Christmas Markets in Brussels
Europe is brimming with Christmas markets and it is not too late to get your fair share of festive fun. The only thing that may be stopping you is that it’s that time of year when holiday allowances are running dry and time is short. But this need not be a problem, Brussels and all its yuletide splendor is a relaxed two hour train ride away, making it a great option for a weekend break. The city center is small enough to feel conquerable in two days and since you can walk everywhere, you come away feeling rather refreshed. Book through Railbookers and they’ll sort you out with the best train times and a central hotel, to optimize the time you have available.
Plaisirs d’Hiver/ Winter Pret It wasn't until I picked up the scent of l’escargots stewing in garlic after walking past a bratwurst stand that I fully appreciated Brussels' unique quality when it comes to Christmas markets. Whilst in many walks of life I imagine the mixed French, Dutch and German influences cause a slight identity crisis, when it comes to stalls selling food and drink, it is a huge advantage. The food at the Christmas market here is very varied and, since the city is renowned for its fine food, it is high quality too. Head to where the locals are tucking in for the best value and tastiest options.
The Brussels Christmas Market runs until the 1st January, coming alive in the evenings when lights twinkle and everyone bundles along together, keeping warm with outdoor heaters and general merriment. Arts and crafts, food, drink and lights unsurprisingly play a large part of the Market. Slightly stuck out of the way but worth a look is the ‘micromarket’ on Quai a la Houille, which showcases work by recent art graduates. The 2km long ‘light trail’ is also worth a wander, since it takes you through some of the best bits of the city past good pubs and cobbled streets littered with market stalls.
There are also some other more unusual features. The city is installing a 150m ski slope right next to the central station for the first time, a 40m long ‘ice dinosaur’ promises to gobble up kids as they walk by, the ice rink hosts plays and musicals at weekends and there’s even a toboggan run. If you have kids then the great news is that Brussels is doing its best to entertain them, if you don’t then you get to ignore it all and stick to the far more civilized food and drink.
Unsurprisingly there is a very global feel to the Brussels Christmas market. Every year a guest country is welcomed to take over the market are in the Pl. Ste. Catherine. This year Greece are offering kebabs, olives, feta, ouzo and shots of Metaxa in an area so crammed with outdoor heaters, it is as if they are trying to provide the associated sun too. Just across the street is an excellent little outdoor Tapas bar, serving grilled calamari and other seafood delights with wine, sherry and bread. A short walk back towards Grand Place will take you through China town, where quick service noodle bars sit side by side with high-end Vietnamese restaurants. Further still and sushi bars occupy a cobbled side street, peppered with rowdy bars, karaoke joints and casinos.
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