3 Christmas markets you should not miss in Belgium

Perhaps Belgium is not the most obvious destination for European Christmas markets, but the truth is Belgian markets are every bit as good as the most famous Christmas events anywhere else on the old continent.

Three of the most attractive Christmas markets are in Belgium – and should be visited as a family, the children will love them.

During the month of December, there is no shortage of Christmas markets throughout the Belgian capital, so much so that it is not always clear which one to visit. The most interesting market is not in the Grand Place (in truth, there is no Christmas market in the Grand Place – there is a light and sound show, but not a market as such). Rather, you should direct your attention to Saint Catherine’s square –home to one of the best Christmas markets in Brussels.
Once you arrive at the square, take your time to browse around the market. At the weekend there will be lots of people on the streets, but don’t let that put you off: When all’s said and done, Christmas is a time to party! At the market there are stalls selling cheerful lanterns, colourful wreaths and slippers for the cold weather; but the most popular stalls are those selling food. And you better believe there is a real feast on offer: with cheese, chocolate, crepes and waffles (or gaufres to give them their French name) and, obviously, the renowned winter mulled wine. So, go on, try a bit of everything.
Wander around, take in the scents and flavours of Christmas, warm yourself with mulled wine, and enjoy the atmosphere. Without hesitation, because during the Festive Season Brussels lets down its hair and turns into an irreverent and fun travel destination.
Regardless of the time of year, Bruges is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Belgium – and justifiably so. It is a city that looks like it is straight out of a fairy tale, and is home to what many believe to be the best Christmas market in Europe.
Whether you agree or not, it is a fact that the whole of Bruges gets involved in the Christmas festivities. The Christmas lights are exuberant, there are Christmas trees in the windows of eve-ry building and the Christmas decorations invade every shop and corner of the historic city cen-tre. No less important, everybody seems to be full of the festive and friendly spirit of Christmas. The epicentre of it all is in the beautiful central square, with the famous Bruges steeple as a backdrop.
For lovers of ice skating, Christmas is also time for skating fun.
The capital of Eastern Flanders, Ghent is a port city at the confluence of the rivers Lys and Scheldt. Many years ago it was one of the most prosperous cities in Europe, although today it is a medium-sized town with a large university community – a kind of Flemish cultural centre. While many say Bruges is like an open-air museum, with its well-maintained historic centre included on Belgium’s list of world heritage sites, Ghent is a vibrant city full of life, mainly because of its large student community. And it is this spirit that can be experienced all year round, including at Christmas.
At Christmas, the streets around Saint Nicholas’ Church fill up with stalls selling food, drink, clothes and crafts. This is a must-see area when visiting Ghent, with the Christmas market having little to compare it with the Saint Catherine’s square market in Brussels. Yet, while it might be smaller, it is still well worth visiting. Despite living in the shadow of its more famous neighbours, Bruges and Brussels, Ghent as a whole is a truly special city. Especially in December!
By Filipe Morato Gomes / Alma de Viajante

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