Brussels Christmas Market Information (2023)


We began our go to to the Brussels Christmas market like many individuals do any time of the yr—in Grand Place. It’s, in spite of everything, the grand place. It’s the important sq. of Brussels, the middle of every part within the metropolis. In its Seventeenth-century glory, it’s (not less than for us) not solely the prettiest sq. in Brussels however one of many prettiest squares in all of Europe.

And, at night time in winter, Grand Place comes alive.

As we took our place among the many crowd, we watched because the royal blue crept throughout the spire of the City Corridor. The silver blanketed the façade of the white and gold guildhouses that when housed the butchers, weavers, blacksmiths, and different tradespeople, throwing all of the mouldings into stark reduction.

Crowd watching light show on the exterior of historic buildings.
The buildings of Grand Place lit up at night time

Someway, every part seemed liquid and sensible, painted the colours of the rainbow. Within the center, the tree shone brightly. Each inch of the sq. was packed. It was the nightly mild present and our introduction to Christmas in Belgium.

 

The place are the Brussels Christmas Markets?

The Christmas markets in Brussels entice 2.5 million guests every year. With the sounds of carols, the scents of scrumptious meals, and the glittering of lights, they’re technically divided into six sections with completely different layouts and barely completely different focuses. In actuality, they begin at Grand Place and meander west and north for over a mile, the entire space merging into one large celebration.

Grand Place

Grand Place is the middle of the Christmas market. And, but, there’s no precise market there.

Nativity scene with people and animals in a barn.
The nativity scene in Grand Place

There are parades in Grand Place, and it’s the web site of the markets’ most distinguished Christmas tree and the most important nativity scene. As in Rockefeller Heart in New York, a large Norway Spruce will get a particular convoy to the middle of city the place it’s brilliantly adorned and turns into a part of the festivities.

Greater than 10 instances an evening, the sq. floods with crowds anxious to witness the lights spectacular, even when they’ve seen it two or 3 times already. The opulent buildings themselves are a UNESCO World Heritage Website, and there’s nothing fairly like seeing them lit up this manner.

Building with a large tower lit up blue at night.
Brussels City Corridor is likely one of the metropolis’s important points of interest

Each half-hour from 5:30 till 10:30, folks assemble for the sunshine present. They jockey for simply the proper angle to seize the proper picture of City Corridor, and so they pose in entrance of the tree. They purchase thick, whipped cream-topped scorching goodies created from actual melted chocolate at Godiva. They wait in line to see the wardrobe of the well-known peeing statue Manneken Pis who, inexplicably, is the town’s important attraction and has been wearing a rotating checklist of bizarre costumes for greater than 200 years.

However there are not any distributors right here. No mulled wine, nothing to purchase or style past the retailers that decision the historic buildings dwelling year-round. However nobody minds.

The Bourse

Visitors to market stalls in front of large building with columns.
The stalls in entrance of The Bourse give attention to foods and drinks

Leaving Grand Place is the place the market a part of the Brussels Christmas market actually begins.

A lot of the 230+ stalls might be discovered within the space across the Bourse then heading west to Place Sainte-Catherine and the Marché aux Poissons and north to Place de la Monnaie and Place De Brouckère. It’s a sea of crafts, Christmas ornaments, items, winter equipment, foods and drinks, and extra.

Not removed from the Bourse, we discovered our first oyster distributors of the market. Paired with Champagne, they’re top-of-the-line issues you possibly can strive in Brussels at Christmas. Distributors promoting treats like this had been lined up by jewellery distributors, sweet sellers, and even stalls promoting merchandise from Greece, Germany, Spain, and the additional reaches of Europe.

People at market stall selling wines of Belgium
Guests sampling wine

As we labored our approach across the Bourse, there was gluhwein. A lot gluhwein. And genever, eierpunsch (the German equal of heat egg nog), and different festive drinks.

Simply in entrance of the previous inventory change on Rue Orts had been the stalls of the featured nation. Yearly, a distinct nation from around the globe is featured, bringing their meals and Christmas traditions to the market goers in Belgium.

Salmon being smoked over an open fire.
There are sudden meals like sides of salmon

In celebration of Finland, there have been full sides of salmon being smoked on cedar planks over open fires. A Lapland tent welcomed guests escaping the climate, and Finnish music and dance had been on full show. Reindeer pelts, sweaters, and different specialties had been on the market. The sales space employees provided beneficiant samples of glog– the Finnish equal of gluhwein—to passersby.

The featured nation varies every year together with the shows, crafts, and meals. But it surely’s truthful to say that the distributors go all out to proudly introduce their tradition to the attendees. In 2023, the main focus is the 11 Indigenous Nations of Quebec who will current dances, songs, lectures, and multimedia experiences.

Place de la Monnaie

Ferris wheel behind champagne bar tent
The Champagne bar tent is a vacation spot

About 3 blocks from the Bourse, the Place de la Monnaie has a small group of chalets that includes typical mountain meals in addition to the favored Champagne bar that attracts a crowd each time it’s open. There’s additionally a digital actuality dome the place youngsters can expertise unimaginable adventures with out leaving the consolation of their cozy seat.

Place De Brouckère

People skating on covered ice skating rink
Youngsters having fun with the ice skating rink

Place De Brouckère is the place we discovered the ice skating rink. The lined rink is a good place for youths (or anybody who’s a child at coronary heart) to be taught to skate or to point out off their greatest strikes. There’s even a particular space devoted for toddlers and really younger youngsters.

When you’ve ever wished to strive curling, try the three artificial curling rinks arrange right here. It’s enjoyable however tougher than it seems, particularly should you’re aggressive like we’re.

There are about 20 meals stalls that includes a lot of worldwide meals across the rinks to maintain your vitality up for skating and purchasing. When you’re in search of falafel, Japanese dishes, or churros, you’ll discover it right here. There are additionally loads of Belgian candies, toys, and crafts.

Place Sainte-Catherine and Marché aux Poissons

Church lit up in multiple colors for light show.
The sunshine present at St. Catherine’s Church

By the point we reached Place Sainte-Catherine, it was exhausting to imagine there could possibly be extra to see, however we had been actually simply getting began.

The sq. in entrance of St. Catherine’s Church was full of meals and beverage stalls, and the church itself turned a part of the celebrations. As in Grand Place, the façade of the church was lit up in a spectacle each half-hour all through the night time. Summary shapes and vibrant colours crawled throughout the constructing in a novel show of video mapping whereas crowds gathered to look at the present.

Behind the church is the place it obtained much more festive.

Carousel and Ferris wheel
Carnival rides are standard on the market
People walking through rows of Christmas market vendors
Distributors and crowds at Marché aux Poissons

Stretching out by means of the Marché aux Poissons (the previous fish market) had been row upon row of distributors. Some huts pedaled tartiflette, a tacky potato concoction, whereas others bought Belgian beer and native liquor. There have been winter slippers, Christmas village homes, scarfs, hats, and something sensible or impractical you possibly can ever need for the vacation season.

In the midst of all of it, a cheerful carousel welcomed a number of the smallest guests. On the finish of the rows, a large, illuminated Ferris wheel and different fairground points of interest stored everybody entertained.

Shoppers at Christmas market stalls with church in the background.
Buyers at market stalls close to sundown

We wandered the lanes, considering what to purchase and what to eat. Then we wandered them once more to lastly make our choices. And one other time simply because it was a lot enjoyable.

Tour Noire

Stage in front of medieval tower surrounded by modern building
The Black Tower is the backdrop for a part of the market

Simply behind St. Catherine’s Church, the Tour Noire (Black Tower) is likely one of the best-preserved medieval relics in Brussels. It was as soon as a part of the town wall however is now surrounded by a contemporary lodge.

The sq. on the foot of Tour Noire hosts a comfortable market. We discovered an igloo tent the place musical performances happened all through the market season. There have been additionally chalets with meals and crafts and a collection of choices from Canada, in case you have got a yearning for maple syrup or want a syrup-scented candle (I did).

This yr, the world on the Tour Noire caters closely to youngsters with storytelling, musicians, road artwork, and extra.

Chalets selling food and gifts behind a church.
Market stalls behind St. Catherine’s Church
Ferris wheel and food stalls lit up.

What to eat in Brussels at Christmas

Together with the lights, decorations, purchasing, and music, consuming and ingesting is a key a part of the enjoyable on the Christmas markets. Hold a glance out for these treats as you make your approach by means of the aisles of chalets.

Potato dish for sale at market food stall.
Tartiflette is a heat deal with

Tartiflette – Whereas it’s not Belgian in origin, tartiflette is likely one of the hottest dishes within the Belgium Christmas markets. Made in large skillets that appear like paella pans, tartiflette is a heat, filling dish made with potatoes, cheese, lardons, onions, and white wine. It’s the proper consolation meals for a day on the markets.

Gluhwein/Vin chaud – The preferred drink on the Christmas markets is gluhwein. Sizzling mulled wine infused with spices like cinnamon and cloves, it’s the proper factor to maintain you heat.

Waffles– Waffles are virtually synonymous with Brussels, however do you know there’s no such factor as a Belgian waffle? As an alternative, search for the sweeter, extra compact Liege waffle or a fluffier Brussels waffle. Both approach, be sure to’re getting a scorching, freshly made one—not one which’s been sitting round awhile. When you can’t discover what you’re in search of out there, head to Maison Dandoy for a scrumptious deal with.

Oysters and champagne for sale.
Oysters and champagne are a market delicacy

Oysters – One could not consider a Christmas market or a road meals stand because the place to go for oysters, however you’d be lacking out. All through the previous city, there are a handful of stands promoting oysters and different seafood together with nice white wines and champagne. It’s the proper deal with to accompany the sunshine present at Place Sainte-Catherine.

Genever – We first got here to like genever, a well-liked clear spirit, once we visited Amsterdam. It’s been round for 500 years, and, again then, the Netherlands and Belgium had been a part of the identical kingdom, so the stuff we beloved within the Netherlands is identical in Belgium.

Genever known as the grandfather of gin. A juniper flavored spirit, genever is a mix of impartial alcohol and malted wine. It’s obtainable in dozens of flavors within the Brussels Xmas market—plain, fruity, nutty, chocolaty, and extra. You possibly can pattern the flavors by the shot, usually for about 2€.

People shopping at highly-decorated market stall.
Among the chalets are very elaborate

Market opening instances

This season, the markets will probably be open November 24 by means of December 31, 2023. The festivities at Grand Place, Place De Brouckère, and Place de la Monnaie proceed by means of January 7, 2024.

They’re open every single day from 12 pm to 10 pm, aside from Christmas Eve and New Yr’s Eve when the markets shut at 6pm.

Suggestions for visiting the markets

The best route for visiting the markets (particularly should you’re coming from the Central Station) is to begin at Grand Place and work your approach northwest—first to the Bourse, then onto Place de la Monnaie, Place de Brouckère, Place Sainte-Catherine/Vismet, Tour Noire, and the Marché aux Poissons.

Weekends are essentially the most crowded, so keep away from them, should you can.

Throughout our go to, Christmas Eve on the markets was a lot much less crowded than Christmas Day when it appeared like the entire metropolis had piled into the streets to benefit from the festivities.

Control your belongings, particularly should you’re carrying purchasing baggage—it’s simple for issues to go lacking in crowded locations.

Extra issues to do at Christmas

When you’re visiting Brussels in winter, don’t miss the chance to see the opposite nice issues this stunning metropolis has to supply.

See the lights

People shopping at Christmas market stalls
Town streets are adorned, too

Greater than 100 streets within the metropolis heart are lit up with hundreds of lights for the vacation season. You’ll discover Christmas timber, large snowflakes, glowing arches, lanterns, and many extra decorations. It makes window purchasing and strolling the streets at night time a novel pleasure.

See the view from the Mont des Arts

Among the finest views within the metropolis is from the Mont des Arts (Kunstberg). Head to the highest of the hill not removed from the Royal Museums of the Advantageous Arts and adjoining to the Musical Instrument Museum to look out over the backyard beneath and see the spire of City Corridor.

Don’t miss Manneken Pis

Statue of urinating boy dressed up as Santa
Santa is likely one of the costumes belonging to Manneken Pis

The curious, 2-foot-tall peeing boy statue generally known as Manneken Pis is the highest attraction. In any respect hours of the day, vacationers pour down the road to see the small determine, which was initially made all the way in which again in 1619. When you’re fortunate, you simply may see him dressed up. (To see his full wardrobe, head to the GardeRobe MannekenPis).

For a extra in-depth take a look at what to do and the place to eat in Brussels, see our detailed metropolis information.

Go on a beer crawl

Even should you’ve had your fill of gluhwein and genever, you possibly can’t miss attempting Belgian beer. Probably the most well-known locations to strive lambic beer is Cantillon Brewery (aka Brasserie Cantillon), and you may go to the historic brewery itself only a 20-minute stroll from the town heart. Take a self-guided tour by means of the working brewery and pattern their well-known gueuze and kriek lambics proper from the supply.

When you can’t make it to Cantillon, there are many locations to strive their beers and different Belgian specialties on the town. Among the most well-known beer bars in Brussels embrace A Mort Subite, Moeder Lambic, and Poechenellekelder close to Manneken Pis. Delirium bar, which has 2000+ beers on its checklist and is definitely acknowledged by its pink elephant brand, can be one of many prime spots for sampling beers within the coronary heart of the town.

Stroll the Comedian Guide Route

Street art mural of a cartoon couple in the streets of Brussels
One of many Comedian Guide Route murals

When you’re inquisitive about distinctive road artwork or comics, embrace a number of stops on the Comedian Guide Route in your checklist of what to do in Brussels. There are greater than 50 murals highlighting basic comedian guide characters and authors in addition to points of metropolis life and different distinctive scenes. If that’s not sufficient, cease by the Comedian Guide Museum to be taught concerning the historical past of comics and the way they’re made.

City building decorated for Christmas

The place to remain

There are many nice locations–each accommodations and B&Bs–to remain each within the metropolis heart and in close by neighborhoods. For much more choices and evaluations, check out extra of our lodging suggestions in Brussels.

Artwork de Séjour– Within the coronary heart of the town, Artwork de Séjour is an distinctive mattress and breakfast providing personalised service from an proprietor who’s invested in serving to his friends have an ideal journey. Set in a renovated Nineteenth-century townhouse, Artwork de Séjour has spacious rooms with wifi, satellite tv for pc TV, and a Nespresso machine.

Warwick Brussels–Three blocks from Grand Place and solely two blocks from the central practice station, the Warwick is near the principle points of interest however simply far sufficient away to maintain noise to a minimal. Among the finest accommodations in Brussels, the Warwick presents high-end facilities like a health heart and sauna, three on-site eating places, and even butler service.

Maison Flagey – Within the fashionable Ixelles neighborhood, you’ll discover many historic Artwork Deco buildings. One such constructing from 1906 is dwelling to Maison Flagey, a snug B&B providing fashionable facilities on this basic setting. Breakfast and wifi are included in your keep.

Brussels Christmas Market Guide

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