If your idea of a perfect Christmas includes going out and visiting festive markets and attractions in a fairytale-like town or city, then Belgium is the best place to be. It’s like living in a real-life Christmas Village! From enchanting Christmas markets and dazzling light displays to exquisite dining and cultural performances, the country’s festive offerings are sure to leave you with a heart full of holiday cheer.
As 2023 unfolds, Belgium gears up for another enchanting Christmas season, offering a unique blend of tradition, charm, and festive cheer. In this article, we’ll guide you through the festive activities, events, Christmas markets, fairs, fun attractions, dining experiences, and more that await those celebrating Christmas in Belgium for the first time in 2023.
1. Don’t miss the Brussels Winter Wonders Festival
Visiting Belgium for the first time? Your trip won’t be complete without visiting Brussels, its capital city.
The Brussels Winter Wonders Festival is a highlight, featuring a stunning Christmas market, an ice rink, a Ferris wheel, and an enchanting light show on the Grand Place. This festival transforms the heart of Brussels into a winter wonderland that’s perfect for families and solo travelers alike.
2. Christmas markets extravaganza around Belgium
Immerse yourself in the magic of Belgium’s Christmas markets. From the iconic Winter Wonders Festival in Brussels to the fairytale setting of the Bruges Christmas Market, these markets offer a treasure trove of artisanal crafts, festive decorations, and local delicacies.
- Brussels Christmas Market: The largest and most famous Christmas market in Belgium, with over 200 stalls selling everything from Christmas decorations and handcrafted gifts to local food and drinks.
- Bruges Christmas Market: This picturesque market is located in the heart of the historic city center, offering a charming setting for shopping and enjoying the festive atmosphere.
- Ghent Christmas Market: This market is known for its unique stalls selling handcrafted items and local delicacies. It also features a beautiful nativity scene and a Ferris wheel.
- Antwerp Christmas Market: This market offers a mix of traditional and modern stalls, with a focus on local crafts and design. It also features a large Ferris wheel with views of the city.
- Leuven Christmas Market: This market has a cozy atmosphere, with wooden stalls selling Christmas decorations, handicrafts, and regional specialties.
3. Feast your eyes on magical light displays
The magic begins after sundown in Belgium!
This Christmas, captivating light displays adorn Belgium’s medieval architecture, cobblestone streets, and postcard-worthy squares, creating a perfect backdrop for a romantic and festive holiday. Explore The Grand Place in Brussels, the Belfry of Bruges, and Antwerp’s Cathedral of Our Lady are just a few of the places where dazzling lights create a magical ambiance.
Aside from the major cities, parks, squares, and public places in other smaller cities and towns will also be transformed into magical attractions this Christmas. If your base is a hotel in Ostend, check out Winter in the Park Ostend set in Leopold Park, a real-life Winter Wonderland beautifully decorated with captivating lights and a gigantic Christmas tree.
4. Go ice skating against historic landmarks
Lace-up your skates and glide across the ice at one of the many temporary rinks set up in towns and cities. Some popular locations include the Grand Place in Brussels, the Korenmarkt in Ghent, the Grote Markt in Antwerp, Leuven City Hall, and the Grote Markt in Bruges. Set against historic backdrops, these ice skating rinks offer a magical experience for visitors of all ages.
5. Watch Christmas concerts, carols, and performances
Forget Mariah Carey’s Christmas hit — enjoy the heartwarming sounds of the season at Christmas concerts, caroling events, and performances held in iconic venues. From carol singers in medieval squares to orchestral performances in historic churches, Belgium’s rich cultural scene comes alive during the holiday season.
6. Savour delectable Belgian cuisine and seasonal treats
Indulge in the delectable flavors of Belgian Christmas cuisine. Savor warm waffles dusted with powdered sugar, enjoy crispy speculoos cookies, and treat yourself to exquisite Belgian chocolates. Don’t forget to try a cup of steaming glühwein (mulled wine) at the markets.
- Christmas Eve Dinner: Level up your dining experience with a festive Christmas dinner in a cozy Belgian restaurant. Traditionally, Belgians enjoy a lavish Christmas Eve dinner with roast goose, seafood, and other festive dishes. Many restaurants offer special holiday menus featuring traditional dishes with a gourmet twist during this time.
- Christmas Day Brunch: Enjoy a leisurely Christmas Day brunch at a hotel or restaurant, with a selection of traditional breakfast dishes, pastries, and festive drinks.
- Belgian Beer Tasting: What’s a celebration without drinking? Elevate your Christmas spirit with a Belgian beer-tasting experience. Sample a variety of seasonal brews, including Christmas ales and winter warmers, at local breweries or cozy pubs. The rich and diverse Belgian beer culture adds a unique touch to your holiday celebrations.
- Christmas Treats: Be sure to try some of the delicious Christmas treats available in Belgium, such as speculoos cookies, gingerbread houses, and chocolate Santas.
7. Visit Belgium’s historic cathedrals and churches
Attend a Christmas Eve Mass in one of Belgium’s historic cathedrals or churches. The midnight Mass in places like St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral in Brussels or St. Salvator’s Cathedral in Bruges provides a spiritually uplifting way to usher in Christmas.
In addition, discover the artistry of Belgian nativity scenes at museums and churches. These exhibits showcase the creativity and craftsmanship of local artists, providing a unique perspective on the Christmas story.
- Bundle up! The weather in Belgium can be cold and snowy during Christmastime, so be sure to pack warm clothes.
- Book your accommodations in advance. Hotels and other accommodations tend to fill up quickly during the holidays, so book your room as early as possible.
- Learn some basic Dutch or French: Although English is spoken in some tourist areas, knowing a few basic phrases in the local language will be helpful.
- Enjoy the festive atmosphere! Relax, take in the sights and sounds, and savor the magic of Christmas in Belgium.
Christmas in Belgium in 2023 promises a magical and memorable experience for first-time travelers. Embrace the warmth of Belgian hospitality and the joy of the season as you create lasting memories during this special Christmas celebration in the heart of Europe.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is a passionate content writer who loves traveling, discovering new food, taking photos, and of course, writing. She’s got a lot to say about travel, dining, cultural appreciation and lifestyle. To learn more about hotel and tourism tips, you may visit Leopold Hotel Ostend.