walled areas of the town are primarily constructed of brick. I was AMAZED at how much brick was used in the building of this city!
Our hotel was a couple of blocks away from the Grote Markt (Grand Square). The square is bordered by the Provinciaal Hof (Provincial Court Building). It was (obviously) built in 2 phases about 40 years apart, thus the two styles.
These lovely (expensive) restaurants also lined the square. Don’t expect to eat at a “sit-down” restaurant for less than 25Euro per person (not including drinks).
When night came…
We chose not to climb the steps to the top of the famous Belfry (Belfort is another name for it) on the square, but I can imagine it would be a wonderful view of the city!
The Christmas Market was just what I pictured: a large skating rink in the middle and market stalls around it.
Of course, once inside the Christmas Market area, we realized that it is mostly a skating rink with only a couple of shops and several food stands.
Another site to see is Burg Square, with Bishop’s Palace, the Town Hall, Old Civil Registry and the Church of the Holy Blood around it:
Another Christmas Market area is just a few blocks from the main Christmas Market area.
Here, we found the carousel!
Going to the Snow and Ice Festival was kind of a waste of money. 15Euro is A LOT to pay to go through 2 rooms of ice sculptures. It was neat, but maybe for 5Euro…The theme this year is Frozen, so one room had sculptures from the movie as well as the standard Mickey Mouse characters. There was an ice slide that was not very fast and an ice bar that was pretty limited and very expensive. The other room was set up like a ball room with ice sculptures of the Disney princes and princesses dancing.
Overall, it was kind of neat, but DEFINITLY NOT worth the money! Of course, our daughter had just fallen asleep when we arrived and we could not get her to wake up and see the characters. She might have enjoyed it…
The carving displayed talent, but I was just expecting more than two smallish rooms of sculptures! If you want more information click here.
Bruges also has a few picturesque windmills on the outskirts of the historic center. There is a park between these two. One of them has a fence around it that is made to look like lace.
Bruges is definitely a gem that I would love to go back and visit!