Known as the Venice of the North, Bruges' medieval picture postcard streets make the perfect setting for a spot of shopping. The Belgian city was built on the back of commerce and its traditional lace shops and chocolatiers remain a must-visit. This heritage of craftsmanship and care continues today with boutiques selling chic and unusual accessories and decorations for your home, beautiful textiles and delicious food and drink.
And of course, Bruges hosts the most atmospheric of all traditional Christmas markets from November 24 to January 2, a magical setting to pick perfect presents for family and friends back home. You'll find the main market in Grote Markt, with its pretty, wooden chalets festooned with twinkling fairy lights surrounding the glittering ice rink. There's another market in smaller, tree-lined Simon Stevinplein too. When you need a pick-me-up, follow the delicious aromas and put your feet up in a cosy cafe with a freshly made waffle and hot chocolate.
When you've shopped until you could drop, hop on a horse-drawn traditional carriage and sit back with your bags for a romantic ride through the cobbled streets.
It's well worth downloading the Handmade in Bruges app, which has a map showing contemporary craftspeople and designers and celebrate the city's rich crafts heritage. Handmade in Bruges awards makers who produce their wares by hand and locally. Look out for the logo on shop windows too.
Here are our suggestions for unmissable shops to explore in Bruges.
Shops to explore in Bruges
Shops to explore in Bruges
Sukerbuyc is a family run chocolatier celebrating its 4th decade. The enticing scent of chocolate greets you from the moment you open the door and you can arrange a tour of the chocolate making process behind the shop. Handmade chocolates include teddy bears, pralines, chocolate boxes and even chocolate jigsaws (to eat or keep, what a quandary!). Just across the road De Proeverie, the shop's sister teashop, serves proper hot chocolate with steamed milk and melted chocolate to tip in yourself. Delicious!
This lace treasure trove that is ‘t Apostelientje sells only handmade lace, both contemporary and antique - the oldest of which dates back impressively to the 16th century, when lacemaking started.
Continuing Bruges' papermaking heritage, Alfa Papyrus is the place to visit for handmade paper, beautifully bound notebooks and photo albums and calligraphy pens.
If you're looking for gifts for your children or grandchildren, De Krokodil sells only quality wooden toys that stand the test of time. The painted and properly crafted toys include diablos, circus stilts, board games, dolls' houses and castles.
Bruges' top contemporary homeware, ceramics and furniture design store, Callebert is a must-visit. The beautifully presented wares also include jewellery, watches, textiles and tableware and children's clothes and bedroom accessories.
For more than two decades, Frédérique Baeckelandt has been designing and creating hats at Chapellerie Baeckelandt. Take your time finding the perfect topper or a sketch is all she needs to make the hat of your dreams.
Peter Quijo is the place to buy a very special something. This exclusive jewellery store was established 60 years ago by Peter's father. He creates his own designs and has even created two new diamond cuts, which have earned him a De Beers award.
‘Dress yourself happy’ is the motto of Twee Meisjes (Two Girls) and they more than deliver with fun, affordable fashion with a vintage twist.
Jerry’s Cigar Bar has been selling tobacco for more than 150 years. Celebrate your holiday with a choice of Cuban and Dominican cigars. You can sample them in store too.