Brussels, Bruges, and other Belgian cities have fun Christmas markets (Kerstmarkten) and winter festivals that are open throughout Advent, Christmas Day and into the New Year.
Brussels, Bruges, Antwerpen, and Ghent have some of the largest and best Christmas markets (Kerstmarkten) in Belgium. Especially the Pleasures of Winter in Brussels and the Snow and Ice Sculptures Festival in Bruges are well worth visiting. Most Christmas markets in Belgium are open on December 24 and 31, Christmas and New Year’s Day but with slightly shorter opening hours.
Brussels – Belgium’s Largest Christmas Market
The Winter Wonders (Plaisirs d’Hiver / Winter Pret) festival in Brussels is much more than just the largest Christmas market in Belgium. The Christmas market has around 250 Swiss chalet stands spread along a 2-km route in the vicinity of (Stock Exchange), Place Sainte Catherine, and the Marché aux Poissons (fish market) in downtown Bruxelles. Many further streets including the Grand Place are bathed in special festive lightening, which looks merry even during the day but really comes into its own at night.
The Brussels winter festival further includes many events and winter sport activities. A large ice-skating rink is open for a nominal fee with a second rink set up especially for smaller children. A sledging slope and for a short period even a ski slope are available to bring Alpine winter sports to the heart of Brussels.
The Pleasures of Winter festival is open from end November to early January. In 2016, the Brussels Christmas market and winter festival operate from November 25, 2016 to January 1, 2017, The activities are generally open daily from noon to 9 pm, 11 am to 10 pm on weekends. The Plaisirs d’Hiver festival is even open on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Some activities are not open the whole period or with shorter opening hours.
Bruges – Christmas Market & Ice Festival
The medieval Flemish city Bruges (Brugge) is one of the most popular destinations in Belgium. This beautifully preserved UNESCO World Cultural Heritage listed medieval city is romantic at all times but even more so during the Christmas period.
The Christmas market in Bruges is mostly on the Market Square where an ice-skating rink is also set up (pictured above). The market here is open from November 25, 2016 to January 2, 2017 from around 10 am to 9 pm later on weekends). The Brugge Xmas market is open on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Bruges is also famous for its Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival, which lasts from late November to mid-January. The very cold (-6°C) festival tent is in front of the train station on the edge of the old town center. The Ice Magic Festival is from 19 November 2016 to 8 January 2017. Admission is charge (€9), the Brugge Card is valid.
Christmas Markets in Flemish Cities in Belgium
Many other cities in Flanders have popular Christmas markets that draw visitors from all over Europe and Britain. The major ones are in:
- Antwerpen – the market is open from December 10, 2016 to January 1, 2017 on Groenplaats, Handschoenmarkt, Grote Markt and Suikerrui and until January 4, 2017 at Steenplein (with an ice skating rink).
- Ghent – the market in Gent is open from December 9, 2016 to January 8, 2017.
Transportation to Belgian Christmas Markets
Getting to Belgium is easy and often cheap as many flights arrive from all over Europe on low-cost airlines landing at South Brussels-Charleroi Airport (CRL) while bargains are often available on regular airlines such as Brussels Airlines flying to Brussels Airport (BRU) too. Travelers from Britain and nearby cities can use the high-speed railways or Eurolines buses, which have a surprisingly large number of coaches passing through Brussels and other Belgian cities.
Enjoying Christmas market food and drinks are an integral part of enjoying Kerstmarkten. However, gourmets may resort to the Michelin Red Guide or Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant guide to find haute cuisine – Bruges, surprisingly, outshines Brussels at the the top three-star restaurant level.