The Brussels Christmas Market is the very best display of Christmas the country has to offer. The 3 kilometers of wooden chalets and 160 brightly decorated streets will convince even the most ardent Grinch. As a local, I am happy to help you navigate all the Brussels Christmas shenanigans!
Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year. End of November the Christmas decorations go up in my house and plans are made to visit Christmas markets galore. We Belgians tend to keep it on the down low, but we have some stellar Christmas markets to pick from!
Living in Brussels, I visit the Christmas Market in Brussels, multiple times each year. The gentle sprawl of wooden chalets, twinkling lights, and ever-present wafts of mulled wine transform the historical center into a Christmas bonanza.
Below you will find my local guide to the Brussels Christmas Market. From typical Belgian Christmas foods & drinks to practical information about payment and public bathrooms, this guide has it all! It also contains a handful of additional things to do in Brussels at Christmas.
Brussels Christmas Market Quick Guide
HOTELS IN BRUSSELS BY THE MARKETS
LATEST DATES FOR THE CHRISTMAS MARKET: The Brussels Christmas Market starts the last week of November and runs until the 31st of December.
WHAT TO WEAR: December can be fickle. Some years you need a simple raincoat, while others thermals are required. The general rule of thumb is to dress in layers. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes as the historical center is lined with cobblestones.
MORE GUIDES TO BRUSSELS: I have a lot more reading material on Brussels you might like to browse through. Brunch Guide to Brussels; Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurants in Brussels; One Day in Brussels Guide are but a few.
Where Does the Christmas Market in Brussels Take Place
As briefly mentioned Christmas in Brussels is not just held in one specific place each of the nineteen communes of the city tends to set up a small Christmas market. So for this article, I will focus on the activities held in and around the historical centre.
GOOD TO KNOW | The below-mentioned locations are all within walking distance from each other.
Grand Place Brussel
The Grand Place of Brussels or Main Square holds the UNESCO heritage guild houses and the town hall. Previously the square would hold a select few Christmas stalls, however, this is no longer the case. On the square, you will find a gargantuan live nativity scene and a larger-than-life Christmas tree.
The Grand Place in Brussels is also where the traditional light show takes place (more on that later).
La Bourse & Boulevard Anspach
A part of the Boulevard Anspach (Anspach Laan) was pedestrianized a few years ago and has since then truly begun to thrive! The portion right in front of La Bourse has a flurry of wooden chalets serving all types of foods and (alcoholic) beverages.
TIP | La Bourse has just been renovated and is a beautiful space to visit.
Place Saint Catherine
This small square has a handful of little chalets which serve a variety of different drinks and foods. As dusk settles in the Saint Catherine Church is beautifully illuminated. This is also the place you will find a large carrousel with, slightly creepy figurines. Kids love it, but I have always found it slightly daunting.
TIP | A small red cart stands at the very beginning of Place Saint Catherine. It is a local institution as it serves some of the city’s strongest cocktails, on the go.
Marché aux Poissons // Vismet
The largest Christmas Market of Brussels is on the Marché aux Poissons. Officially it goes by the name Winter Wonders (Winter Wonderland//Plaisirs d’Hivers). This square holds a sea of wooden chalets selling food, drinks and various artisanal goods.
In the middle of the square there is another vintage carrousel and at the very end stands a large red Ferris Wheel. This is the place you will find the most public toilets, should the need arise.
Place de Brouckère
Walk from La Bourse, along the Boulevard Anspach to the Place de Brouckère. This whole portion of the pedestrianized street is usually prettily decorated. Place de Brouckère itself holds a few chalets serving food and drink, but most importantly this is where you will find the ice skating rink.
TIP | Head into Cirio to try a typical Brussels drink called half en half: Half a glass of white wine mixed with half a glass of champagne or a similar sparking wine.
Place de la Monnaie
Place de la Monnaie is similar to Place de Brouckère in terms of Christmas offerings. It holds a select few stalls and a second ice skating ring.
The Tour Noire was once part of the historic, Medieval, wall around Brussels. At Christmas, it has a handful of little stalls selling artisanal crafts and of course delicious Christmas nosh! Usually, there are small musical performances held here throughout December.
When does the Christmas Market of Brussels Start
The Christmas Market in Brussels traditionally starts the last week of November and runs through until the very last week of December. Unlike Christmas markets in other parts of Belgium, it does not close on Christmas Eve!
The market is open every day from 12.00 pm to 10.00 pm except on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve when the market closes at 06.00 pm.
5 Unmissable Things to Do at the Brussels Christmas Market
1. Eat the Christmas Foods
The beauty of the Christmas Market in Brussels is the sheer abundance of different foods. There is no other Christmas Market in Belgium where you can find Albanian Christmas food alongside flamküchen and waffles. Below are a few items that we Belgians will traditionally eat for Christmas.
CHOCOLATE: Truffles, pralines, chocolate fountains, hot chocolate. You name it, and it will probably be sold in chocolate form on the Christmas Market.
TARTIFLETTE: A French dish that we love around Christmas. Made with potatoes, cheese, lardons and onions
BEIGNETS: Type of fritter, made with deep-fried pastry and generously coated with powdered sugar.
CHURROS: Somehow this typical Spanish snack made its way over to every single Christmas Market in Belgium. Small or big, they will always serve Churos. Fried dough coated in lots of chocolate.
SAUSAGES: Small, large, with or without onions, slide inside a bun or fly solo.
FRIES: You will be able to eat the typical fries at the Christmas Market in Brussels, though truth be told we Belgians do not tend to eat fries at the Christmas Market.
FUN ACTIVITY | Book yourself a dedicated Brussels Christmas Market Tour with a local guide and let them take you around all the typical Christmas food & drink stands!
2. Drink Traditional Christmas Drinks
JENEVER/GENEVER/PEKET: A strong spirit that goes by a variety of different names. Genever is a spirit crafted from malt wine and a blend of botanicals, including juniper, coriander, and various spices. It comes in endless different flavors and is served in a shot glass.
MULLED WINE: There is nothing that screams Christmas more than a cup of mulled wine. Red wine with spices like cinnamon, cloves, and citrus zest. It’s sweetened with sugar and often fortified with brandy.
HOT CHOCOLATE: Hot chocolate is another staple at a proper Christmas Market. Most stalls offer regular hot chocolate, but on the Vismet usually, there are one or two that will offer a fortified hot chocolate i.e. with a shot of alcohol mixed in.
3. Ride the Ferris Wheel
For those who know Brussels a little, this Ferris Wheel might seem familiar. It is in fact the Ferris Wheel that usually stands on Place Poelaert, right next to the Palace of Justice. During the Christmas season, it is moved to the Vismet.
Last year was the first time I rode in the Ferris Wheel and it was so much fun. The views from the top are absolutely unbeatable. Your ticket will allow you to make the full loop two or three times (depending on the occupancy of the Ferris Wheel).
OPENING HOURS | From 12 pm – 10 pm daily.
LOCATION | Vismet
PRICE | €9 ($10) for adults; €6 ($7) for under 12-year olds. Payment by card is possible
GOOD TO KNOW | No drinks or food allowed on the Ferris Wheel.
4. Watch the Lightshow on the Grand Place
I remember the very first time I walked on the Grand Place around Christmas and all of a sudden the buildings were engulfed in colorful light and music started playing. After recovering from the initial shock, it turned out to be a wonderful experience. One that I go to every year in fact!
TIMING | From 5 pm – 10 pm daily. Monday – Friday: Hourly; Saturday & Sunday: Every 30 min
LOCATION | Grand Place Brussels
GOOD TO KNOW | The Grand Place tends to get pretty packed so keep that in mind
INSIDER TIP | The Warwick Hotel has an incredible terrace with a view over the Grand Place. If you are still looking for a place to stay that is central and near the Christmas Markets, this is it!
5. Have a look at the Christmas Tree on the Grand Place
While the Grand Place itself might not have any wooden chalets serving up piping hot mulled wine, it is nevertheless still very much worth going to check out. The Christmas Tree that adorns the center of the square is traditionally one of the largest in the country.
Right opposite the Christmas Tree stands the nativity scene. Until quite recently it was a live nativity scene, however last year the animals were replaced by statues. Once Christmas rolls around I will have to check what this years nativity scene brings and keep you posted!
4 Additional Things to Do in Brussels at Christmas
1. Attend a Christmas Carol Concert
Nothing spells Christmas more than Christmas Carols. Unfortunately in Belgium, we do not have the Carol singers that seem to make an appearance in every American Christmas movie. But, we do have a Christmas Carol Concert which is put on yearly for charity. Find out more on their website.
2. Take a Christmas Tour
If you are not super familiar with Brussels why not look into getting a local to help you! I have personally taken this Christmas Tour when friends from out of town were visiting and absolutely loved it!
3. Indulge in All the Chocolate
This is pretty solid advice year-round if you are visiting Brussels. The city has a great selection of chocolatiers that cannot be found anywhere else in the country.
Stay away from the commercialized chocolates like Leonidas (way too buttery) and instead try Neuhaus (very cool advent calendar) or Laurent Gerbaud (interesting flavors) or Mary (excellent truffles).
TIP | Book a Chocolate Walking Tour around Christmas and see all the finely decorated stores while your local guide tells you exactly which Belgian chocolates to try.
4. Winter Pop & Other Winter Villages in Brussels
Slightly outside the historical center in Square Ambiorix and further afield in Laeken and Neder-Over-Heembeek the Christmas festivities continue with their very own Winter Villages. With live music, parades and various shows. Each year the activities are slightly different. Find this year’s activities on their website.
Where to Stay in Brussels Near the Christmas Markets
The choice of where to stay is a pretty important one; Further away is more budget-friendly but a pain in the butt after a few too many cups of mulled wine, while being closer to the festivities means pricier and the risk of noise pollution. Check out hotels more hotel options in Brussels.
BEST VIEWS & LOCATION: Warwick Grand Place ($$$)
The Warwick Hotel has the best location smack in the center of town, 3 min walk from the Grand Place. Plus the views their rooftop over the Grand Place are unbeatable. This
Brussels is a big city, do you know which part of the city is best suited for you during your stay? Coming from a local, there are 10 areas I would recommend for different types of travelers.
Is Visiting Brussels at Christmas Worth It
With over 160 brightly lit streets and 3 km (1.8 mi) of wooden chalets, there is plenty to see, do, eat, and drink in the city. The hodgepodge of different cultures that is quintessential Brussels truly flourishes during Christmas. It was voted one of the best Christmas markets in Europe multiple times for a reason!
Balkan skewers, Belgian tartiflette, and Spanish Churros rub elbows in adjourning food stalls. Washed down with a traditional mulled wine, Belgian beer, or a Christmas market classic, hot chocolate. One thing is for sure, the Brussels Christmas market is best visited on an empty stomach.
There is no beating about the bush, December in Belgium is gray, wet and utterly depressing. The abundance of Christmas lights, and cultural activities the city puts on really help keep the winter blues at bay. In fact, I actually love spending December in Brussels for this very reason.
Practical Tips for Visiting the Christmas Markets of Brussels
This portion of the guide contains a slew of practical details, which might not be the most interesting read but they sure are worth a skim through before you hit the Christmas market.
Are there public toilets on the Brussels Christmas market?
If it’s your first time in Belgium then it’s noteworthy to mention that the use of bathrooms if oftentimes not free (unless you are a paying customer). The public toilets on the Christmas market cost €0.5 per visit/per person, to be paid in cash only.
Public toilets are indicated on the specific Christmas signposts (see below). You will find one set at La Bourse and another in the middle of the Vismet at approximately the height of the carrousel. Though the exact location may vary.
When does the Christmas market start
The last week of November and it runs until the 31st of December
How to get to the Brussels Christmas market
Take the train to Brussels Central and walk to the Grand Place (10 min walk).
Can I pay by card at the Christmas market in Brussels
Yes, nearly all the stands on the Christmas market accept card payment. For the deposit of your reusable cup, you will need to have €1 coin on hand.
How do I get around the markets
All the Christmas markets in the historical center of Brussels are within walking distance from each other. Bright colorful signposts indicate which direction you need to go (see below image of the signposts).
How do the reusable cups work at the Christmas market of Brussels
To combat waste, the Brussels Christmas market introduced reusable cups many years back. These plastic beakers change each year. When you want to purchase your first beverage, the stand will ask for your beaker. If you do not have one, then a surcharge of €1 will be added to your drink.
This surcharge serves as your deposit for the beaker. Before heading home, simply hand in your beaker at any stand offering drinks and they will give your €1 deposit back.
What should I wear to the market?
Make sure to wear a pair of comfortable shoes as part of the Christmas market runs over cobblestones. As for clothing, you will want to wear layers. Temperatures tend to drop drastically when the sun goes down.
Christmas Markets Around Brussels
If you are spending a few more days in Belgium and want to get in some more Christmas vibes, you might want to consider taking one of the many day trips from Brussels to one of the nearby cities.
BRUGES // 1h Train Ride from Brussels
Arguably one of the most picturesque places in Belgium. The UNESCO-classified historical center is beautifully decked out with stalls adorning the Grote Markt and the Simon Stevinplein.
Runs from the 3e week of November to the first week of January. Open daily from 10.00 am to 11.00 pm.
ANTWERP // 40 Min Train Ride from Brussels
Once the most important city of the Low Countries, now the fashion capital of Belgium. Antwerp is a vibrant city. The Christmas market is held on the Grote Markt, Suikerrui, Steenplein and Handschoenmarkt. Runs the second week of December to the first week of January. Open daily from 12.00 pm to 10.00 pm
NAMUR // 1h10 Min Train Ride from Brussels
Smaller and lesser-known than the aforementioned Christmas Markets, but nonetheless well worth a visit. Namur Christmas market sprawls across Place de l’Ange, Place d’Armes and Place du Théâtre.
Runs from the last weekend in November until December 31st. Open daily from 11.00 am to 08.00 pm and 10.30 pm in weekends.
Minimise Your Impact When Visiting Brussels at Christmas
Christmas markets are wonderful to visit, not just due to the abundance of food and general merriment but also because the support the local economy and provide a welcome opportunity for artisans to showcase their work.
Yet there is also a flipside to that Christmas coin: mountains of single-use plastic, heavy congestion due to additional traffic, and high-priced rent for stalls pricing out local artisans in favor of larger companies with mass-produced goods. Below are a few pointers to make your visit more sustainable.
TAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Ditch the car, chances are high you will only end up in a nerve-wracking struggle to find parking anyway. Take the train into the city, get off at Brussels Central Station and walk.
BRING BACK YOUR REUSABLE CUPS: Do not throw out your reusable cups but make sure to bring them back before you head home.
PURCHASE LOCAL: If you are in the mood to buy a souvenir, ask where it was made before you purchase. There are still local artisans showcasing their goods.
STAY A LITTLE LONGER: Consider making your visit to Brussels a weekend trip instead of a day trip.
GETTING THERE: Brussels can easily be reached by train from all major cities including Paris and Amsterdam.
MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING BRUSSELS
FOOD: Best brunch in Brussels
FOOD: Vegetarian & Vegan restaurants in Brussels
TO DO: How to spend a weekend in Brussels
TO EXPLORE: 31 Day Trips from Brussels
TO STAY: Where to stay in Brussels
BELGIUM: Beautiful places in Belgium to add to your bucket list
BELGIUM 16 Castles you can actually stay in Belgium