From Christmas markets and mulled wine to charming carousels and pretty window displays, one thing Europe knows how to do well is Christmas.
And – of course – this is just as true of the capital city of Belgium as it is anywhere else.
If you’re planning a winter trip to Belgium in search of chocolate, glitter and fairy lights, then this is your guide to all things Christmas in Brussels, including what to do, where to go, where to stay, how to get there and what the weather is going to be like.
Things to do in Brussels at Christmas
Visit the Brussels ‘Winter Wonders’ Christmas Market
Running from the end of November through to early January every year, the ‘Winter Wonders’ Christmas Market simply has to top this list of things to do in Brussels at Christmas.
The market is huge thanks to its 200+ chalets found dotted around the Bourse and Grand-Place, as well as along Place de la Monnaie, Place de Brouckère, Place Sainte-Catherine and Marché aux Poissons.
Here, you’ll find all the traditional ‘Christmas Market’ wares including Christmas decorations, handmade gifts, artisan chocolate, toys and street food (which all make for fabulous souvenirs!), as well as a ferris wheel, vintage-inspired carousel and ice rink.
What’s interesting about the Brussels Christmas Market is that they celebrate something different each year. For 2018, the focus was on Finland, which saw this neighbourly country takeover a small section of the Christmas Market in order to sell traditional Finnish goods. You could also see the colours of their flag (blue and white) adorning the Christmas tree at Grand-Place. Sweet, eh? This year, the focus is all on Manneken-Pis and his 400th anniversary.
Watch the ‘Winter Wonders’ Inauguration Parade
To start the festive season off with a bang, the first day of the ‘Winter Wonders’ event has an inauguration parade in the evening.
From bright lights, to festive floats, to turning on the Christmas tree lights, this is a must if you’re in Brussels early.
You may have missed the parade this year as it was on November 29th, but there’s always next year!
See the Christmas Market from above on the ferris wheel
Costing just €7 per adult, the Ferris Wheel found at one end of the Place Sainte-Catherine part of the ‘Winter Wonders’ Christmas Market, is the perfect way to see the market (and city skyline) from above.
In fact, the festive ferris wheel so frequently tops lists around the web of things to do in Brussels in December… and now having been on it ourselves, we can see why!
It’s chilly up there though so wrap up warm!
Go Christmas shopping & admire all the amazing window displays
Whether you choose to do all your shopping at the market, or check out some of the charming shopping galleries (more on those shortly), Brussels offers so much opportunity for you to buy some unique Christmas gifts and souvenirs.
And from natural garlands, sparkling tinsel and twinkling fairy lights, to moving displays of chocolate and toys, your eyes will also be in for a treat when it comes to all the incredible window displays you’ll see!
Top Christmas gift ideas from Brussels include chocolate (obviously!), beer, (or even beer-flavoured chocolate), comic books, comic-inspired merchandise, lace and art.
Take cover in beautiful (and very festive!) shopping galleries
From arched glass roofs, to magnificent marble shop facades, intricate lighting and even statues, the shopping arcades or galleries in Brussels are as beautiful as they are historic.
Most of them were built during the first half of the 19th Century, and at the time, Brussels had around 50 of these galleries. Now only a handful remain, yet they are perfectly preserved and a wonder to walk through.
Some particularly beautiful ones include Galerie Bortier, Passage du Nord, Galerie du Roi, Galerie de la Reine and Galerie des Princes.
And at Christmas, you’ll find cute Christmas trees, sparkling fairy lights and all the incredible window displays we mentioned above. So festive!
Drink Vin Chaud or Chocolat Chaud (or both!)
Drinking mulled wine at Christmas has long been a European tradition, dating back as far as 1390 when the first recipe for it appeared in an English cookbook.
Over the centuries, each European culture has added their own unique spin to the original recipe, such as German Glühwein and Nordic Glögi.
In France and Belgium, they drink Vin Chaud, which quite literally translates to hot wine – and drinking it is easily one of the best things to do in Brussels in winter. Vin Chaud usually consists of red wine mixed with honey, cinnamon and orange, and is not usually as sweet as other forms of mulled wine.
However, if wine isn’t quite your cup of tea, or you’re travelling to Brussels with children, then the next warm drink on your list has to be Chocolat Chaud (Hot Chocolate). Belgium is quite simply the fantastical land of chocolate and they really know how to do an amazing hot chocolate! We particularly loved the Chocolat Chaud served at Gaston near Marché aux Poissons.
Personally, we’d say you should have both hot drinks during your trip!
See the Christmas lights & light show at Grand-Place
As part of Brussels’ ‘Winter Wonders’ Christmas event, Grand-Place plays host to an amazing sound and light show every evening.
Expect to be dazzled by the lights for hours… seriously, you won’t want to leave! A favourite moment of ours was when the gothic-inspired Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) was lit up in red and white… just like a giant candy cane.
Aside from this infamous light show, you’ll also love seeing all the decorations and general Christmas lights dotted throughout the city. Simply spend some time walking slowly and looking up as you pass shops, cafes, restaurants and galleries in all their festive wonder.
Go ice skating at Place de Brouckère
Running throughout December (even on Christmas Day) and into the first week of January, Place de Brouckère plays host to an ice rink, which for the past few years has been under cover in case of bad weather.
But what could possibly be more festive than ice skating with Christmas lights all around you?!
Take a day trip to Bruges (for even more festive feels!)
It’s not just Brussels that is full of festive feels; other towns and cities throughout Belgium are also well worth a visit at this time of year.
It’s really easy (and cheap) to get around Belgium by train, which means you can head to other Christmas markets in places like Ghent and Antwerp.
But possibly one of the most festive places to visit (besides Brussels) has to be beautiful Bruges!
Weather in Brussels in December
When spending Christmas in Brussels, you should make sure you’re aware of what the weather will be like.
According to Brussels.info, it actually rains more in Belgium than in the UK, with December along with July having the rainiest months. So basically, pack an umbrella and waterproof coat for your trip!
Although it’s unlikely to snow in Brussels in December (although it’s possible that it will), the average temperature in December is quite a chilly 3 – 6°C.
Where to stay in Brussels in December
Where you choose to stay in Brussels in December depends a little on what you plan on doing during your trip.
If you’re keen to do some day trips to other towns and cities, then we’d highly recommend staying somewhere close to either the Gare Centrale or Gare du Midi train stations (the latter also being where the Eurostar terminal is).
Here are some good hotel options:
Pullman Brussels Centre Midi: Boasting a location actually on the Gare du Midi plot itself, this hotel has spacious modern rooms, complete with Chromecast TV technology and rain showers in the bathrooms.
Courtyard by Marriott Brussels EU: Found close to Gare Centrale train station, this hotel is a typical Marriott chain hotel, offering modern spacious rooms, a 24-hour front desk and even a hotel gym.
Motel One Brussels: Also found close to Gare Centrale, this hotel has been lavishly decorated throughout and is very modern. The rooms are a little on the smaller side compared with the other two hotels above, but they’re perfectly adequate for a short stay in Brussels such as a long weekend.
If you plan to only visit the main sights in Brussels, then staying close to Grand-Place would make it easier for sightseeing on foot or via the Metro. You’ll pay a little more in order to be so central, but it’ll likely be worth it in order to be closer to everything you want to see during your visit.
How about choosing one of these central hotels:
Hotel Agora Brussels Grand Place: Boasting lots of unusual features in the bedrooms such as wooden beams, bricked over fireplaces and mezzanines, this hotel is definitely quirky, despite being so close to the city’s centre.
Hotel Hubert Grand Place: Lavishly decorated throughout and complete with interesting artwork throughout as well, this hotel promises a really comfortable stay within the city centre.
And if you’d prefer to stick close to the “action” when it comes to the Christmas markets, then staying around the Bourse, St. Catherine or De Brouckère areas is recommended.
Here are a couple of good hotel options near these areas:
Hotel Saint Nicolas: Named after the Saint of Christmas himself, Hotel Saint Nicolas is close to all the Christmas action in Brussels. The hotel itself is simple, yet comfortable; there are even self-catered apartments available for longer trips as well.
NH Collection Brussels Centre: Boasting spacious modern rooms, lavish decor throughout the main lobby areas and even a rooftop terrace, this hotel has some of the best views in town and provides plenty of comfort to its guests.
How to get to Brussels at Christmas
As Brussels is the country’s capital and also the hub of European politics, it’s a very well connected city.
There’s an international airport roughly 7.5 miles north of the city, which covers over 200 destinations worldwide.
Brussels is also well connected across Belgium and internationally via its extensive rail network. In fact, Brussels is a stop on the Eurostar, which is a much more relaxed way to visit the city… and comes highly recommended by us!
We hope you found this guide to all things Christmas in Brussels helpful! We’d love to hear about your upcoming trip and what you’re most excited to see, so feel free to drop a few comments below…
Want more Brussels inspiration? Check out our weekend itinerary!
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