I love Christmas. I always have. I love the magic, the gift of giving to others, the carols. The list goes on. When we made the decision to move back to Australia in 2019, we knew that it meant this would be our last winter Christmas for a few years and that it would never be this easy to travel around Europe again. One of the best things about this time of year in Europe are the Christmas markets and so we booked two little getaways. The first of which was in Bruges, or Brugge. Still not sure which is correct!
With three young children, driving seemed the best option for us. Oh my goodness, it was so easy! It was about 5 hours door-to-door including the EuroTunnel and a stop off. The kids were amazing and I think I may have been the only one to ask… “are we there yet?” Haha!
When we arrived, we went straight to our home for the next two nights. Nuit Blanche was everything European dreams are made of. Built in the 15th century, it was simple yet grand, right on the “lovers bridge.” It provided a central base to see the beautiful city. David, who owns the B&B is an artist and in the afternoons the lower levels are opened to the public as a gallery. His work was imaginative, detailed and based on fairytales. Worth a visit even if you aren’t staying at his home.
The first night we headed into town for a little walk around. It very quickly became one of my favourite places. Upon Davids recommendation, we went to a traditional Belgium restaurant in the centre of the town. The food was quite heavy for my taste but the kids loved their meatballs and Milos enjoyed his beer-braised beef and beer tasting!
That night (and the one after) we slept so well. The shutters blocked out every single speck of light which meant our children, and therefore us, slept like we haven’t slept in years!
In the morning, David had prepared a breakfast spread fit for the king and queen (who actually honeymooned there, in the same room as us!). There was homemade yoghurts, homemade chocolate, eggs, granola, sandwiches, and desserts afterwards. Helena asked “mum, why don’t you ever make us breakfasts like this?!” Hmm…. Not sure if I’ve ever had time for that!
The next two days were filled with exploring, shopping and fun. We went on a horse and carriage ride (I first researched into their living conditions – extremely well looked after) and climbed to the top of the Bell Tower. A little tip – time it well. We were up there at 11 o’clock so could see the bells chime – welcomed after the 366 stair climb. During our walk around the city, we found little housing complexes called Almshouses (see the picture below of the white houses with dark green doors). They were built for the poor or single women by wealthy citizens. They were able to live there for free with one condition though, to pray for the wealthy family every day so that they would go to heaven. For this reason, each complex had its own chapel (see the image of my youngest son in front of a white chapel). We also found a hidden church which looked like just a building from the front but once up the stairs, it was a huge cathedral (see the picture below with Luka at the front). Helena, Luka and Nicholas each wanted to light a candle. It was lovely hear what they all said. Luka said he was “remembering Jesus,” Helena said “I’m thinking about all my family that I never got to meet and want them to know I believe in them,” and Nicholas said “I’m thinking about my Poppa and Grandad who are sick.”
Next, the reason for going, The Christmas Markets!!! They were so beautiful and it wasn’t too cold which made it easier on me (I am so not a cold person!). There were rows of stalls full of food, gluhwein and arts and crafts. There was also another little Christmas Market with rides for the children which they were grateful for. They weren’t too expensive and the prizes were great (Helena got an LOL ball).
Helena, Luka and Nicholas were in food heaven. Belgium Chocolate galore, everywhere you turn. Be selective though, only 8 chocolate shops sell chocolate made on the premises. Another bonus for them were the waffles – waffle shops with all the toppings they could imagine. Think one waffle with cream, Nutella, chocolate sauce, marshmallows and sprinkles. The smiles made it worth it.
The best part for me was the fact that it felt genuine. Yes, there were loads of tourists and shops targeting tourists but it still felt like it was back in the day.
Sad to have left but on to the next adventure.