This guide will walk you through one of the best Christmas markets in Belgium – in Ghent and Bruges. It also includes where to stay, what to see, market opening times, locations and how to get there.
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.
The medieval city of Bruges (Brugge) 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.
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.
Where are the Christmas markets in Brugge
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 Bruges Christmas markets start – 2020
They start at the end of November and continue to the beginning of January.
Bruges Christmas market 2020 dates
(please note that the dates for 2020 are yet to be announced)
From 22 November to 5 January
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
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.
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 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 is only a short walk from Markt Square. The apartments are trendy and modern with fully equipped kitchens. Private parking is also available.
Then take a look at my guide to the best places to stay in Bruges.
Bruges Christmas markets review
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.
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
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
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
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.
Ice sculptures festival
(please note there will be no Ice sculptures festival in 2020)
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
(please note there will be no ice rink in 2020)
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
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
How to get to Bruges Christmas markets
It’s a 15min walk from the Central train station in Bruges 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.
The nearest airports are Ostend-Bruges Airport and Zaventem Airport (near Brussels). You can take a direct train to Bruges from the Zaventem Airport (90min journey).
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 (more info here).
When does Ghent Christmas market start in 2020
It starts on 6 December and ends on 5 January. This is 2 weeks later than the one in Bruges. Thus, if you planning to visit both, mind the different dates.
Ghent Christmas market 2020 dates
(please note that the dates for 2020 are yet to be announced)
From 6 December to 5 January
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 is right next to the historic town hall, less than 100m away from the market. The hotel features private parking and a traditional restaurant.
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.
Excellent modern apartments with a central quiet location. Super easy self-check-in and secure parking.
Then take a look at my guide to where to stay in Ghent.
Ghent Christmas market review
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.
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!
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.
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-Pieters station 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.