Picture yourself, wrapped up in your warmest clothes, steam rising from the warm glass of Gluhwein cupped in your gloved hands while you soak up the atmosphere of Plaisirs D’Hiver (Winter Wonders). You watch a flock of birds - part of the light show spectacle - dance across the bell tower of the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in Brussels’ La Grand-Place. With an upbeat musical tempo, the lights show moves across the cobbled rectangular market square. On route from Gare Du Midi to the hotel, I walked through the iconic square just as the sound and light spectacle was starting. It is well worth the short but mesmerising 10 minutes it takes to soak it up. The Grand Place is also where you find the city’s main Christmas tree and a large nativity scene (not live but it’s still pretty lifelike).

If you’re looking for an exciting place to experience Christmas markets, Brussels is a great choice. View over the Viamet markets.

The Brussels Christmas markets are spread across numerous locations in the city but the main ones are within walking distance of each other. Scattered across these locations are a covered skating rink, a giant ferris wheel, vintage rides and a huge selection of food and drink. The illuminations light not only the central square but the myriad of pedestrianised streets in the city center.

The Vismet and Place Sainte-Catherine, where the market stalls are concentrated

From the Grand Place, an easy stroll through this festive delight will bring you to the Vismet and Place Sainte-Catherine, where the market stalls are concentrated. Each a purpose built wooden chalet with the store name etched in timber, the majority sell high quality craft products or seasonal foods. With very little tat bombardment, the selection of gifts available would see Christmas shopping completed in one visit. If you can manage to keep walking past the food, the hot wine and the chocolate, you will reach the giant ferris wheel at the far end of the market. This is well worth the €9 charge for the unrivalled view over the city.

The giant ferris wheel is well worth the €9 charge for the unrivalled view over the city.

Pedestrian paradise

Place De Brouckère is one of two squares, along with Place Fontainas, that book-end the pedestrian zone in the centre of Brussels with Place de la Bourse in the middle. Planned since the late 1990s, the pedestrianisation of these central boulevards is one of the most significant urban projects of the last decade for Brussels. During Winter Wonders, Place De Brouckère hosts the ice rink as well as a mini village of chalets and covered tables to rest, eat and enjoy the atmosphere. If you can’t make the markets before Christmas, activities here run to Sunday 8 January.

Should shopping be high on your Christmas market priorities but so is being warm and under cover, the gorgeous covered shopping galleries are your solution. Although seven were built in the 19th century, only three remain: Galeries Saint-Hubert, the Galeries Bortier and the Northern Passage.

Bedecked in Christmas decorations, even a walk through the centrally located Galleries Royales Saint Hubert is a pleasure

Currently bedecked in Christmas decorations, even a walk through the centrally located Galleries Royales Saint Hubert is a pleasure with its jewellers, chocolate shops, boutiques and restaurants.

Brussels with its mix of beautiful architecture, accessibility and experience of Christmas markets surely know how to do it really well. There is a real fun and exciting vibe to the markets with plenty of music light and spectacle to entertain both young and old.


If travelling to Brussels for a short stop, do not be tempted by the perceived cheaper option (unless the difference is really enormous) of flying to Charleroi at this time of the year. The queue to even purchase a bus ticket is longer than the time it will take you to get into the city from Zavantem, which is much better served with public transport. A metro to Brussels Central Station, will bring you right to the heart of the Winter Wonders festival. Hotels in the city centre can be quite expensive at this time of the year. However as the city is a the hub for EU politics, there are a great range of options depending on your budget.

London link

Although not a Christmas ferris wheel per se, the London Eye it is probably the biggest one that you will find and lit up for the season, there is nothing not Christmassy about taking in the London skyline this way after dark.

The banks of the Thames alive with light

One of many Christmas markets in London, but close to the Eye, is the Southbank Centres Winter festival. Stoll along the Thames under trees festooned with twinkling lights. Buskers belt out tunes as stall holders ply their wares. There are plenty of stocking fillers available and if all that work is already complete, you can just tuck into some warm comfort food and mulled wine. Recreate the memory at home with a warm London mulled wine or a continental Gluhwein


• 1 orange, halved and sliced

• 200g caster sugar

• 5 cloves

• 1 cinnamon stick

• 2 star anise

• 3 slices fresh ginger (peeled)

• 750 ml red wine (normal bottle)

• 150ml brandy or rum

Add the orange, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, ginger and wine to a large pan. Warm gently for 10-15 mins being careful not to it boil. Add your spirit of choice. Pour into glasses, serve warm and enjoy.

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