About 2.5 million people visit the Christmas markets in Brussels every year, and no wonder. The capital of Belgium lays on quite the festive spread. The city centre area around Grand-Place, Rue de la Bourse, Place Sainte-Catherine and Marché aux Poissons morphs into a fairytale setting for five weeks of the year during the Winter Wonders festival. Light shows, brass bands and market stalls line a two-kilometre trail, so it’s worth knowing where to start. We’ve rounded up some of the best Christmas markets and seasonal attractions in Brussels, so you can take your pick.
Shop at Marché aux Poissons
The Christmas market in Brussels isn’t limited to one particular location, so you’ll find stalls spread across the city. Marché aux Poissons has one of the biggest collections, though, with row after row of wooden huts complete with snowy roofs and golden fairy lights. Each one is piled high with stocking fillers you won’t find back home. Pick up wedges of nougat studded with jewels of candied fruit, and carefully crafted Belgian chocolates that look like mini works of art. Food stalls sizzle with just-cooked frites and sweet waffles. And steaming mulled wine – often called vin chaud here – is the drink of the day, every day. Don’t miss a ride on the giant Ferris wheel for the best view in town.
Skate at Place de la Monnaie
While Marché aux Poissons hosts the lion’s share of the market stalls, you’ll find more of the same over at Place de la Monnaie. Christmassy trinkets, edible take-homes and handmade souvenirs are easy to come by, as well as plenty of stalls selling food and drink. This is usually where you’ll find the winter festival’s ice rink, too, so you can skate under the stars with the city’s fancy opera house as your backdrop. The location of major attractions like the ice rink is pretty fluid, though, so try the Place de Brouckère if there’s not an ice-skate in sight.
Eat at Sainte-Catherine Church
Not done shopping? Explore more market stalls clustered around Sainte-Catherine Church and La Tour Noire, AKA The Black Tower. Food-wise, it’s not just Belgian favourites that feature heavily on the menu here. You’re just as likely to find huts selling sugary Spanish churros, smoked Finnish salmon and flutes of French Champagne. The other big draw here is the light show, which bounces off Sainte Catherine Church every night. It runs at half-hour intervals once it’s dark, so you’ve got a good chance of catching it. When you’re done, follow the smell of mulled wine and roasting meats over to La Bourse, the former stock exchange building, for another branch of the market. This is the place to savour a Belgian beer, sip a flavoured shot of genever, or sip a syrupy Belgian hot chocolate as you browse the stalls.
Gaze at Grand-Place
The Grand-Place, the city’s landmark square and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, may not host a market but it’s got plenty more going for it. There’s the biggest Christmas tree in Brussels, for one thing. Then there’s the living nativity scene, which goes down really well with kids. It’s the epic light and sound show that steals the limelight though, quite literally, with an illuminated spectacle that transforms the buildings into something from a Disney animation. It runs every night during the Winter Wonders period, and you can catch it on the hour from 5pm. This one’s so good, market-goers come back to watch it on repeat.
Sold on Bruges’ Christmas markets?
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Author: Katie Gregory
Last updated: 23/10/23
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