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Notable christmas/winter experiences in Bruge/Brussels?

My wife and I are planning a trip with a few days during or around Christmas in Belgium, if not this year then next year.

  1. Is Bruges, Brussels or any other part of Belgium notable for any Christmas/winter holiday events or celebrations?

  2. If Bruges is in fact enjoyable as merely a three-day visit, is traveling from Bruges to Brussels (or vice versa) to experience both places in a single trip for a few days each suggested or should Brussels as a larger city be given more time as it's own trip?

  3. Chances are we would start our trip by visiting friends in London for a few days; is it generally recommended to just fly from London to Belgium or would you suggest taking the train/chunnel and making an experience out of it (it would be our first time using the chunnel).

Travelers: 2 adults
Likes: historical sites, cozy atmosphere, pubs, museums, festivals, zoos and aquariums

Thank you,

Posted by
25564 posts

Number one. Bruges usually has a Christmas market set up in the market place in front of the belltower. It is quite a small one and they also have a small ice skating rink set up next to it. It is pleasant enough but as far as Christmas markets go it is no great shakes. If you have never been to Bruges before I find it a very pleasant place to be and go relatively frequently. It is convenient for me because it is only an hour away from Calais when I drive from England to France and Belgium on the way to Germany.

Number two. I am not particularly enamoured of Brussels, I prefer Gent and Antwerp as well as Bruges if I am visiting Belgium.

Number three. You cannot fly from London, unless you were at the airport, any faster then you can take the train and it is much easier to take the train. Much more comfortable and much more fun.

There may be one but I do not know of any zoo or aquarium in Belgium other than the zoo near the train station in Antwerp.

As far as your budget is concerned I don’t think in dollars and don’t know how that would fit with what you plan to spend or what level of place you like to stay in.

Posted by
21164 posts

Too vague for any serious answer. What is a "few days" ?? Three days, three weeks? $5,000 budget for what? Just on the ground? including flights? Pretty skimpy even if flights are not included. And the train is general referred to as the Eurostar and not the chunnel. You do benefit from buying your Eurostar tickets well in advance. London tends to be a more expensive city.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you Nigel, Ghent looks lovely and seems to be a place we would enjoy. If we were able to visit two of the three cities you suggested for 3-4 days each (Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp) would you suggest any two specifically based on your own overall experiences or do you think it just depends fully on our interests?

Posted by
5 posts

Sorry Frank, I removed the budget completely, it's not really a concern (other forums request that it be present). We are looking to spend 3-4 days in each location as we have to limit our total trip duration to under two weeks. And thank you for the Eurostar correction. How far in advance of our trip might you recommend purchasing Eurostar tickets? Do prices for the Eurostar fluctuate in the way that airline tickets do?

Posted by
6393 posts

Eurostar ticket prices do not fluctuate like airline ticket prices. Eurostar ticket prices go one way — up.

Tickets get more expensive as the less-expensive tickets sell out.

Posted by
12403 posts

If we were able to visit two of the three cities you suggested for 3-4
days each (Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp) would you suggest any two....

Chase, while I can't answer the winter question or transport from London (we flew to Brussels from the U,S. and took the train from there) we spent 4 nights in Bruges, with a day trip to Gent, and 3 in Antwerp without running out of things to do. Amongst the fans of Belgium, it's six of one and a half dozen of the other of RS posters who prefer to base in either Gent or Bruges and day-trip to the other. We loved Bruges but will give Gent a few nights of its own next time to cover ground we missed; it's a very nice city.

I guess how much time to give any of the 3 depends on how quickly you sightsee (we are take-our-time browsers)? Bruges has some terrific (we thought) museums, historic sites, churches and architecture but the architecture in Gent is right up there as well, and we enjoyed Antwerp's museums too. If you had 8 days/nights to work with, you could try and do all 3, splitting them 3/3/2?

We only had 1 night in Brussels so it's probably not fair to judge the poor thing on one partial, jet-lagged day and a few hours of another but just based on what we were able to see in our short time, Bruges, Gent and Antwerp were much more to our liking, the preference also in that order.

Posted by
21164 posts

Trains do not have dynamic pricing as is common with US airlines. There will be two, three, maybe four price levels for the train. The first two or three levels will be discount tickets with restrictions. A fixed number of tickets will be allocated to each level of pricing. An early morning train will have more discount tickets than one at noon. Once all the tickets at that price level are sold, there are no more. Generally the cheaper, discounts will sell out quickly and early. If you want the cheapest tickets you need to buy around the 5 months prior to travel.

Posted by
1530 posts

Nigel – Know that since the first of January this year in some cities in Belgium cars with a foreign numberplate need to be registrated in case you want to enter the Low Emission Zone. This is the case in Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent and as far as I know not in Bruges (however always check this to be sure as it can change soon). Rules about Low Emission Zones are not national, each city has its own standards which car is allowed or not. It’s worth checking if other larger places in Belgium has Low Emission Zones and their rules before visiting with your car.

Ofcourse first Belgium has to open it’s borders again after the lockdown has come to an end.

https://visit.gent.be/en/good-know/practical-information/how-get-ghent/car/parking-ghent
https://www.slimnaarantwerpen.be/en/LEZ

Brussels has great pubs and beer any time of the year. (No rhyme intended.). The cathedral is impressive to visit. Art museum is nice. Lots of good restaurants. The main square is pleasant to visit. I haven't been to Brugges or Ghent. Chocolate and lace is a Belgium thing. 1-2 nights in Brussels is enough. Makes a good layover in the middle of a trip.

Posted by
5 posts

Kathy that's great to know, thank you! We always like to spend a couple of days in as many places as possible when traveling to a new country, and then return for longer visits later on to give a city the time it deserves. 3/3/2 sounds really reasonable, thanks for your input! Very helpful.

Posted by
12403 posts

Chase, if you'll be visiting over Christmas, I'd just caution you to check what's open during your stay in any given city? As holiday closures are common, you'll probably want to divvy up your time accordingly. :O)

Oh, and Gent and Bruges are only abt. 30 minutes apart by local train.

Posted by
25564 posts

Thanks Wil, I am registered in Antwerpen. That’s news about Gent.