The snow begins to fall, each snow flake as unique as each Guild House in Brussels city center. Everyone around is unable to put their camera down. Narrow streets hold the smell of fresh, Nutella-covered waffles and Stella Artois on tap. The vertical stripes of black, yellow, and red are proudly flown from each business and window seal. Some are accompanied by the EU flag. Others are paired with flags declaring frites and bières. Each home is warmly lit, with windows adorned by garland, poinsettias, and string lights. Familiar Christmas melodies drift upward with the smoke from chimneys. Multi-lingual voices from the crowds turn into carolers as the snow continues to fall. It is Brussels at Christmas time.
The Grand-Place of Brussels
The Grand-Place is at the center of festivities during Christmas time in Brussels. During the day, the sun glints off the gold-adorned Guild Houses surrounding the square. Erected in the center of it all is a 66 foot high Christmas tree. Behind that, rests a life-size nativity scene. And beyond that, the spectacular City Hall and Maison du Roi, or the King’s House (which now holds the Brussels City Museum). What’s more, the Grand-Place is widely considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Additionally, it is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Grand-Place Christmas Sound and Light Show
By night, Brussels’ Grand-Place takes on a whole new look. Now with carefully placed lights illuminating the golden beautifications. However, during Christmas time in Brussels, these lights come to life. Every year the Grand-Place shows off to an elaborate music and light show. In 2017, it was Sia’s new Christmas album with a mix of classical Christmas music.
From 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. the show happens every 30 minutes on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. During the week, every hour. Click here to watch a clip of Brussels’ light show from 2017.
Are you looking for other European Christmas markets? Check out my photography and story about the Luxembourg City Christmas Markets!
The official name for the winter time festivities of Brussels is “Winter Wonders.” In French, “Plaisires d’Hiver” and in Dutch “Winterpret.” There are three major markets in Brussels at Christmas. One might expect Brussels’ Grand-Place to be filled with a Christmas market. Yet, there isn’t one. Rather, the markets fill a 1.5 mile route of illuminated streets leading from La Bourse to Place de la Monnaie, in front of the opera. Then, fronting the opera is an ice skating rink. In the middle of the route, the largest Christmas market can be found wrapping around Cathedral Sainte-Catherine.
There are 270 wooden chalets in all! These areas are filled with festive booths and flooded with people. The stalls sell everything from traditional Belgian waffles to miniature Brussels-themed Christmas villages. So, grab a hot cone of fresh fries, pair it with some vin chaud, and get to shopping!
Information for Each Christmas Market in Brussels
Christmas Market at Place de la Bourse
First, just steps from the Grand-Place, is the beginning of the 1.5 mile route of winter wonder that runs throughout Brussels at Christmas time. The market is wrapped around La Bourse.
- Place de la Bourse, Beursplein, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgique
- Near La Grand-Place
- November 24th – January 7th
- 12:00 noon – 10:00 p.m.
Christmas Market at Cathedral Sainte-Catherine
Primarily, this market is dominated by the “Big Wheel,” which is an illuminated Farris wheel. For a ride, it costs €6 for adults and €4 for children. In the center of the market at Sainte-Catherine one can stay warm and enjoy a Leffe inside the Leffe Pavilion.
Christmas Market at Place de la Monnaie
Finally, at the end of the 1.5 mile Winter Wonder route is Place de la Monnaie. Where, for €8 and under, one can ice skate in front of the famous opera. Plus, when you buy a ticket to skate, you get a discount code for other winter activities going on in Brussels at Christmas time.
- Place de la Monnaie, Munt, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgique
- Near Opera de la Monnaie
- November 24th – January 7th
- 12:00 noon – 10:00 p.m.
Brussels’ Manneken-pis at Christmas
First and foremost, when one visits Brussels, the Manneken-pis should be high on your list. His name, “Manneken-pis” is Dutch for “Little Man Pee.” Being just steps from the Grand-Place, he’s a must see. Primarily, one must know that the Manneken-pis always has the largest crowd in Brussels. In contrast, he is probably the smallest attraction. That is, if one is not counting mini-Europe.
Locals and visitors alike adore this statue of a small peeing boy. Therefore, it makes sense that he is so famous. Often, the city dresses him in different costumes. For Christmas, Brussels chose to disguise him as St. Nicholas.
More Attractions in Brussels at Christmas Time
- Shop By Light
- Lights fill almost 100 retail shopping areas in Brussels
- The Maze
- A light installment that you can interact with at Place de la Chapelle
- Winter Vox
- Choirs singing Christmas melodies in Place Sainte-Catherine and the Grand-Place
- Brussels Vintage Market, Christmas Edition
- The vintage market in Halles Saint-Géry turns into a Christmas edition market for the holidays. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
- Christmas in the Cathedrals (Anoki’s Christmas)
- A 45 minute show in Saint-Jacques-sur-Coudenberg Church
- The Music Village
- On Sunday afternoons, head to Rue des Pierres for some tunes
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