Romantic Bruges, Belgium is a lovely old medieval town in Belgium that we’d never heard of until we watched a movie called In Bruges. The movie is oddball and hilarious – totally our style – and also manages to paint enough of a romantic picture of lovely Bruges to convince my husband to want to spend Christmas there, despite the fact that the film is about two assassins and the most scenic parts of the town are mostly seen in between shootouts.
I wasn’t fully convinced at first, but as it turns out, Jeremy was right: Bruges is lovely and romantic. We spent nearly a week visiting Bruges in December and fell in love with the town’s adorable medieval canals and charming cobblestone streets.
Bruges in winter is a romantic destination for couples and a wonderful place to spend Christmas! Here are our picks for the best things do in Bruges in winter for couples.
Explore Minnewater Park & the Lover’s Bridge
There’s nothing more romantic than strolling hand in hand over the Bruges Lake of Love on the Lover’s Bridge in Minnewater Park. Of course, every good romantic bridge has a story, and Minnewater is no exception. In this case, the legend tells of beautiful Minna, who fell in love with a warrior of a neighboring tribe. Her father said no and set up an arrange marriage instead, so in classic Disney princess style, Minna ran away into the forest. By the time her lover found her, she was near death, but managed to wait until she was in his arms to finally succumb to death. I’m expecting a Disney movie to come out about this story any day now. Minnewater Park is named for her. It’s said that if you walk over the Lover’s Bridge and kiss your loved one, your love will be eternal. There is a much less romantic legend about the massive quantities of swans that also inhabit the Lover’s Bridge, but I can only assume that the more swans that witness your act of eternal love, the better.
Feed the Swans in the Lake of Love
If we’re assuming that the more swans that witness your act of eternal love, the better, then certainly it doesn’t hurt to endear the hoardes of swans to you and your loved one by bribing them with food. Everyone knows that swans are suckers for bribery. So, this is totally one of those super romantic things to do in Bruges. Bring some bread to Minnewater Park and instantly become the most popular couple on Lover’s Bridge.
Stuff Your Face with Belgian Chocolates…. Romantically
Look, you’re in Belgium, I don’t have to tell you twice to eat as much delicious Belgian chocolate as humanly possible. (But just in case I do … EAT AS MUCH BELGIAN CHOCOLATE AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. Get it? I told you twice. Feel free to groan.) Anyway, stuffing your face with Belgian chocolate is totally romantic, and your partner can either accept that this is who you are now and jump into the pile of candy wrappers, melted chocolate and self-loathing with you, or they can GTFO. Here are our top recommendations for the best chocolate shops in Bruges, many of which can be found on a stroll down the Breidelstraat:
- The Chocolate Line | Address: Simon Stevinplein 19 OR Vaartstraat 75, 8000 Brugge, Belgium
- The Old Chocolate House | Address: Mariastraat 1, 8000 Brugge, Belgium
- Dumon | Address: Eiermarkt 6, 8000 Brugge, Belgium
- BbyB| Address: Sint-Amandsstraat 39, 8000 Brugge, Belgium
- Stefs Chocolatier | Address: Breidelstraat 18, 8000 Brugge, Belgium
- Olivier’s | Address: Sint-Amandsstraat 14, 8000 Brugge, Belgium
Share a Hot Chocolate, Belgian Style
All the best things to do in Bruges seem to involve chocolate, don’t they? Just when you think you’ve had enough chocolate to last a lifetime, it turns out you’re wrong. Belgian Hot Chocolate is on another level, and that level is on the same level as heaven, Beyonce, puppies, etc. The Old Chocolate House in Bruges is the best place to go for chocolate “high tea,” which is exactly what it sounds like, if what you think it sounds like is high tea without tea but with hot chocolate. You get a bunch of tiny, delicious morsels of yummy treats – many of which have chocolate in them, for maximum chocolate consumption efficiency – and an absolutely enormous mug of hot milk, into which is dropped your choice of chocolate (you select your preference from a menu. Ours was very dark, very bitter, and Ecuadorian, not unlike some folks we met in the Galapagos). You stir your milk vigorously and it eventually turns into the best mug of hot chocolate you’ve ever had in your life. If you’re feeling like you haven’t got enough sugar to tide you over, you can also order an insanely large waffle. We recommend sharing everything you order here, because we care about you and we don’t want you to get diabetes and sue us later.
Take a Romantic Carriage Ride through Bruges
Ah, horse drawn carriage rides: a quintessential romantic thing to do in Bruges. The Markt Square in Bruges is iconic for more than just it’s stepped gable roofs, stunning Town Hall, towering Belfry, and actual markets. There’s also a constant parade of horses pulling carriages, some of which – if you’re lucky – may also include other animals too, like the world’s cutest pug puppy dressed as Santa, which we are till obsessed with. Pug puppy or not, a carriage ride through Bruges in winter is an undeniably romantic way to spend some quality time cozied up with your loved one, plus a super convenient way to see the city! A 30 minute carriage ride through Brugge costs €39.
Visit the Burg Central Plaza
There’s nothing as romantic as a very old vial of Jesus’ blood. Damn, that just didn’t sound convincing, did it? Fine, so maybe not every suggestion in this list is ENTIRELY romantic. Burg Central Plaza may not be one of the most romantic spots in Bruges, but it IS home to some of the best things to do in Bruges. The Basilica of the Holy Blood – with the Jesus blood – is here, as well as the gorgeous Town Hall, and a very good waffle truck (waffles are crucial when visiting Belgium). When you visit Bruges in winter, you’ll notice that they’ve taken every opportunity for a giant Christmas Tree, and stunning Burg Central Plaza is no different.
Cruise the Canals in Bruges
Old Brugges is intersected at regular intervals by cute little canals, like if Amsterdam and Venice had a baby and it was Belgian and home to a lot of swans (wow, that actually describes Bruges perfectly. New tagline? I’ll contact the tourist bureau, you make the t-shirts). The best way to appreciate the canals is to cruise through them on a jaunty little skipper. When touring Bruges in winter, a canal cruise is still one of the most popular things to do, and you’ll see little boats full of bundled up and enthralled tourists cruising by even on the coldest days of the year. You can find canal cruises all over town, but the most popular one – according to this post about tours in Bruges – is just off Burg Square (of old Jesus blood fame).
Take Romantic Selfies in Bruges
As everyone knows, there is no point in taking a trip to romantic Bruges in winter (or anywhere else, for that matter) if you can’t get a few selfies to make everyone you know jealous. We’re terrible at selfies, but we found a few spots in Bruges that were so good there were plenty of other people to take a picture for us, which is generally much more flattering when it comes to double chins and whatnot.
Here are the best places to take a romantic selfie in Bruges:
- Rozenhoedkaai: Where the Dijver Canal and the Groenerei meet, in front of the Dijver Mansions
- Groenerei Canal as seen from Peerdebrug, the Horse Bridge (on Peerdenstraat): looking towards the Meebrug, the canal is lined with trees and creepers, elegant 17th-century mansions and almshouses, and topped by the cathedral tower.
- Meestraat Bridge
- Minnewater Bridge (with the swans! Swan selfies!)
Visit the Bruges Christmas Market
One of the advantages of visiting Bruges in winter are the amazing Christmas Markets! There’s nothing that says romance quite like a authentic European Christmas Market. You and your honey can share a giant Sauccissor, lady-and-the-tramp style – not because it’s enormous and budget-friendly to do so, but because it’s romantic – and laugh as you cover your shirt with mustard and accuse each other of taking extra-large bites, but like, in a cute way. PS: you definitely DO want to get the grilled onions on that sausage. Onion breath is, in this case, entirely worth it. For dessert, a Liege Waffle with sour cherries and whipped cream is everything you always wanted in a
partner waffle. The Bruges Christmas Market is open until just after New Years.
Hold Hands on the Bruges Ice Skating Rink in Markt Square
Lots of people think ice skating is terribly romantic, and if you’re mildly coordinated, it really is. Imagine holding hands while serenely ice skating in a classic European market square in front of a towering ancient building, grinning at each other in ecstasy like you’re in an ad for engagement rings or swan food or whatever. That’s what it’s probably like. I wouldn’t know, because I have enough difficulty standing on my own two feet without falling over, much less sliding around on ice while wobbling on a couple of giant razor blades while 5 year olds whizz backwards past me doing flips, but it sounds romantic, and that’s all that matters. If you can’t actually muster up the courage to ice skate, just take a selfie in front of the ice skating rink and tell everyone you did. #noshame The Bruges Ice Skating Rink is open in winter until just after New Years.
Enjoy a Belgian Beer by the Fire
You didn’t really think you’d get through a list about romantic things to do in Bruges without us talking about beer, did you? (If you did, you’ve clearly never read our Belgian Beer Guide.) Have a delicious locally brewed Belgian beer and sit gazing into your partner’s eyes by a roaring fire at Half Man Brewery. The drunker you get, the more hilarious you’ll find the statue in the next picture, which is just outside of Half Man Brewery.
Find a Private Alcove in Koningin Astridpark
A gazebo, a pond, fountains, and lots of little alcoves: Koningin Astridpark is the quintessential romantic Bruges spot. Find an alcove and do whatever lovers do in alcoves after drinking a lot of Belgian beer and eating a lot of Belgian chocolate (which, if you’re anything like us, probably involves putting on PJs and watching Netflix).
Climb the Belfry in Markt Square
The Belfry is one of those famous things to do in Bruges that can’t be missed, so I’ll try to make it sound as romantic as possible. Share a private moment 270 feet in the air in a gorgeous tower that dates back to the 1200s while overlooking the city of Bruges. Just wait until you’re done gasping for air and sweating profusely after the 366 near-vertical steps up to embrace, gaze out appreciably over the city, make out, have a gunfight, or whatever it is you went all the way up there for. (PS if you haven’t seen In Bruges yet, you probably didn’t get that last reference, so let me remind you that you need to go watch it ASAP.)
Shop for Lace & Antiques
OK, I may have gotten a little carried away and swapped “romantic” with “pretending it’s the 1800’s,” but just go with it. Pretend it’s the 1800s, and you and your betrothed have nothing but cheap hand-me-down furniture betwixt the two of you (like whatever Ikea was called back then) so you’ve embarked on a lover’s holiday to Brugges to shop for some custom-embroidered lace and a good stately grandfather clock. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself carried away with adorable little pillows and tiny lace pincushions and probably speaking in an offensively British accent like your entire life is an episode of Downton Abbey. Romantic Bruges is known for its lace, so if you want to really dive into the romance of Bruges, pop into one of the quaint little lace shops and just give it a bit of a glance (dammit, the British accent is back).
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