Why Visit the Ghent and Bruges Christmas Markets

Bruges in December

This guide will walk you through the best Ghent and Bruges Christmas markets in Belgium. It also includes where to stay, what to see, market opening times, locations and how to get there.

Bruges in December

Christmas time in Belgium is special. Not only because of the fairytale Christmas markets all over the country but because there are two Santa Claus! Just imagine how lucky the kids in Belgium are.

In this country, where there are 3 official languages, it’s no wonder that Christmas is celebrated in two different ways. St. Nicholas’ Day is a more popular holiday in the Flemish part of Belgium. In comparison, Christmas is widely celebrated in the French regions.

The first Santa Claus, Sinterklaas, brings presents to the children on 6th December – St. Nicholas’ Day. The second Santa, Père Noël, makes his appearance on 25th December.

So, December is a busy month with a lot of holidays and presents! Having in mind that, it’s high time to add Belgium on your list for a winter break.

The biggest Christmas market in Belgium is in Brussels. Its winter festival includes a parade and a sound and light show!

Yet, Brussels is not the only must-see place in Belgium in December. The medieval cities of Bruges and Ghent look like taken out of a fairytale during the Christmas season. Continue reading to find out why to visit the Ghent and Bruges Christmas markets and what not to miss.

Bruges

Bruges in winter

The medieval city of Bruges has the perfect fairytale setting for a Christmas village. Gorgeous gothic architecture, cobbled streets, canals crisscrossing the city, Bruges has it all!

Add to this, buildings covered in sparkling lights, gingerbread style houses and the aroma of fresh waffles and spices. This is what Bruges looks like in December – an idyllic destination for an unforgettable winter city break.

I visited the city on a day trip from Brussels. Check out my Bruges itinerary to find out how to see the city in only 1 day.

Does Bruges have a Christmas market

Yes, there are 2 Christmas markets in Bruges. In addition, the city hosts an awesome ice sculpture festival!

The markets are smaller than the ones in Brussel. Yet, don’t miss to visit them because of the fairytale atmosphere.

Bruges xmas market

Where is Bruges Christmas market

The main one is located at Markt (Market Square) in the historical heart of the city. Here you’ll also find the ice rink.

There is a second smaller Christmas village at Simon Stevinplein. Both markets are within a walking distance from each other.

When do the Christmas markets start in Bruges in 2019

They are from 23 November to 1 January (please note that dates for 2019 are yet to be announced).

Bruges Christmas market opening times
Every day from 11:00 AM to 08:00 PM
Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM
24th December – closes at 05:00 PM
25th December – open only in the afternoon

Christmas street decoration

Hotels near Bruges Christmas market

If you’re visiting Bruges for the Christmas markets, stay in the Historic centre. It’s pretty walkable and you’ll be within walking distance to everything. Check out these suggestions that are next to the Christmas villages.

Hotel Acacia – Best for families
8.8/10 Rating – See hotel images and 1,730+ guest reviews
Superb central location (right next to both markets) but on a quiet street. Private and public parking is available. The hotel features a bar with an open fireplace as well as a cosy lounge with a piano.


Hotel Sablon – Best for couples
9.1/10 Rating – See hotel images and 1,940+ guest reviews
Hotel Sablon features huge stylishly decorated rooms. The location is excellent, close to the markets and shopping streets. It’s perfect for your Christmas trip to Bruges.


De Drie Koningen – Apartments
9.6/10 Rating – See apartment images and 270+ guest reviews
De Drie Koningen is only a short walk from Markt Square. The apartments are trendy and modern with fully equipped kitchens. Private parking is also available.

Bruges Christmas markets review

Markt

Markt Christmas village

Markt is the heart of the Historic Centre. The whole square is edged with gorgeous gothic and medieval buildings.

In December, here is the main Christmas village. Festively decorated wooden stalls surround a glittering ice skating rink. The sparkling Christmas trees add more magic to the atmosphere. All this set against the magnificent backdrop of the Belfry.

The medieval Belfry tower is open for visitors (daily 09:30 AM – 06:00 PM). You can climb the 366 steps to the top for jaw-dropping views of the city.

Simon Stevinplein

Simon Stevinplein Christmas market

It’s a smaller market, but with a lot of charm. The whole square is lined with trees with twinkling fairy lights. An idyllic place to stop and warm yourself with some mulled wine or jenever.

Bruges Christmas market food

belgian nougat

The wooden chalets sell all kinds of treats and foods! You’ll find a wide range of cheese and meat delicacies. Nougat and waffles are a must-taste for everyone with a sweet tooth.

However, wine lovers will be a little disappointed. Although you can find some stalls selling mulled wine, the most popular drink is jenever. It’s a Dutch gin, usually served in small glasses.

Things to do in Bruges at Christmas

Shopping

Looking for unique Christmas toys and decorations? Then, visit De Witte Pelikaan. This shop is a heaven for every Christmas lover. And the best part is that it is open throughout the whole year!

The shop offers authentic and unique Christmas decorations, including handmade glassware, angels, baubles and trees.

De Witte Pelikaan
Address: Vlamingstraat 23
dewittepelikaan.be

Take a horse carriage ride

Explore the picturesque city on a horse carriage ride. It’s a fun and romantic way to discover Bruges. You can hire a horse-drawn carriage from Mark Square. The cost to rent the carriage (up to 5 people) is €50 for a 30min ride.

horse carriage ride bruges

Ice sculptures festival

Every year in December, the city hosts an Ice Sculptures festival. More than 3,000 blocks of ice are transformed into glacial masterpieces.

The exhibitions take place at a huge hermetically isolated ice hall. The temperature is about -6° Celsius (21° Fahrenheit) and you’ll need at least 30min to see everything. So dress warmly.

You can find the Ice Sculptures festival at Stationsplein, just outside the Central train station.

Go ice skating

The glittering ice rink at Markt Square is surrounded by tens of festively decorated stalls. Christmas music, sparkling trees, the magnificent Belfry – all this provides the ideal setting for skating.

Waffle and chocolate tasting

What’s better than a delicious hot chocolate on a cold winter day? A hot chocolate with a waffle! And the best place to try this is the House of Waffles. They serve all sorts of waffles with various toppings like ice-cream, chocolate, fruits and powder sugar.

Address: Wollestraat 31
thehouseofwaffles.com

House of Waffles

Coffee and meringues

Craving for more sweet treats? Then visit Aux Merveilleux de Fred and taste the meringue cakes. They come in two different sizes (one of them is huge). Try the little ones, as you can sample more flavours that way.

Aux Merveilleux de Fred
Address: Eiermarkt 3A

Aux Merveilleux de Fred

How to get from Bruges train station to the Christmas markets

It’s a 15min walk from the Central train station to the first market at Simon Stevinplein.

I would recommend you to walk if you’re planning to combine the Christmas villages with a day of sightseeing. The first tourist sites are within a short walk from the train station.

Yet, there are several buses or trams you can take if you prefer not to walk. De Lijn public transport company serves the city of Bruges. Use their route planner to see which bus is most convenient for you. As a starting point choose Brugge Station Perron 1 and as an end – Brugge Centrum.

Ghent

Ghent xmas market

Looking for a more medieval charm for your winter break? Then visit Ghent. The city is the perfect combination of medieval atmosphere and Christmas fun activities.

Where is Ghent Christmas market

There is one huge Christmas village that stretches from Sint-Baafsplein to the end of Korenmarkt. Find a detailed map here.

When does Ghent Christmas market start in 2019

It starts on 7 December and ends on 6 January (please note that dates for 2019 are yet to be announced). This is a week later than the one in Bruges. Thus, if you planning to visit both, mind the different dates.

Ghent Christmas market opening hours
Every day from 12:00 PM to 09:00 PM
Saturdays and Sundays – 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM
24th and 31th December – 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM
25th December – 02:00 PM – 7:00 PM
1st January – closed

Hotels near Ghent Christmas market

If you’re visiting Ghent for the Christmas markets, stay in the Historic Centre. And to be more precise – close to Korenmarkt and Saint Nicholas’ Church. The area is great for sightseeing and restaurants, too.

NH Belfort – Best for families
9.1/10 Rating – See hotel images and 1,940+ guest reviews
NH Belfort is right next to the historic town hall, less than 100m away from the market. The hotel features private parking and a traditional restaurant.


1898 The Post – Best for couples
9.1/10 Rating – See hotel images and 1,940+ guest reviews
Situated between the Graslei and Kornmarkt, this hotel offers awesome city views. Rooms are elegant with high ceilings and antique furniture. Plus, the Christmas village is only a few metres away.


Snooz Ap Holiday & Business Flats – Apartments
9.1/10 Rating – See apartments images and 1,940+ guest reviews
Excellent modern apartments with a central quiet location. Super easy self-check-in and secure parking.

Ghent Christmas market review

Ghent Winter Festival

In December, the city hosts the Ghent Winter Festival (known as Gentse Winterfeesten). The Historic Centre is transformed into a winter wonderland with wooden huts, vintage merry-go-rounds and sparkling lights.

There is a huge Ferris Wheel and an ice skating rink. The tickets cost €7 for each of them. At the beautiful backdrop of Gravensteen Castle, you’ll find a small vintage merry-go-round. There is even a special Moose bar at the Children’s Village!

Things to do in Ghent at Christmas

Climb the Belfry

Another option to see the festively decorated city from above beside the Ferris Wheel is the Belfry. You can climb the 300 steps to the top of the watchtower or take the lift from the first floor.

ghent belfry view

Taste local delicacies

The wooden stalls are piled high with all kinds of Christmas foods and local delicacies. And each of them is devoted to a certain food – meat, cheese, waffles and even onion!

Christmas stalls food

Visit the Chalet Chouffe

Forget about the mulled wine! Belgians drink beer in the Christmas season. So, don’t miss the Chalet Chouffe located next to Saint Nicholas’ Church. And if you like sweet fruity beers, try the Cherry Chouffe Rouge.

You can also find a lot of stalls selling hot Xmas beer.

hot xmas beer

How to get to Ghent Christmas market from the train station

Gent-Sint-Pieters train station is located about 2.5km away from the Historic centre. You’ll need to take tram line 1 from Sint-Pietersstation perron 2 to Korenmarkt perron 5. A single ticket costs €3 (find more info here).

Ghent or Bruges Christmas market

It’s hard to choose between Ghent and Bruges Christmas market. It all depends on the type of experience you’re looking for.

Bruges is more picturesque and there is an Ice sculptures festival. However, Ghent offers much more diversity of fun activities, especially for kids. There is a Ferris Wheel, vintage merry-go-rounds, a Moose bar and a Children Village. Plus, there is a castle to visit – Gravensteen.

So, choose Bruges if you’re looking for a medieval Christmas experience. Ghent is a better option for families with kids.

Of course, it’s best if you have time to visit both cities. They are located only 30m by train from each other.

Further reading for your trip

Find more places to see in DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Belgium.

If you consider renting a car, compare the car rental prices in Europe.

Have you visited Bruges and Ghent Christmas markets?
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Bruges Christmas market Ghent Christmas market

 
About the author
Avatar Milena Yordanova
I'm a travel blogger based in Sofia, Bulgaria. Travelling has always been my passion and I love to discover new places and cultures. I want to show you how easy it is to organize your vacation all by yourself.

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