Brussels acts as the perfect backdrop to any of Brussels Christmas markets, with its fantastic fusion of medieval buildings, Gothic arches and intricate 19th Century façades. It’s also much more just than the chance to buy authentic, Belgian gifts and treats; it’s a place to explore and enjoy some festive downtime with your loved ones.
Expect to see extraordinary street entertainers, listen to live music and even experience dazzling light shows. Most markets are family-friendly, with plenty for the kids to do and see. If you’re taking a winter break in Europe, be sure to set some time aside to visit at least one of Brussels Christmas markets.
A Real Winter Wonderland
The biggest of them all is undoubtedly the Winter Wonder Christmas Market. Boasting 240 stalls. There’s a sea of gifts and goods to choose from, such as traditional, handmade, wooden toys, hand-crafted jewellery, clothing and glassware. The market covers around 2km, stretching from Place St Catherine, all the way down to Grand Place. Many of the side-streets are lined with wooden-roofed chalets selling delicious food from across Europe, as well as some finger-licking local delicacies. Be sure to try warm waffles, flipped straight from the griddle, and the crunchy-crusted, fluffy-centred chips that seem to be served with almost everything. Rumpunsch is a traditional, festive drink: a heady mix of red wine, rum, tea and spices.
In addition to the gifts and food, there’s plenty for those travelling with little ones to any of Brussels Christmas Markets. Look out for the spectacular Ferris wheel, which offers superb views of the city, or test your balancing abilities with a turn on the city’s central ice-rink.
An Alternative Market
For something a little out of the ordinary, head for the Ateliers des Tanneurs Christmas Market, which is held in the Re:Creation Hall, about 10 minutes from the Place de la Chapelle. A truly alternative Brussels Christmas Market, it’s defiantly ‘green’ and a dedicated supporter of the city’s vibrant artistic scene. You’ll find over 30 artists, sculptors and artisans offering their unique wares, alongside stall-holders offering everything from retro jewellery to vintage clothing. Organic beauty products perfume the air with fresh and beguiling scents, while eco-friendly tailors offer the latest in sustainably-sourced and handmade clothing.
Alongside more traditional dishes such as sugar-dusted doughnuts and hot chocolate, you’ll find stalls offering tacos, mushroom-based meals, and there’s even a chance to sample the latest food-fad whole it’s still hot: edible insects.
Put the shopping on ice
While not strictly one of Brussels Christmas markets, the Ice Magic Festival ought to be somewhere near the top of your list of things to see and do. Housed in a temporary structure outside the city’s Royal Palace, you’ll find an astonishing array of jaw dropping exhibits, all sculpted from ice. You’ll need to wrap up warm, as the temperature inside the building is kept at a beard-freezing -6°C. However, once you’re in, you’ll find statues, sculptures and even buildings, all carved from blocks of ice and illuminated with spectacular lighting effects.
Each year, the festival follows a theme. Recent ones have included ‘heroes’, which saw the likes of Spiderman, Superman and the Smurfs rendered in ice. The festival isn’t just a spectator sport; there are even exhibits you can interact with. The ice bar seems to be popular with adults, while children are naturally drawn to the fantastic ice slide. If things get a little on the nippy side, there is a café in which you can enjoy a warming much of velvety, Belgian hot chocolate. If you’re looking for gifts to buy, there are a few stalls outside the building, selling ice-themed items and, for those who haven’t had enough, ice cream.
Have you ever been to Brussels? What bargains did you pick up at the christmas markets? Let me know in the comments below!