It’s all I’ve talked about every time the holiday season rolled around. “You know, one of these days, let’s just go on vacation for Christmas.” As the child of a divorced family, I was kind of tired of running around to various houses between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Over the years, we have toyed with one of two ideas; either spending Christmas on Christmas Island in Australia or in Bruges, Belgium. Christmas Island because, well, you know why and Bruges because it always felt like the most European Christmasy land in all the world.
It. Did. Not. Disappoint. From ice skating on Christmas Eve under the famous Bell Tower to sipping on hot wine in the Christmas market, it felt surreal at every turn. I’m so happy that my family was down for this non-traditional adventure, including my mother-in-law and my 7-year-old daughter who was very concerned about Santa finding us in a different country. Everyone had a fabulous time over our two weeks exploring three cities in Belgium.
This article is primarily a photo diary of Bruges, but it includes a lot of places we particularly enjoyed and even started to call home after several days in the perfectly preserved medieval city.
We couldn’t have picked a more perfect Air BnB (our first try!) and quickly realized that it was situated in walking distance to everything, including the best bagel restaurant (featured in the top picture).
We spent a lot of time at this bar, nestled on an iconic corner-under that tree with the lights- day and evening. It has great flights of beer to choose from, including some cheese, mustard and sausages. It was the perfect place to enjoy a Belgian beer, or three, while planning our next activity or to just kill time before dinner. If you need a good introduction to Belgian beer, this is a fantastic place to start; just check out the Great Wall of Beer that leads you into the pub.
My family and I started Christmas morning by opening up goodies Santa had managed to get to us all the way across the globe. We then headed out for mass at the Basilica of the Holy Blood to enjoy Christmas songs sung in Dutch while the relic of Jesus’ blood sat on display during the ceremony. It was a very cold day, so we spent a lot of time relaxing in our “home” and then set out for Christmas Dinner at De Vlaamsche Pot, a traditional Flemish restaurant. Beef and rabbit stew flowed over crispy fries in a cozy upstairs nook of this ornately decorated space. Nothing felt more Christmasy than this evening. Exactly what we were looking for to top off the ultimate Christmas trip to Europe.
I will have many more articles on Bruges, Ghent and Brussels to follow this one. Stay tuned for details on food, chocolate and more beer tours!