3 mins

5 unforgettable Belgian Christmas markets

We’ve got chills – they’re multiplying! From Gothic Christmas to crafts in a cave, Belgium’s winter markets offer some dramatic twists on the classic German version...

Grand Place at Christmas, Brussels (Shutterstock)

1. Brussels Christmas Market, Grand Place, Brussels

Grand Place, Brussels at Christmas (Shutterstock)

Grand Place, Brussels at Christmas (Shutterstock)

Where else to begin but in Brussels’ Grand Place? Come winter, coloured lights gloss over its gilded facades while music bellows from speakers in hourly evening shows - all as a nativity scene, food stalls and the occasional choir vie for attention below in what is the Belgian capital’s centrepiece.

From there, the festival spreads out across the historic centre with the annual return of the ice rink, big wheel and some 200 market stalls to its stately squares and Neoclassical boulevards.

Christmas cheer runs from: 29 November 2019 to 5 January 2020.

More information: Visit Brussels

2. Bruges Christmas Market, Markt & Simon Stevinplein, Bruges

Bruges Markt Square lit up for Christmas (Shutterstock)

Bruges Markt Square lit up for Christmas (Shutterstock)

If want to party like it's 1499, Bruges is every bit the medieval fairytale, and never more compelling than when its Gothic bravado peers out from under a thin dusting of snow.

Yes, its busy, but its artisanal markets are at least spread over two spots, with the most popular being the food and craft stalls hunched below the auspices of its Belfort in Markt, where horse-drawn carriages are always ready to whisk you round the cobbles with a glass of mulled wine in hand.

Green concerns have put paid to its annual ice sculpture festival, but you can always follow the illuminated trails to the eco-friendly ice rink in Minnewater Park if you want to escape the souvenir hunters.   

Christmas cheer runs from: 22 November to 5 January 2020.

More information: Visit Bruges

3. Ghent Winter Festival, Korenmarkt, Ghent

Ghent Winter Festival (Visit Ghent)

Ghent Winter Festival (Visit Ghent)

Ghent is a little like Bruges but without the hard sell. Like its near neighbour, its medieval heart has barely changed in 600 years, yet the vibe is less Disney-fied.

Here, under the Gothic leer of its stately cathedral and church, some 150 craft and food chalets line the historic centre, from Korenmarkt to Sint-Baafsplein, with only the twinkling ferris wheel to remind you that the reign of the Habsburgs is long gone.

Look out especially for the eye-catching open City Pavilion, which hosts a rather elegant skating rink. 

Christmas cheer runs from: 6 December 2019 to 5 January 2020.

More information: Visit Ghent

4. Bassenge Christmas Craft Market, The Caves of Wonck, Bassenge

Liège City Hall lit up at Christmas time (Shutterstock)

Liège City Hall lit up at Christmas time (Shutterstock)

For the usual big-city festivities, Liège is Wallonias big hitter. Markets? Check. Ice rink? Check. Annual winter circus festival? Errcheck. 

But if you want something a little more offbeat, head 24km north to Bassenge and its nearby 2,000-year-old limestone cave network.

Having doubled as a bomb shelter in World War II, its now mostly used to grow mushrooms, but for a few days a year it becomes the setting for a magical Christmas Craft Market. Some 75 stalls squeeze into two echoing caverns.

Christmas cheer runs from: 13 to 15 December 2019

More information: Wallonia Tourism

5. Ostend’s Winter in the Park, Leopold Park, Ostend

Winter in the Park (Visit Oostende/Nick Decombel)

Winter in the Park (Visit Oostende/Nick Decombel)

Yes, Antwerp may be the glitzier option, but the seaside city of Ostend offers a rather different take on a Flanders winter. If the biting wind and the sight of snow on the beach isnt enough to chill your bones, skating on the vast frozen pond of Leopold Park will.

Warm up with a tartiflette (gooey cheese, lardons and potatoes) and a stroll around its 50 food and craft stalls, or take a selfie under the lights canopy’ on Adolf Buylstraat shopping street. Then, if youre brave enough, you can even join the New Years Dive (on 4 January) as thousands of local plunge into the chilly North Sea for ‘fun’.

Christmas cheer runs from: 29 November 2019 to 5 January 2020.

More information: Visit Oostende

Love Christmas markets? Keep exploring:

The quirkiest Christmas markets of eastern Europe

10 of the best classic German Christmas markets

5 stunning French Christmas markets

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