It can be tempting to pack your bags to the brim with chocolates, but Bruges has plenty to offer those after a gift with a twist. The bijou town is also famous for its lacy confections. Swap doilies, frothy curtains and dinky handkerchiefs for saucy smalls from Hunkemöller. Comic book culture is big here: buy hard-to-find editions at De Striep or Den Elder, which sells vintage vinyl too. Don’t miss a browse of concept stores Mais Oui and Boetiek Ruth, which both stock up-and-coming Belgian designers. Short on time? Here are our top picks.
This little number puts Bruges’ chocoholism to new use. What’s better than a mouth full of chocolate? One that tastes like it, too. Less Willy Wonka, more Wilhelmina, this sweet-treat boutique sells lipsticks made from the finest cocoa butter and origin chocolate. Wear it, smell it or add it to ice-cream, as the city’s most experimental chocolatier helpfully suggests.
Belgians take beer as seriously as the French take Champagne. And, thanks to their fondness for re-fermenting, their brews share similarities with the bubbly French tipple. Familiarise yourself with lip-smacking local favourites at the Bottle Shop – and take home some amber-coloured Kwak Ale, plus a traditional tankard or two. Proost.
Worship at the altar of cheese at De Kaasbolle, which stocks a deliciously whiffy array of dairy treats. Dreamy options include the house-favourite Lucullus, tangy fetas and the cow’s milk Tartarin Cognac, studded with cognac-marinated Turkish raisins. Obliging staff carefully wrap purchases, so that they can journey home safely (and without offending fellow passengers’ nostrils).
Add a dash of Euro-flash to your two-wheel commute by investing in a brand-new helmet. Exceller Bikes has an eye-catching stash of bikes, bike gear and accessories. There are plenty of natty numbers to choose from, including the cosmic-cool Tin Robot. Show it off on Bruges’s tranquil canalside paths before you head home.
Cookies: yes. Butter: yes. It was only a matter of time before cookie butter came on the scene. Speculoos spread stars cinnamon-laced Belgian holiday biscuits, crushed up and made spreadable thanks to lashings of delicious butter. Juliette bakery sells a lekkere jar of the stuff – plus original-format cookies galore.
The perfect place for a romantic Christmas break, and just 3 hrs 30 mins from London.
Pretty as a gilded postcard, Bruges is a medieval dream of a city.
There are hundreds to try from, the question is where do you start?
Image credits: © Alamy; © De Kaasbolle; © Exceller Bikes; © Robbe Boone; © Gagliardi Images - Shutterstock; © Getty; © Eurostar