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TTG Features Christmas Markets


which is a more intimate experience. The two cities work well together as they are only an hour apart by train and have contrasting offers. Getting to Brussels is easy via Eurostar and connecting on to Bruges is simple. It’s the same station, Brussels Midi, just a different platform. Spending two or three nights in Bruges and one in Brussels is a good way to play it.


Golden age Bruges has a pared down Christmas market, and I am not convinced about the authenticity of its wares. Cosmetic beauty treatments and inflatable minions are among the more bemusing potential purchases. Luckily, Bruges doesn’t need


Christmas bric-a-brac to draw the crowds. I feel festive just walking around this charming town because every cafe, restaurant and bar is decorated. Even the horses pulling carriages have festive accessories. Simply walking around the city,


enjoying the cobbled streets, canals and historic buildings is pleasure enough. There’s a wealth of boutiques and chocolate emporiums to potter around, and there are several museums that help educate on facets of Belgian life. Historium Bruges takes me back in


time to 1435, the Golden Age of Bruges. I amble through a series of rooms, following the love story of Jacob, an apprentice and Anna, a painter’s muse. Wearing headphones for the audio I watch a number of short films featuring actors in character, telling the story. The overall result is an emotional connection with the Middle Ages, which doesn’t happen in a more one-dimensional museum. The Bruges Beer Museum is


another that has embraced technology. Visitors carry a tablet and headphones – the physical exhibits are minimal. You scan QR codes with your tablet to access information, which focuses on the production,


52 27.10.2016 Chocolate is everywhere in Bruges


history and practical uses of beer. The amount of text is a little overwhelming, so I skip a few codes, but for beer geeks there’s plenty of information to imbibe. And rewards are found in a bar at the end with


Tried & Tested


HOTEL HERITAGE, BRUGES


THE FACTS: There are just 22 rooms in this family-run boutique hotel in the heart of Bruges, part of the Relais & Chateaux group. It’s comfortable and classical with discreet technology. Restaurant Le Mystique is an outstanding venue, attracting residents and non-residents for dinner. The wellness offer includes a sauna, steam room and gym, and a concierge service can help guests make the


most of their visit to Bruges, from the provision of a luxury picnic to hot-air ballooning.


Bruges cafe


three Belgian beers included in the ticket price. Choco Story is a more traditional museum with information provided on noticeboards about the history of chocolate, going right back to Mayan


days. In a demonstration about making pralines, I seize my chance to taste the melt-in-the-mouth chocolate that the Belgians have mastered so beautifully, and surreptitiously sneak more when the chocolatier has his back turned. The self-guided part of the tour


Grote Markt, Bruges


covers where beans are grown, the history behind the first chocolate drink and the development of chocolate bars, and I stumble across an unexpected twist in one of the exhibits. It explains that cocoa contains fluoride, tannins and phosphates, which fight cavities, and caffeine, theobromine, serotonin and phenylethylamine, which act as a tonic and reduce stress, giving better resistance to fatigue. So it turns out chocolate is actually good for you. And I’m not going to argue with that, especially at Christmas. Book it: Two nights’ B&B at the Relais & Chateaux Hotel Heritage in Bruges plus return Eurostar travel to Brussels and on to Bruges from London St Pancras starts from £296pp (based on December 6 departure). Two nights’ B&B at the Crowne


Plaza Brussels – Le Palace in Brussels plus return Eurostar travel starts from £249pp (based on December 6 departure). ■ superbreak.com/agents


THUMBS UP: It’s a short stroll from this historic bolthole to the main square – an ideal location. Original features give the hotel character, and modern amenities add extra comfort, such as an in-room iPad, a Nespresso coffee machine and a Bose sound system. Thoughtful touches include a complimentary fruit bowl, chocolate on the pillow every night and the weather forecast


on a card. Banquet would be a more appropriate way to describe the breakfast buffet, and a nightcap by the open fire in the cosy lounge is the perfect way to end the day. Bonus points for tasteful Christmas decorations. THUMBS DOWN: It’s hard to fault this hotel, and a glance at TripAdvisor reveals rave reviews. One tiny gripe was the thin walls between my bedroom and the one next door, which meant I could hear my neighbour’s TV. BOOK IT: This hotel suits romantics, adult groups of friends and special occasions. It’s ideal for clients who like small hotels where they can get to know the owners and be rewarded for repeat visits. ■ hotel-heritage.com


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