Named one of Europe’s most beautiful Christmas markets, the Brussels Christmas Market is home to nearly 250 chalets that cover an area of nearly 3km in the heart of Brussels. The market also attracts nearly 2.5 million visitors each year.
Christmas lights, wooden chalet stalls, delicious food, mulled wine, fairgrounds, light shows, and various activities make the Brussels Christmas Market magical. The best part? Unlike other markets in Western Europe that close just before Christmas, this market stays open throughout the holiday period.
Fun fact, the Brussels Christmas Market is part of the Winter Wonders event organized by the Brussels City Council. Along with Christmas stalls, the city also offers cultural activities, a sound and light show, a Christmas tree, an ice rink for skating, and much more. Many of the festival’s activities are free of charge and can be enjoyed by anyone, young and old.
The best places to explore at the Brussels Christmas Market
Although Christmas spirit can be found in every corner of the city, the market has four main areas. Are you ready to explore everything that the Brussels Christmas market offers? Let’s go.
For a truly epic Christmas tree, there is none other than the one found in the Grand Place or Grote Markt. This giant traditional Christmas tree, located right in the center of the square, often measures over 20 meters high. The tree is decorated with LED lights, ornaments, and red streamers that measure over one kilometer long.
And yes, it is a real tree. The tree has traditionally been taken from the Ardennes forest or brought from overseas. In 2014, for example, the tree was brought over from Riga, Latvia.
At the base of the tree, there is also a nativity scene, with a straw-roofed barn lit 24 hours a day. Sometimes there are even live animals like donkeys or sheep in the barn.
During the holiday season, the Grand Place is also home to a stunning 360° sound and light show that illuminates every inch of the square. The show is truly breathtaking, and it’s worth going back to see it more than once.
Practical information: The light show is part of the Winter Wonders festival and repeats throughout the night. During the week (Sunday-Thursday), the show runs every hour, while on Fridays and Saturdays, it is repeated every half an hour. The show usually starts at 5 PM and ends around 10:30 PM. The show is also free of charge.
Bourse & De Brouckere
Leaving Grand Place, you’ll probably wander into Bourse, where the Christmas market begins. Here, you’ll start seeing rows and rows of wooden stalls. The market has become so popular over the years that the kiosks have grown in number in this area and now reach De Brouckere.
If you are looking for food or drinks, this is one of the best places, especially if you’re looking for some international cuisine.
Every year the Christmas Market highlights a specific country as a way to introduce market attendees to the culture, food, and traditions of another, usually European, country. In celebration of that country, there are usually stalls or tents in front of the Bourse that highlight the country’s cuisine, history and culture.
Now, although you’ll be able to find wooden chalet stalls throughout the Centre of Brussels, at this point, you’ll want to head west and walk towards the Marché au Poisson.
Place Sainte-Catherine & Marché aux Poisson
As you walk towards the Marché, stop and enjoy the light show in Place Sainte-Catherine. Every half an hour, the church’s facade lights up with dancing shapes and colors, transforming the building into a moving piece of art. Waiting for the next show? There is also food and gluhwein/vin chaud that you can enjoy while waiting.
Gluhwein is a popular Christmas Market drink. It is hot mulled wine infused with spices—the perfect drink to keep you warm on a cold Brussels night.
Then it’s off the Marché, where you’ll find rows and rows of wooden stalls with snow roofs illuminated with Christmas lights. Here vendors are selling everything imaginable, including Christmas ornaments and delicious food.
At the end of the square, there is a giant Ferris wheel where you can get a bird’s eye view of the Christmas market. Be advised that there is an additional cost to go on the Ferris wheel.
Looking for something to eat? We recommend tartiflette, a French dish made with bacon, onion, potato, cream, and cheese.
Make sure to take the time to visit the Tour Noire, located right behind St. Catherine’s Church. The Tour Noire (or black tower) is home to some of the original Belgium 12th-century walls. The area also has a market that sells products and food from countries worldwide (not just Europe).
Place de la Monnaie
A couple of blocks from Tour Noire is Place de la Monnaie, the perfect spot if you enjoy ice skating. Along with stalls selling Christmas snacks and desserts, you’ll also find a large ice skating rink and the DOME.
The DOME is a 360° high-tech experience and installation. It hosts live performances, concerts, and educational yet funny cartoons of children. It hosts a Saint-Nicolas party for children.
Tips for visiting the Brussels Christmas Market
So now that we’ve convinced you about visiting the Brussels Christmas Market, let’s go over some quick tips on how to make the most of your experience:
- Although you can visit the market during the day, the best time to explore is during the evenings. Also, if possible, avoid the weekends. Friday and Saturday evenings are the most popular times to visit, so crowds are thick, and lines are long.
- Not all vendors will accept cards, especially international or foreign cards, so make sure you bring cash for food, drinks, or any purchases. Be advised that there aren’t that many ATMs in the center. As a result, the ATMs that do exist often have crazy lines. Bring at least 50 euros to avoid the headache, if not more.
- Walking is unavoidable, so wear comfortable walking shoes and dress warmly. Brussels can get quite cold in the evenings, and nothing ruins a night faster than feeling cold.
- If you are traveling with children, be advised that a stroller can be tricky to maneuver around the market. It is also recommended to leave your pet at home as the crowds can be overwhelming, and someone will definitely end up stepping on your pup’s toes.
Final thoughts: the Brussels Christmas Market
Brussels is one of the best Western European cities to visit during Christmas. As mentioned, it is one of the only markets open throughout the holiday season. It is even open on Christmas day and New Year’s day.
The market happens every year and starts on the last Friday of November and runs until the first Sunday of January. This year it will occur from 25 November 2022 to 1 January 2023. The market is open from 12 noon to 10 pm every day, except on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, when it closes at 6 pm.
For more information about the Christmas market and the Winter Wonder festivities, check out the official website here.
Are you going to this year’s Brussels Christmas Market? Let us know in the comments.