REVIEW: Get planning for a dreamy 2020 Christmas with a visit to the festive markets of Bruges
Christmas will probably already seem like a distant memory, so why not start making plans to start off your 2020 celebrations with a visit to Bruges festive markets?
The Belgium capital is most well known for its first-class chocolate shops and beer, but there is so, so, much more to offer than that.
Attracting millions of visitors every year, Bruges is particularly well known for its Christmas markets which are made of fairytale stuff with traditional-style stalls surrounded by beautiful historic buildings.
Our visit took place at the end of November and it really got us in the seasonal spirit.
Journeying by ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge, we sailed overnight, and this is a perfect way to travel.
The P&O Ferries service runs once a day with a sailing duration of 12 hours.
The ferry has many different cabins available, meaning you can make this trip fit your budget.
Tickets include a standard cabin with toilet and shower room, towels, bed linen and space to hang your clothes.If you’d like a cabin with a view or a little extra comfort, go for a sea view or Premier Cabin, or upgrade to a Club Cabin if you want some extra space.We stayed in one of the top of the range cabins. If you want to give yourself an early Christmas present then this is the one to go for.
Situated right at the bow (that’s the front to you or I) this was pure luxury. There were two beautiful comfortable beds – one single, one double, a top of the range ensuite with shower, toilet and complimetary Clarins toiletries. As well as this, there was a well stocked mini bar, TV and, while it was daylight, a great view!
You’ll never get bored on board either as there are some first-rate facilities, and plenty of places to eat and drink.
There is a show bar and lounge, some weekend trips are themed too if that’s your bag.
For a bit of a fine dining experience on your North Sea crossing, then the Brasserie is the perfect spot for you. Here you can enjoy à la carte dining in comfort with wonderful sea views.If, like us, you wanted something a bit more budget-friendly, then it’s the Kitchen for some wholesome and traditional, help-yourself meals.
I was flabbergasted with the amazing choice on offer, both at breakfast and dinner, and it is definitely the perfect place to feed the whole family.
The only thing I would mention is the over-attentive staff, they don’t like to see a plate left, so, if you’ve not finished eating, hover over it like hawk. But that aside, the food was tasty and there was plenty of it to suit all palates.
I was suitably impressed.For anyone wanting something less substantial then you’ll definitely enjoy the café which serves a range of hot and cold snacks as well as Starbucks coffees.
On arrival in Zeebrugge we were taken by shuttle bus on a 20 minute journey to the Belgian capital, these buses run every 30 minutes both ways which is really helpful, giving us the chance to take a good look at what the country has to offer.
Once in Bruges we had no clue where to go so just followed a steady stream of tourists who seemed to know what they were doing – I should have swotted beforehand and found out where to go but it all ended well!
Meandering through quite remarkable buildings it felt like being on a film set for the Sound of Music or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang…
And then we hit the hustle and bustle of the centre itself.
Cafe, bars, restaurants, chocolate, clothing and souvenir shops aplenty. We opted to get fed and watered first and thanks to the glorious sunshine found a great spot outside a restaurant where we could watch the world go by.
And then we walked, and we walked, and we walked some more. In and out of tiny alleyways, down busy main streets, taking in the Christmas atmosphere at the markets.
These looked like something from the front of a chocolate box, one downside for me however was that I would have preferred to see it at nightime with twinkly lights and festive music.
Our favourite part of the day was a boat trip through the capital, these run regularly throughout the day and are a bargain at 10 Euros.
It gives the opportunity to take in the fabulous architecture of the buildings – even if that’s not your thing it’s extremely beautiful to see – and be amazed at the craftmanship of the many bridges.
The pilot/driver? gives a description along the way so it’s highly informative too.
Then laden with our goodies and souvenirs we headed back to the shuttle bus, looking forward to relaxing, and putting our feet up in the comfort of our cabin and a pleasant journey home.
If you’ve not been before, Bruges is definitely worth a visit. If you’re a chocolate or beer fan – what are you waiting for?
P&O Mini Cruise to Bruges – Hull to Zeebrugge breaks start at £169 each way, and include comfortable cabin accommodation, plenty of meal booking options, and pets are welcome.
For more details, or to book, see
Background to Bruges
Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the northwest of the country, and the seventh largest city of the country by population.
The area of the whole city amounts to more than 13,840 hectares (138.4 sq km; 53.44 sq miles), including 1,075 hectares off the coast, at Zeebrugge (from Brugge aan zee, meaning "Bruges by the Sea").
The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO. It is oval in shape and about 430 hectares in size.
The city's total population is 117,073 (1 January 2008), of whom around 20,000 live in the city centre.
The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 616 km2 (238 sq mi) and has a total of 255,844 inhabitants as of 1 January 2008.
Along with a few other canal-based northern cities, such as Amsterdam and St Petersburg, it is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North. Bruges has a significant economic importance, thanks to its port, and was once one of the world's chief commercial cities.
Bruges is well known as the seat of the College of Europe, a university institute for European studies.