You’ll love visiting Belgium in winter! It’s such a beautiful country and offers so much intrigue no matter what your interests are.
From medieval architecture, to gilded buildings, from chocolate to beer, from traditional art to street art, there’s a lot to see throughout the country.
And in winter, you’ll find less crowds and a festive spirit in the air!
This is your guide to all things Belgium in winter, including what to do, where to go, how to make the most of 3 days exploring Belgium and what the weather is likely to be like.
We hope you find it useful!
Things To Do in Belgium in Winter
Take Cover in an Interesting Museum
To shield yourself from the cold wind and rain, museums are always a great option when it comes to winter trips. And as Belgium is such a historic country, you’re sure to find a museum (or bunch of museums) that suit your interests.
From learning about the history of chocolate, to how Belgium beer is made, as well as plenty of art museums (including museums dedicated to famous comic strips), historic castles and even World War I sites, there’s definitely plenty of choice in Belgium.
Some top Belgian museums to visit include:
- Choco-Story in Bruges and Brussels is dedicated to the history of chocolate and even has chocolate making demonstrations as part of your entrance fee
- In Flanders Fields in Ypres tells the story of World War I and how Flanders was affected by the war
- Hortamuseum in Brussels is dedicated to art nouveau architecture
- Gravensteen Castle in Ghent is like taking a trip back in time to the middle ages
- Groeningemuseum in Bruges exhibits all kinds of artwork by Belgian artists (with some dating back as far as the 14th Century!)
- DIVA, Antwerp Home of Diamonds in Antwerp is dedicated to – yep, you guessed it – diamonds!
Drink Vin Chaud Or Chocolat Chaud (Or Both!)
Drinking mulled wine during winter-time has long been a tradition in Europe; and actually dates back as far as 1390 when the first recipe for it appeared in an English cookbook.
In Belgium, they call it Vin Chaud, which quite literally translates to “hot wine”. Vin Chaud usually consists of red wine mixed with honey, cinnamon and orange, and is usually less sweet than other forms of mulled wine.
The other hot drink that you must have when in Belgium is Chocolat Chaud (i.e. Hot Chocolate). The Belgians are infamous for their creamy chocolate and they really know their way around a pot of the hot stuff!
Visit Lots of Christmas Markets
Christmas markets originated in Germany, yet today, almost every major town and city throughout Europe has its own market.
And – of course – Belgium is no different in this respect!
When visiting Belgium in December, you’ll find all the traditional ‘Christmas Market’ wares including festive decorations, artisan chocolate, handmade gifts, toys and street food, while some cities will also play host to extras like festive carousels, ice rinks and ferris wheels.
Included in most lists of the best Christmas markets in Belgium are Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, Leuven, Liège and Ostend.
In our opinion, the markets are pretty much the same wherever you go (with only minor differences), so you should feel safe to see just one or two markets during your trip without the worry of missing out on anything.
Go Christmas Shopping & Admire All The Amazing Window Displays
Whether you choose to do all your shopping at Christmas markets, or want to check out charming shopping galleries, quaint high streets, or much more ‘touristy’ places, Belgium provides a lot of choice when it comes to buying unique Christmas gifts.
Plus, if you are visiting Belgium in December, then a lot of stores around the country really go to town when it comes to their Christmas window displays… some displays even move! Your eyes will certainly be in for a treat during your trip!
Top Christmas gift ideas from Belgium include chocolate (obviously!), beer, (or even beer-flavoured chocolate), comic books, comic-inspired merchandise, lace and art.
See Christmas Lights Everywhere!
If travelling in early winter (i.e. before or just after Christmas), you should expect to see Christmas lights absolutely everywhere!
From incredible and very festive window displays, to lights in trees, to decorated shops from floor to ceiling… simply everywhere sparkles at night.
During our trip around Belgium, we were particularly enamoured with the lights of Grand-Place in Brussels, which plays host to a sound and light show every evening as part of their ‘Winter Wonders’ event.
Go Ice Skating in One of Belgium’s Best Cities
Many of Belgium’s top cities play host to wintery ice rinks, which run at the same time as the various Christmas events.
Some of the best ones to visit include Place de la Monnaie in Brussels, the Markt in Bruges and Grote Markt in Ypres.
Take Multiple Day Trips Throughout Your Trip
Towns and cities throughout Belgium are absolutely charming to visit during the winter, and the excellent rail network in Belgium makes it really easy (and cheap) to get around by train.
Some of the best cities to visit during a winter trip to Belgium include Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp and Bruges… which just so happen to all be connected to each other via train lines.
This means you can see multiple places (even during a short trip as you’ll see from our example 3 day itinerary below).
Places to Visit in Belgium in Winter
Belgium is such a beautiful country to explore – regardless of the season – but in winter, there’s less crowds and a festive spirit in the air.
Given just how magical the entire country is, it would be a shame not to see several cities during your trip.
Here are a few of our favourites…
Bruges, which means ‘bridge’ in Dutch, is the largest city in the West Flanders province in Belgium. Perhaps one of the most ‘touristy’ places to visit in all of Belgium, the city draws in around 9 million visitors every year!
However, don’t let the hoards of people put you off. You’ll most likely bump into them around the main square and historic centre (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site), but veer away from this path a little throughout the day and you’ll find yourself on your own or in much smaller numbers.
Bruges is perhaps most well known for its medieval architecture – in fact, the city was the principal filming location for popular TV Drama ‘The White Queen’.
Aside from incredible architecture, Bruges also has a thriving chocolate production line – they even have a ‘guild’ to promote chocolatiers that make and sell handmade chocolates in Bruges.
Brussels is Belgium’s capital and is also considered to be the hub of European politics as the European Quarter in Brussels so often plays host to diplomats of the European Union.
Although Brussels is officially a bilingual city (of Dutch, English and French), French is most commonly used throughout, so you’ll be safe to just use that for the length of your stay… alongside English of course.
Brussels is most known for multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Grand-Place, Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel Solvay, Hôtel van Eetvelde and the Hortamuseum to name just a few.
It’s also known for its cultural inspiration in the form of art, and even has a walk you can follow to see over fifty comic strip murals!
Found about halfway between Brussels and Bruges is Ghent, which has a similar look and feel to Bruges with all the medieval buildings, but is a bigger town and actually far less touristy.
Because of this medieval feel, many of Ghent’s top attractions revolve around its architecture, such as the beguinages, belfry, cathedrals and castles (most of which are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites).
Just like other Flemish provinces in Belgium, Dutch is the official language spoken in Ghent.
Belgium in Winter: Example 3 Day Itinerary
Now that you know what things you must do and where to go when visiting Belgium in winter, please find an example itinerary below for 3 days exploring Belgium.
Although exploring more of the country does require longer, it’s possible to see some of the top cities in just a few days, such as a long weekend. That’s what we did!
Days 1 & 2: Brussels and Ghent
If you’re just interested in seeing the top sights of Brussels, then you can easily do them all within about a day and a half. The city is very walkable and most of the main sights actually revolve around Grand-Place and the city centre anyway.
With 36 hours to spend in Brussels, you could easily see:
- Grand-Place (make sure you see it by day and by night)
- Multiple chocolate shops and even the chocolate museum called Choco-Story
- All the beautiful shopping galleries, such as Passage du Nord, Galerie Bortier and Galeries de la Reine
- The ‘pissing statues’ aka Manneken-Pis, Jeanneke-Pis and Zinneke-Pis
- Some of the comic strip mural trail including Asterix & Obelisk, the Smurfs, Tintin and loads more!
- All of the Christmas Market and even a trip on the ‘Winter Wonders’ Ferris Wheel
- The European Quarter
And you’d still have some time left over to chill with some Chocolat Chaud or Vin Chaud!
In the afternoon of the second day, you could also head to Ghent, which is just 30 minutes away from Brussels by train.
Ghent is best known for its medieval cathedrals, fortresses and castles and you can easily see all of the main sights in just a morning or afternoon.
Day 3: Bruges
Bruges is also a very walkable city, and is only an hour away from Brussels by train, which means you could easily see all of the main sights in just one day.
With 24 hours in Bruges, you could see:
- Grote Markt aka the historic and most famous market square
- Multiple chocolate shops and even Choco-Story, the chocolate museum (yep, there’s one in both Bruges and Brussels!)
- Go on a brewery tour at Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan
- Embark on a free walking tour around Bruges
- Head out on a canal cruise or even a horse and carriage ride
And you’d still have some time left over to eat Belgian waffles!
Belgium in Winter: The Weather
Winter in Belgium runs from December, through to January, February and most of March, and temperatures average from 3 – 6°C throughout these months.
Although snow in Belgium is possible, it’s certainly not as common compared with other European countries.
In the winter, you’re much more likely to see rain than snow. In fact, December is one of the rainiest months in the whole year, so make sure you pack a waterproof jacket and umbrella for your trip!
We hope this guide to all things Belgium in winter proves useful for your trip! If you have any questions or notice anything we’ve not covered, then just give us a shout in the comments below…
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