On Christmas Eve, my boyfriend and I took a spontaneous day trip to the small fairytale town Bruges in Belgium. It took us about three hours to get there on train which ended up being a breeze. I was so glad we made it because it really was like stepping into a real life fairytale! From the grand churches to the cobblestone streets to the horse and carriages, I felt like I was living in a Disney princess movie for the day.
We didn’t book our train tickets until the day before Christmas Eve. So it really was a last-minute trip. We’d already been in Amsterdam for 5 full days and were running out of things to see and do, so I thought it would be a nice little excursion. My brother’s girlfriend actually recommended it to us initially when we were planning our trip. She said it was beautiful and quaint especially around Christmastime, so I knew we would end up regretting it if we didn’t go!
After doing a little research online, I realized there wasn’t really that much to see there in terms of sightseeing or tours. It’s more of a place that you just go and experience by walking around which I absolutely loved! I was quite relieved of the pressure of trying to squeeze in a million tourist sights all in a short 5 hour time span. We went open-minded and without exact plans, giving us the luxury of spontaneity which I rarely allow myself. I’ve always been a hardcore planner, so it was nice to have no plans for once.
We ended up hoping on a short 30-minute canal tour right when we arrived. This was the one official tour we did which was worth it because it gives you a really nice overview of Bruges. Bruges is quite small with a population of only about 20,000 people. We could easily see and learn about the main areas of the town on this canal ride, giving us a brief historic background as well. I highly recommend it if you ever visit!
What really struck me on our canal ride was how medieval the city is. The streets are lined with renovated 17the century homes that might as well be straight out of Beauty and the Beast or Frozen. It’s such a dreamy place especially when you’re floating along the water just daydreaming about what it used to be like back in the day.
The whole town is organized around the churches which are surrounded by town squares that form the center of all the hustle and bustle. This is where we found all the tourists gathering when we went, but it was the best place to be. After all, Bruges is a quiet place and not everything was open on Christmas Eve. Luckily though, they had two big Christmas markets going on that had all the shopping you could possibly need. From vintage ornaments to belgian chocolate to waffles, you really couldn’t miss out on anything there.
I was very adamant on climbing to the top of the belfry, a 13th century bell tower that gives you the most beautiful birds-eye view of the city. My boyfriend reluctantly agreed and we climbed over 550 stairs to get to the top. Once we were up there, you could literally see all of Bruges. It was beyond worth all the huffing and puffing.
There was a fence up at the top of the tower so I couldn’t really get a good photo. But you get the picture. And if you really want a better view, I guess you’ll just have to go see it for yourself! After this major accomplishment, we rewarded ourselves by grabbing a bite to eat in the square before heading down the side streets to explore more.
That was the most memorable part for me: just walking down the side streets with my boyfriend hand in hand, smiling and window shopping. We waited in line to grab some of the best Belgian chocolate to send back home to my family in the US. How can you go to Belgium and not get chocolate right?
We eventually caved and actually ended up going on a horse and carriage ride. I say ‘we caved’ because it’s so obviously a thing that only tourists do there. But it was Christmas Eve and I just couldn’t help myself. We took a nice, leisurely stroll around the city, stopping once to get out and look at one of the old convents surrounded by a pond with swans.
Yes, there were real live swans which I realized I’d never seen before up close. Maybe I’d seen them before in a zoo, but not like this up close in the wild. They were so stunningly white and graceful. No joke, we even saw two of them make a heart with their necks and beaks like you see in photos or in the movies. I promise if you ask my boyfriend, he’ll tell you it’s true!
After a lovely 5 and a half hours in Bruge, we were so sad to say goobye. We had to head back to the train station to catch our ride back to Amsterdam, but not before stopping off at a pub for a pint of beer. That is, my boyfriend had a beer and I soaked up the picturesque view one last time.
The day trip to Bruge ended up exceeding our expectations in every way. If you’re ever in Amsterdam or Belgium, then I highly recommend making time to see Bruge because it’s totally worth it! It was really festive and fun for Christmas, but I’ve heard it’s equally as beautiful in the summer too.