10 x winter in Bruges
This winter will be another one with the brakes on. But don't let this stop you from enjoying a wonderful winter atmosphere: lights, contemporary art, nostalgia, Christmas shopping, fresh air and adventure will all do you the world of good. And it's possible in Bruges! The historic city centre is warm and welcoming and invites you to stay. Be inspired by these 10 tips to safely enjoy the indoor and outdoor activities.
1. The healing power of art
Art provides beauty and comfort. This is certainly true of the new work by Bruges artist Strook, who is exhibiting ‘It’s only a matter of time’ at three historic locations. Weathered materials form the basis of portraits and sculptures in the attic of St John’s Hospital and cause a confrontation with state portraits in Groeningemuseum. A site-specific 'head' monument will surprise you in the Church of Our Lady. Looking at Strook's oeuvre, you will contemplate time... and the futility of mankind.
The human impact on nature is an important theme for Belgian artist Cindy Wright. The exhibition ‘Trash & Treasure’ in the Adornes Estate shows ten paintings that explore the cycle of life and the planet. The work Carnes Terrae - ‘the Flesh of the Earth’- temporarily takes the place of the memorial statues of Anselm Adornes and his wife.
The 7th edition of the ‘Brugge Foto Festival’ (Bruges Photo Festival), a unique photography event across 11 locations, shows work of both promising and pioneering photographers. Offering a beautiful route along the Concert Hall, Bladelin Court and the Gezellehuis, all within walking distance.
More inspiration in the Events Calendar >
2. Nostalgic charm of Christmas traditions
Thanks to a touch of snow, festive music, winter nocturnes and the family ‘Christmas Trail’, you can experience a magical Christmas in Historium. The Adornes Estate in the popular St Anne’s district is also oozing with Christmas spirit in the Scottish tradition.
Furthermore, the hundreds of Christmas trees, often metres high, the many decorated streets, squares and shop windows throughout the city centre complete the Christmas scene.
Bruges wins sixth place in 'small cities world' category Condé Nast Traveler's Awards
Bruges wins sixth place in 'small cities world' category Condé Nast Traveler's Awards. The market-leading travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler based these awards on the ratings and reviews of more than 800,000 readers of their recent travel experiences. These results show which destinations Condé Nast readers longed for most when they couldn't travel and decided to visit first as soon as they were able to.
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3. The hunt for the perfect festive gift
If you want to combine important business with pleasure, simply shop to a backdrop of decorated shop windows and seasonal music in the streets. During your midweek visit or on one of the many shopping days, you are guaranteed to find the right gift in one of Bruges' charming shops or surprising spots. Or how about a beer from Bruges: a Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel, gold medal winner in the European Beer Star, a reddish brown Bourgogne des Flandres, a Fort Lapin or a non-alcoholic Sportzot? Prefer a cultural gift? Then a gift voucher for Concert Hall is a lovely idea. Or pop into one of the Museum shops where, in addition to an artistic selection, you can also purchase the Musea Brugge Card at a discounted price of €24 (normally €32) until 24 December. The ideal moment to discover the permanent collection and all the temporary exhibitions together with your loved ones.
4. Bruges through the eyes of a child
Children and a historic city: incompatible? After the tour of Bruges with the brochure 'Bruges through the eyes of a child' you are sure to change your mind. Thanks to a selection of four active walks, you will discover popular spots and less-known corners of the city. Along the way you will find fascinating museums such as the imaginative city palace Gruuthuse. There is currently an exhibition in the attic called ‘Verhalen uit de ondergrond. Brugge in het jaar 1.000’ (Tales from the underground. Bruges in the year 1000) featuring finds such as whale bone, skates, jewellery and a bear skull, which bring centuries-old stories to life. In St. John's Hospital, one of the oldest hospital buildings in Europe, you can discover colourful medieval paintings, medical instruments and a First-Aid post avant la lettre.
The lives of our (great) grandparents are beautifully portrayed in the Museum of Folk Life. Children under 13 can visit all Musea Brugge venues for free (Belfry: free up to the age of 7) and even for adults there's no excuse thanks to the promotional deal on the Musea Brugge Card.
5. Bach Academy, Bach surprises in dance, jazz & classic(s)
From 19 to 23 January, the annual successful Bach Academy Bruges festival will take place in Concertgebouw Brugge. This twelfth edition, albeit in an adapted version with limited capacity, looks beyond the boundaries of the great master’s life: back to his forefathers and sources of inspiration and (far) forwards to 20th-century reverberations. As always, in addition to the mastery of Philippe Herreweghe and his Collegium Vocale Gent, the festival also offers space to younger artists such as jazz saxophonist Robin Verheyen, violinist Elicia Silverstein and traverso player Toshiyuki Shibata.
6. Window drawings (West-Bruges) & Magical quest
Illustrator Fien Cools, better known as Fien Tekent, has decorated more than thirty shop windows in Smedenstraat with festive drawings. The fun and eye-catching creations are connected with Christmas and New Year, as well as with the nature of the shop or catering business concerned.
‘Santa & The Pixies’ by illustrator Thäis Vanderheyden is a tale about the oldest winter celebration. Thanks to the 16 beautiful scenes in Bruges' shop windows, young children can learn about this story and win a lovely prize. The map with the route (2.5 km) is available from the Market Square Tourist Office or can be downloaded here.
7. Did you know that 580 years ago the lottery was born in Bruges?
Due to a hefty fine from Duke Philip the Good, Bruges was looking for funds. Rather than additional unpopular taxes, it was decided on a draw with nice prizes. Voluntary contributions were used to fund collective needs. The lottery was born and in 2021 it will be commemorated with the exhibition 'Te Brugghe ende eldere | 580 jaar moderne loterijen' (580 years of modern lottery) in the City Archives. Thanks to a VR film, you can experience the very first medieval lotteries from the front row. Afterwards, you can take a fascinating walk through Bruges past and present and even literally time travel with the help of VR viewers.
8. Seasonal hotel bars
Enjoying a drink in Bruges is not only possible in one of the many pubs, contemporary cafés or trendy wine and cocktail bars. You can also treat yourself to a drink in a hotel bar with stylish seasonal decorations. An aperitif in Bar Boutique (Lake of love park), a Belgian beer in Snuffel Hostel or Rose Red, a freshly-shaken cocktail in Groot Vlaenderen - the hotel with no hotel - a digestif by the open fire in the bar in Grand Hotel Casselbergh, a Black Swan gin in the bar with the same name at Radisson Blu Hotel or a nightcap in Barazar (Flanders Hotel) or the stylish jazz bar The Duke (Hotel Navarra). There's plenty of choice.
9. Heading outside Bruges in winter? Of course you are!
A hearty winter walk is good for you, it's as simple as that. The woods on the edge of the city (Beisbroek, Tudor, Chartreuzinnen- bos,Ryckevelde), nature areas (Assebroekse Meersen, Gemene Weidebeek, Ter Doest, De Fonteintjes), the green hubs such as Fort van Beieren, Lappersfortbos, ... are all in winter mode and are very inviting. Spot the 'freezing geese' and other winter guests in the polder district, take in the tranquillity on the wide beach at Zeebrugge and capture the early sunset.
10. Winter Glow
A wonderful winter experience that brings light during the darkest days of the year? Winter Glow in Bruges. 'Words' are the focus along the new light trail, with thirteen real and one virtual installation. In addition to the cosy Winter Bar VORST overlooking the skating rink on the Lake of love, you'll find Christmas markets with a new look.