Although the city of Brussels does not have the Christmas reputation of other European capitals, December is a very busy month with a lot to offer. The arrival of the winter holidays completely changes the atmosphere and the essence of the city. There are activities and events that you can attend that will, without a doubt, completely change your vacation.
You may not find the typical snowy landscape when you walk through the streets, but that doesn't mean that traveling to Brussels in December is not worthwhile. In addition to what you normally have to see and do in Brussels, here's a list of characteristic activities for this month so you know what's going on in this all-round city.
1. Escape the cold and pay a visit to the museum
If you want to take a little shelter from the low temperatures, enjoying an exhibition can be a great idea. Brussels is a great city with an interesting offer of museums and activities where you will always learn something new. It is important that you find out which are the best museums to see in Brussels and choose the ones that capture your curiosity the most.
One of the famous and must-see Brussels museums is the Atomium, a 102-meter high structure built for the Brussels General Exhibition back in 1958. It is a very famous site among tourists as well as locals, so I recommend you to book your Atomium tickets well in advance.
2. Discover the Christmas market of the Grand Place
In the month of December there is an event called Winter Pleasures (Plaisirs d'Hiver in French), which has been held for two decades in the city of Brussels.
As part of this event, a Christmas market of about 225 stalls, which they call chalets, is set up. These chalets are distributed in different locations in the city center and it is your duty to be able to find and visit them all.
But if you are not very good at search games, I leave you some useful information. From around the Bourse, the Belgian stock exchange building, to the Marché aux Poissons, through the Place de Brouckère and even around the Grand Place, you can find stalls of this gigantic market.
You can take advantage of one of the best tours of Brussels to visit some of these places while discovering the market.
3. Escape from the city and discover Christmas in other villages
In addition to Brussels, there are other cities in Belgium that have incredible Christmas markets in December, and it is a very fun plan to get to know them all, or at least some of them. Here is a list of the most important and attractive ones for you to consider.
If this city normally feels like something out of a fairy tale, imagine visiting it with the spirit that Christmas brings. You must visit the Grote Markt, its main square, where you will also find the most important market of the whole city.
The scenery is particularly beautiful because you will find yourself surrounded by medieval houses of the thirteenth century, with the Gothic style characteristic of this period. The jewel of the square is the Belfort bell tower, which you can quickly distinguish for its particular beauty.
The Hasselt Christmas market is located about an hour and a half from Brussels. Here you can not only enjoy the Christmas spirit and shopping, but also an ice skating rink andSanta Claus' house! Don't forget to bring your letter so that this Christmas, Santa brings you exactly what you want.
Liège is recognized as the oldest Christmas town in Belgium. In fact, when you talk about Christmas Village, everyone will know that you are referring to this city and the largest Christmas market in the country.
Antwerp is another of Belgium's major cities, but its winter look will grab you like no other. In this city they take Christmas very seriously and its market specially prepared for the occasion extends along several squares with more than 100 stalls of handicrafts and typical Belgian gastronomy.
You can also go ice skating and enjoy their light shows. As you can see, this event has it all.
Finally, I present to you the Ghent Christmas market, characterized by the wooden houses that go from Sint.-Baafsplein to the end of Korenmarkt. When the Christmas atmosphere floods the city, many people make this visit, as it becomes an attraction worth visiting.
You can take home a souvenir made by the hands of a local craftsman. And do not forget to contemplate one of the most iconic sites of the city fully illuminated, the Castle of the Counts of Flanders.
4. Stroll through the illuminated streets with Brussels By Lights
During the Christmas season, Brussels becomes a completely different city. This new face of the city is due to the Brussels By Lights festival, which dyes the city with colors and lights during this cold but festive season. Since 2014, and since then unabated, around 150 light installations are placed that create an atmosphere straight out of a "Home Alone" movie.
But it is not only an initiative of this company that organizes different events. The owners of all the city's businesses are involved in deciding what lights to put up and where. Did you know?
5. Attend the Christmas light and sound shows
In addition to the markets and decorations, you can't miss the sound and light shows that take place around the Plaisirs d'Hiver festival at the Grand Place, whose theme always changes from year to year. If you want to know this year's theme, you can consult the official website of the festival.
- Hours: every day of December, with the exception of December 24 and 31. From 17hs to 22hs. From Monday to Thursday, every hour and from Friday to Sunday, every 30 minutes.
6. Have fun on the ice skating rinks
During this month, you can also enjoy the 800m2 ice rink located at Place de la Monnaie. It is the activity of choice for families who want to have fun during the Christmas holidays, whether or not they have previous ice skating experience.
Children will be able to skate on a portion of the rink reserved only for the little ones, so don't worry because the environment is very safe for them.
- Hours: from 12hs to 22hs every day. On December 24 and 31 it closes at 6 pm.
- Location: Place de la Monnaie
- Admission: 10 ¤ for over 16 years old and 5 ¤ for minors.
- Skate and boot rentals are available.
7. Don't miss the show on the façade of the Sainte Catherine Church
Another great event of the month of December is the special illumination of the facade of the church of Sainte Catherine. Many people gather in this square to see this work of lights where we will be transported to the universe in general. The projections are related to the Milky Way, constellations and planets.
- Hours: every day of December from 5pm to 10pm.
- Location: Place Sainte Catherine
8. Choose your favorite beer at the Christmas Beer Festival
If you want to have the chance to choose from a list of 170 Belgian beers and taste the one you like the most, this occasion is perfect for you. Belgian beers are recognized as the best in the world and if you attend the Heuvelhal Festival you can enjoy all their varieties as many times as you want.
For two days, this beer gathering is organized and is usually attended by more than 3,000 people eager to drink beer and have fun. Of course, it is not an event attended only by people from the city, so you will feel like you are in a completely international environment. It takes place the weekend before Christmas Day.
- Location: 7 Chapel Street 2910 ESSEN
- Admission: €25
9. Have your picture taken with the Grand Place Tree
The Grand Place square in Brussels is the favorite place of many travelers in Brussels and even in Belgium. It is very famous for being the favorite meeting place of all Belgians and for being one of the must-see places in the city center. Of course, when Christmas comes, it becomes even more special when the decorations and lights take over the entire square.
The giant tree takes all the prizes, as it is illuminated and decorated in such a way that you can't help but turn your head to look at it, wherever you are. In addition, they also put up a Christmas crib for a complete Christmas.
10. Taste the gastronomy at the Christmas market
The markets are a perfect combination of popular traditions and a modern and up-to-date atmosphere. Not only can you find guaranteed fun, lots of activities and events, but you can also eat and drink local homemade products of the highest quality.
But if you are a bit confused and do not know what to choose, I leave you with this list of must-haves that you can find in the 225 booths scattered in different areas of the city center located in Bourse, Place de la Monnaie, Place de Brouckère, La Tour Noire, Place du Marché aux Poissons. Will you join me?
- Mulled wine: perhaps by reading its name you might judge it, and be a little suspicious of the taste. Mulled wine is a characteristic custom of Belgian culture and I advise you not to leave the market without tasting it. It is originally from Germany but many central European countries have adopted it as their own. Mulled wine will be your perfect ally to warm up your body in these cold days of cold and walking, you will surely repeat!
- Speculoos: they are originally Christmas cookies, but nowadays you can also get them the rest of the year in some places. But of course, tasting them in this festive atmosphere is much more delicious.
- Smoutebollen: originally from the Netherlands, but the Belgians liked it so much that they also included it in their culture. This sweet consists of flour dumplings that are fried in plenty of oil. Very caloric and very, very tasty.
- Bûche de Noël: this is the dessert par excellence in all Belgian homes during the winter and the great choice to share at the Christmas table with the whole family. Be part of this tradition.
The weather and what to bring to Brussels in December
The weather in Brussels in December has temperatures ranging from 3°C to 6°C degrees. As you can see, it is a really cold winter. Rainy days are around 15 to 20 throughout the month of December, so you will almost certainly experience gray days.
But don't worry. Just remember to have some jackets to keep you dry on wet days and bring enough warm clothes to be able to go on your walks without suffering from the low temperatures. Brussels is waiting for you!
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