Christmas markets in Belgium
It's easy to find your festive spirit at Belgium's Christmas markets of ice sculptures, mulled wine, animations and more. Here is a list of the best Christmas markets in Belgium.
Belgium's Christmas markets add a magical touch to the Belgian festive season, with tiny wooden huts selling all sorts of Christmas goodies all over the country. Drink mulled wine, jump on a heart-dropping fair ride or hunt for the perfect handmade Christmas gift – you'll find it all and more at the various Christmas markets in Belgium. Even if shopping isn't on the Christmas market agenda, there are plenty of activities, food stalls and Christmas decorations that make Belgium's Christmas markets worth a visit. Children will also be delighted by mini animal farms and visiting Santa's house, while adults can sip on Belgian jenever, a liqueur similar to gin made from juniper berries, which you will find in many flavours from fruity to creamy vanilla and even chocolate.
With excellent fast-train connections to Brussels, it's incredibly easy to pop over from London, France, German or the Netherlands to visit the Christmas markets in Brussels and around in a day.
Below is a list of some of the best Christmas markets in Belgium, although you will find a Belgian Christmas market in all main towns. The tourism board provides a tool to search for christmas markets in Belgium.
Brussels Christmas market: Winter Wonders
25 November to 1 January
Centre of Brussels
Once called ‘Europe’s most original Christmas market’ by British tour operators, the annual Brussels Christmas Market is laid out along a two-kilometre festive route with more than 200 wooden chalets dotted around the Bourse (Stock Exchange), Place Sainte Catherine and the Marché aux Poissons (fish market).
Every year, more than 2 million visitors turn up to enjoy the Brussels Christmas market's warm and friendly atmosphere. It also features an open-air skating rink, a Big Wheel, highly original roundabouts and a concert and light and sound show on Grand-Place. There are guided visits throughout the day, including in English
Whichever chalets you visit, you can be sure to find plenty of Christmas gifts and various seasonal gastronomic delights. Enjoy the winter culinary specialities along the route, concentrated around the Bourse. Make the most of the numerous gift ideas from the artisans and traders who come from every corner of the world. Then take in the great views from atop the majestic Big Wheel near the fish market, get your skates on at the open-air rink, or take a short break in the cosy surroundings of the Winter café.
Liege, the Christmas City
25 November to 30 December
For some 30 years Liège has opened the gates to its 'Christmas Village' (Village de Noel) making it one of the oldest of its kind in Belgium. Liège's aim was to be recognised as the Latin capital of Christmas festivities and encourage local traditions and folklore; you'll see Liègois puppets and hear the Walloon dialect spoken. Today its grand Christmas village incorporates local shops, a post office and even a 'mayor', centred around Place du Marché and Place St Lambert . Liège's Christmas Village offers the full festive experience with animations, shows and music, alongside a number events for young and old, including a ice-skating rink, circus festival and toboggan run.
Besides entertainment, you can find numerous Walloon and French handicraft gift ideas and various Chrismas decorations (globes, garlands, creches, greeting cards, firecrackers), plus all manner of delicious things to taste, such as local marzipan specialities, salted treats, black pudding, mulled wine, Chrismas beers and gingerbread. You're also in the hometown of the Liege waffle, and other local specialities include Galler chocolate and pèket (Belgian version of gin). It takes around an hour to arrive via train from Brussels.
Christmas market in Antwerp
10 December to 8 January
Antwerp's Christmas market has around 100 stalls including a section of international stalls if you're looking for a touch of home. See illuminated animal floats scattered around the 'Zoo' or stop off for a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of Glühwein (mulled wine) in a winter bar, two specialities of the Christmas market in Antwerp.
Antwerp's Christmas market stretches from Groenplaats to the Market Square (Grote Markt), via Suikerrui to Steenplein. The Groenplaats is adorned with sparkling Christmas lights and live music, with an ice rink nearby and golf games set up along the Scheldt. There are various events and shows throughout the city as part of the city's 'Winter in Antwerp' festival so check out the programme before you go.
Bruges at Christmas
25 November to 2 January
Bruges' medieval historical centre is picturesque any time of year but it is especially breathtaking when covered in thousands of lights during Christmas in Bruges. The Christmas market in Bruges retains a cosy but lively atmosphere with an ice-skating rink, a spectacular Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival and other festive activities, such as street parades, winter hikes, a Christmas concert and New Year's Eve party complete with fireworks. It is a great place to shop for the local speciality, Bruges' handmade delicate laces. You'll typically find the food and drinks stalls around Market Square, while at Simon Stevin Square you can find a mixture of everything. Reaching Bruges from Brussels takes about an hour in car or train.
'Snow Heart' Christmas markets in Mons
9 December to 8 January
Every day during the Christmas market in Mons you will find numerous chalets, attractions, tastings, chorals, Santa Claus and music performances at Grand Place. Like every year, the Christmas market theme is fairies and imps, under the festival's title of 'Heart of Snow' (Coeur de Neige). You can let out your inner child at the skating rink or try your hand on the curling piste. On the weekends you will find a 'dance hall', animations and magnificent illuminations. With fire breathers, jugglers and illuminated stilt walkers, you'll be whisked away to another world at Mons Christmas markets.
Noelleries Christmas Village Namur
25 November to 31 December
Alongside the usual Christmas market stalls selling gifts, artisan products and gastronomy, every weekend concerts, choirs and folklore groups liven up the streets of Namur and the Place d'Armes, Place de l’Ange and Place du Théatre. You can take along the kids to meet Santa or jump in a horse-drawn carriage.
Christmas markets in Ghent
9 December to 8 January
Just 40 minutes from Brussels you can visit the Ghent Winter Festival (Gentse Winterfeesten) – stretching across Sint-Baafsplein, Klein Turkije and Korenmarkt – to buy handmade Christmas gifts and local food specialities from more than 100 stalls, including a selection of international products. Enjoy hot mulled wine against Ghent's medieval backdrop and music performances under a ceiling of twinkling Christmas lights. There is also a Christmas light walk that takes visitors past Ghent's most impressive illluminated historical sites. On Wednesdays there is facepainting for children, and from the 21 December children can visit Santa in his 'Land of Ice', an exciting Lapland winter landscape that leads to Santa's Ice Grotto and crosses the path of moving ice bears, penguins, deers and other polar animals. A fast train leaves Brussels every two hours and takes just 30 minutes. Parking can be difficult although you'll find several parking areas around Vrijdagmarkt square.
Ypres Christmas market
3 December to 10 January
Although the city of Ypres (Ieper) is reknown for some of the biggest battles of World War I, at the end of each November it transforms into a glittering Christmas scene. The Ypres Christmas market is smaller than some, but still offers a great selection of Belgian food and drinks, winter clothing and Christmas presents. The centre comes alive with decorated evergreens and lighting, which you can experience by taking a free horse-drawn carriage, and there are other rides and ice-skating for children.
19 November to 8 January
In Hasselt's cosy winter village you can find one of the largest mobile skating rinks, see animations, visit Santa's house and explore the Ice Magic sculpture festival. There's also a small Christmas train ride for children, while parents can sip a hot drink in the winter cafe. Head to Kolonel Dussartplein to find the centre of activity.
Winter season in Leuven
8 to 21 December
Tagged as the 'convivial Christmas market in Europe', here you can wander candle-lit streets and see an artistic range of animations and performers, before entering the Christmas market or attending an intimate Christmas concert. For many it is a tradition to eat beignets at the stand of 't Wit Madammeke'. More than 100 stands sell an assortment of Christmas decorations, crafts, local foods and drink, which you can find around the Hooverplein and Ladeuzeplein.
Grottes de Wonck: Christmas markets in a cave
16 to 18 December
For an unusual Christmas market twist, head to the centre of Bassenge to find some 80 Christmas market stalls hidden inside a network of limestone caves selling a range of goods and gourmet food. The caves are reportedly more than 2,000 years old and house a permanent restaurant, where you can try delicious mushrooms that are also cultivated in the caves. There is usually free parking outside the village and free a shuttle bus that regularly leaves from the bus depot, although there is a charge of a few euros to enter the market. Nearby there are plenty of natural activities to choose from and picturesque towns, such as Tongeren, Bilzen or Maastricht.
The Christmas town of Valkenburg, Limburg
You can find several spectacular Christmas events, nativity scenes, animations and markets hidden in caves in the popular tourist town of Valkenburg, for example the Gemeentegrot, Fluweelengrot and Mergelrijk caverns which hosts a number of Christmas events.
Durbuy Christmas market
25 November to 8 January
The self-proclaimed 'smallest city in the world' packs a lot of entertainment into its weekend Christmas markets, alongside a glittering backdrop of illuminated historical buildings. There are special celebrations throughout the month, as well as on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve when 1,000 candles are lit to greet visitors (starting from 5.30pm). There's also a covered ice-skating rink if the weather gets bad, and nearby one of Europe's largest topiary parks adds an additional attraction. It is easiest to reach via car as there are no direct trains from Brussels.
Wavre Christmas market
This is a Christmas market for foodies, with an elegant selection of waffles, liquor, mulled wine, oysters, cheese, snails and more, although you'll also find the usual stalls selling decorations and crafts. Head to the Place Alphonse Bosch to find the Christmas activity.
Eupen Christmas Market
9 to 11 December
Besides the usual Belgian Christmas market offerings found on the Klötzerbahn, rue du Couvent, place du Marché, rue de l'Eglise and rue de la Montagne, Eupen also presents a schedule of performances and music, plus a walking tour to visit the best nativity scenes. Traditionally from the 1 to 24 December, large windows (known as Törchen) representing an Advent calendar are opened dailly at 5.30pm, with an assortment of surprises and performances on certain days, followed by a daily concert around 7pm. On place du Marché you'll also find the city's choir and a daily nativity game.
Ostende's Christmas markets
2 December to 8 January
Each year this beach-side village decorates its Wapenplein with lights and Christmas decorations as part of the city's Winterijs. You will find the usual Christmas stalls and entertainment and a huge 1,000sqm ice-skating rink.
Louvain-la-Neuve Christmas market
2 to 18 December
You'll find this Christmas market spread across two locations, the Grand Place and University Square, with pedestrianised areas to walk around freely. Around 80 wood chalets show their gourmet products and craftsmanship under a ceiling of lights and decorated trees. Every Wednesday and weekends workshops are held for children to create Christmas specialities.
Christmas Village in Charleroi
25 November to 23 December
This village is for young and old, with a number of activities and workships dedicated to children alongside 'Winter Party' dances with hip music and DJs.
Christmas markets in Belgium
- If you can't make it to one of the larger Christmas markets in Belgium, there are numerous small Christmas markets held in almost every town although some only run for a weekend. Below are also some great options for exploring Belgium, where you can combine a Christmas visit with some sightseeing.
- Christmas market in Hautes Fagnes natural park: From 26 November to 24 December you will find a number of festive activities and stalls, alongside the usual outdoor activities offered at the natural park.
- Binche Christmas market: In the medieval Grand Place of Binche you will find a mixture of Christmas and secular activities from 9 to 18 December, including firewords on Fridays and special entertainment on Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends.
- Marché de Noël in Floreffe Abbey: from 26 November to 30 December specially selected local artisans display their talents which include glass engravings, silk paintings, ceramics, sculptures and jewellry to name a few.
- Christmas markets at l’Abbaye de Maredsous: besides taking time to visit the beautiful abbey, you'll also find local handicrafts and gourmet food at this humble Belgian Christmas market held every weekend starting from 26 November and throughout December.
- A range of Christmas events take place at the Abbey of Stavelot.
- Xmas Festival of Woluwe-Saint-Pierre: for original and authentic Christmas gifts, head to the artisan Christmas market held in Place Dumon (Stockel).
- Every year the The American Women’s Club of Brussels (AWCB) presents a Holiday bazaar at their clubhouse in Waterloo for a weekend in November
- Watermael-Boitsfort Christmas Market: find stalls and festive activities on Place Wiener-Payfa between 24 to 27 November.
- Discover one of the older Christmas market in Verviers from 26 November to 25 December.
- The town of Ath sometimes sets up a grand nativity scene in front of its town hall where Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Three Wise Men, the donkey, the ox and the sheep live in a simple and refined style on the Grand-Place.
- For something different, the Essen region organises a Christmas beer festival each year.
Brussels 'Christmas at the Theatre' festival
Organised by the Chambre des Théâtres pour l'Enfance et la Jeuneusse, the Festival Christmas at Belgium's National Theatre reveals all its surprises to you. There are numerous shows for all ages from 18 months incorporating various types of theatre (object theatre, dance, puppets, etc.). There are also various creations, encounters, readings, extras and animation making it a festival for young and old.
The festival is yypically held across different cultural locations in the last week of December, such as Théâtre National, Théâtre Les Tanneurs, Théâtre de la Balsamine, Théâtre Marni, Théâtre La montagne magique, Centre culturel Jacques Franck, Centre culturel d'Evere (Espace Toots). See www.ctej.be.
New Year's Fireworks in Brussels
Brussels annually brings together a magnificent pyrotechnical show to celebrate the New Year. At midnight the sky over Brussels lights up with a multicoloured light show, with animations taking place from around 11pm. In 2015 they were cancelled over terrorism fears.
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