Christmas in Belgium: the best holiday itinerary
When I first saw a photo of Christmas Bruges, I realized that this is the place where I want to spend my next Christmas. Yes, Christmas in Belgium was a really wonderful idea.
Just imagine, like from a fairy tale, gingerbread houses with colorful lights, a Christmas market on the central square, an ice rink full of happy families, cozy cafeterias with delicious hot chocolates, and a fascinating story of the city – all this is about Christmas in Bruges.
When I started planning our Christmas itinerary, I realized that we could only get to Bruges from Brussels, the capital of Belgium. So why not include this famous European capital on my Christmas list? Thus, Brussels became our first stop, where we generally celebrated Christmas Eve, as we arrived in Belgium on the eve of December 24th.
I love traveling around Europe by train, it is a very fast and comfortable way. I looked over our route again and noticed that we can also visit another magnificent Christmas destination in Belgium – Ghent. I picked up a train schedule that in the morning we will leave Brussels, spend the whole day in Ghent, and in the evening we will be in Bruges. The perfect travel itinerary and I am glad to share it with you 🙂
Christmas in Belgium: how to spend Christmas in Brussels
Brussels is not only a great Christmas destination but also very affordable. You can easily book a 5 * hotel with all luxury facilities at fairly competitive prices. Just check the hotel where we stayed during our Christmas trip in Brussel – Warwick Brussels Grand Palace. This hotel has a great location so you can explore all the Christmas markets around and I advise you to have a festive Christmas Eve dinner at the hotel, just don’t forget to book it in advance.
How to get from Brussels airport (Brussels International) to the city center
You have 2 options: by train or by bus. The train goes to the central station, Brussel-Centraal, which suited us the best as our hotel was just a few steps away. The round trip ticket costs 17 euros.
The cheapest way to get to the center is by bus № 272. The bus runs every 30 – 60 minutes, the journey takes about 45 minutes. The bus stop is at level zero. In addition, the express buses No. 12 (from 5:40 am to 8:00 pm) and No. 21 (from 8:00 pm to 11:20 pm) run from the airport every 20-30 minutes. The bus goes to the Schuman metro station and the trip takes about 30 minutes. The bus ticket is valid for 60 minutes and can be used also for the metro. You can buy a ticket from the driver for 6 euros or from vending machines for 4.5 euros.
The most expensive, but at the same time the fastest way to get to your hotel is by taxi. One way is approximately 27 – 38 euros per car.
Brussels at Christmas : Top Things To Do
Brussels is a great Christmas destination, but be prepared that almost all museums to be closed during Christmas Days and you will have a more limited list of places to visit. But on the other hand, this is a great period to visit the colorful Christmas markets in Belgium and just enjoy a walk around the city.
My suggestions on what to do and what to see in Brussels:
#1 The Grand Place Square. The majestic square in the Gothic style is distinguished by the amazing beauty of the buildings that surround it. The main Christmas Tree is erected annually here, and in the evenings they organize a music and light show that will impress both children and adults. You definitely shouldn’t miss this show!
#2 Brussels Town Hall. The Town Hall is one of the symbols of the Belgian capital and an example of ancient architecture. The famous 96-meter tower of the Town Hall with the figure of St. Michael is an excellent landmark on the streets of Bruxelles. The entrance to the town hall is paid and excursions are possible, but unfortunately during our stay, they were not conducted.
#3 St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral, Brussels. The cathedral was built in the Romano-Gothic style, but you will get the deepest impression only by going inside. Along the main aisle, there is a colonnade decorated with baroque sculptures of the apostles – an unimaginable beauty.
#4 Church of Our Lady of Victories at the Sablon. As a true example of Brabant Gothic, the Church of Our Lady will be interesting to you for its mystical history. The church gained popularity after the installation of the statue of the Virgin Mary, which was stolen from Antwerp by a devout lady.
#5 Parc du Cinquantenaire. This park is like a piece of Paris, with neat lawns and symmetrical paths reminiscent of the gardens of Versailles, and the Arc de Triomphe at the entrance to the park will amaze you with its beauty. By the way, this is one of the great places to fly your drone safely.
#6 Atomium. One of the best places to visit during Christmas. It is better to buy tickets online in advance, as there are always a lot of tourists here. Externally, the building impresses with its architecture. Just imagine a model of an atom of iron magnified 165 billion times and 102 meters high. Six of ten spheres are open to the public, and the pipes that connect them contain escalators and corridors. Here you will find out all about the 1958 World’s Fair and the European lifestyle in the 1950s.
Mini Europe. Park “Mini Europe” will delight not only children but also adults. It reminds me of the park we visited in The Hague when traveling in Holland. Here you will see all European capitals in mini sizes and feel like real Gulliver. The park is populated with tiny figures of people and there is a mini transport.
Manneken Pis, Jeanneke Pis, and Zinneke. How not to visit Brussels and see its main attraction? It is of course – the peeing boy statue. Although the statue of the boy is really small, it is impossible to pass by, as “the baby” is dressed in different costumes. In our case, he was dressed as Santa Claus. Not many people know that Manneken Pis has a family. The girl sculpture Jeanneke Pis and dog sculpture Zinneke.
Choco-Story Brussels Museum. While in Brussels, I highly recommend you visit one of the country’s “tastiest” museums – the Choco-Story Museum. I have read various reviews about this museum, but personally, I liked it. This is an interactive museum where you will learn the history of chocolate, the secrets of its preparation, taste different types of chocolate, and purchase chocolate souvenirs. You can book your ticket in advance HERE.
Winter Wonders Christmas Market. Walking through Brussels you will see a large number of Christmas markets, but the largest and main Christmas Market is located right next to the Church of St. Catherine. Be sure to ride the Ferris wheel for a festive night view of Brussels from the top, buy the local products, and enjoy the Christmas spirit around you.
Brussels Private Guided Tour. If group tours may not be available during the Christmas season, this does not mean that you will not have the opportunity to learn more about Brussels’s history. You can always book the services of a local guide who will create a personalized tour for you and your family.
As you can see, even during Christmas time in Brussels, there are so many things to do and explore that, for sure, you will enjoy your vacation. After Brussels, our next stop was Bruges. But since our train passed through Ghent, we decided to visit it too.
Christmas in Belgium: how to spend Christmas in Ghent
We departed from Brussels Central Station at 13:00 and after about half an hour arrived at Gent-Sint-Pieters station, where a friend of Demetris was waiting for us to show us his amazing city. You can book your ticket for the train HERE.
First of all, I have to admit that I was a little upset that we could not stay in Ghent for more days since this small town was a real Christmas fairytale. Ghent itself is a colorful, vibrant, and lively city, and at Christmas time it is simply magical.
We walked a little from the parking slot along an almost deserted street, and then, unexpectedly, a huge square appeared in front of us with a bunch of people, festive music, city illuminations, and a Ferris wheel.
The Christmas market, located around the Church of St. Nicholas, sells food and drinks, clothing, and handicrafts. This area is an essential part of any excursion in Ghent, and this place is not far behind the Christmas market at St. Catherine’s Square in Brussels.
If you are going to visit Ghent, be sure to check out my post “One Day in Ghent” where I share travel ideas on what to see and do in Ghent during Christmas.
The journey from Ghent to Bruges by train will take no more than half an hour. You can find the train schedule HERE.
Christmas in Belgium: how to spend Christmas in Bruges
Bruges has been a long time on my list of places to visit for Christmas and, finally, my dream come true! This small historical town can rightfully be called the Christmas capital.
Magnificent illuminations, Christmas markets, Christmas trees and decorations in shops and in every corner of the historic center … and no less important, you can feel the Christmas spirit everywhere – the spirit of celebration, unity, and mutual assistance.
We stayed at the amazing Notre Dame Boutique Hotel in the historic city center overlooking the Christmas market and with a delicious homemade breakfast included in the price.
Before visiting Bruges, be sure to watch the famous black comedy “In Bruges“, and then check the movie locations and the hotel where the main character Colin Farrell lived. The locals are proud that the movie was filmed in Bruges and are always ready to show you the most famous places from the movie.
Another interesting fact about Bruges: if French is spoken in Brussels, then in Bruges you will hear Dutch and West Flemish dialects.
My suggestions on what to do and what to see in Bruges:
#1 Guided Walking Tour. Bruges is a small town, but it would be naive to think that it has a boring history and you can see everything in a few hours. After all, it does not matter in which direction to walk, there is no single tourist route and historic center in Bruges. The city has been completely preserved, and whichever direction you go, it will be beautiful everywhere. The city has a unique and exciting history, so a few hours tour flew by quickly.
#2 De Grôte Markt van Brugge. On the Markt of Bruges, you can find the main attractions of Bruges – the Belfry Tower. 50 bells ring a new melody every hour, and the observation deck upstairs is one of the most visited places in the city. Also, here you will find the main Christmas market.
#3 Burg Square. Burg Square is one of the most important squares in the city. Once there was a fortified castle, and nowhere is a Gothic Town Hall with spiers, towers, and a decorated facade.
#4 The Beguinage. Margaret of Constantinople founded the Beguinage (Begijnhof) in Bruges in 1254 with the aim of uniting the Beguines under one roof. The small community consisted of the sisters of the Lord, who spent their lives in prayer, labor, and asceticism. Today this place has been converted into a museum and you can freely visit the courtyard of the monastery.
#5 The Lover’s Bridge & Lake of Love. The Lake of Love is an oasis of calm in the middle of Minnewater Park with the picturesque and romantic Lover’s Bridge at its heart. This lake is one of the most romantic places in Bruges, as it is the home to a whole colony of swans that you can feed here.
#6 The Historium Bruges Time Traveller. One of the places that were open during the Christmas holidays. This is an interactive and engaging historical attraction into the golden age of Bruges, telling you a romantic love story. After that, you can continue your journey into virtual reality, which will take you to the port of Bruges! Unforgettable experience. Don’t forget to take a picture on the throne like a real king/queen.
#7 Enjoy a Hot Chocolate. After walking through festive Bruges, be sure to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate at one of the local cafes. And here they really know a lot about making delicious hot chocolate. Just near our hotel, there was a small, but very cozy chocolate shop – The Old Chocolate House with a cafe upstairs, which I advise everyone to visit in order to taste the most delicious chocolate in Bruges.
After an unforgettable and fantastic 3 days in Bruges, it was time to say GoodBye to our Christmas fairytale and head back to Athens. We got to the airport by bus, which departed from the central railway station in Bruges twice per day.
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Belgium is a magical place! Such a great overview.
Indeed, Eric! Would love to go back there again.