christmas in brussels (where they love mussels, not sprouts)
Prior to my trip to Brussels, I’d been to Belgium on numerous occasions, either passing through or visiting the eery trenches and memorial sites of World War 2. I always thought the flat land was beautiful and inviting, though the smell of both cheese and manure was a little overwhelming at times.
Brussels is an exciting, modern yet historic, multicultural yet distinctive, trendy yet timeless city, and is only a nap away on the Eurostar from St Pancras. I visited at the beginning of December, in the lead up to Christmas, and I can tell you now that it was every bit as festive and alluring as you would imagine a European market town to be at that time of year. Lit up in all its seasonal glory, with the scent of Irish cream and hot chocolate tinting the crisp air, I would put Brussels on the Christmas break priority list.
Bruges, a small picturesque town notorious for Its Christmas market, is an hour away from Brussels. It’s so small that you only really need a day to see everything you want to see! (I went on the same day as my train back to London, leaving my bags in left luggage). Bruges is stunning – think of it as a town that you may have read about once in a fairytale book. It is surrounded by canals, built up with intricate stonework and hosts dozens of local produce shops...you'll want to stop and take pictures at every corner.
The Grand-Place is where it's happening. Like most smaller European cities, this main square is a hub of overpriced café’s and restaurants, souvenir outlets (mostly chocolate and beer), but also showcases stunning Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Here you can find the City’s Town Hall and the Brussels City Museum.
Over the Christmas period, the square’s iconic buildings are illuminated every half an hour from 5.30 to 10.30, with a multicoloured lights show, accompanied by classical music. This enchanting display is not to be missed, adding a magical touch to the festive season in Brussels.
So back to the city itself! You will find that prices are very similar to London prices, though of course, transport is much cheaper. You would do well to make use of Brussel’s excellent Metro system, which is very similar to that in Paris. If you're feeling adventurous, walking is a much nicer way of getting around in the main city area, as most things on foot are no more than 20 minutes away from each other. I stayed in an Aparthotel very close to the EU Parliament (see details below), and this the was perfect location as we were within walking distance of most things we wanted to see, and right next to a Métro stop. One of the most beautiful parks I have visited is a 20 minute walk from the aparthotel- Parc du Cinquantenaire- home to Brussells’ triumphal arch, the Autoworld Museum and the Great Mosque of Brussells.
The Christmas Markets in Brussells are often cited as one of the best in Europe, so you can guarantee that there will be large crowds, whenever you decide to visit. Grand-Place, Bourse and Place Sainte-Catherine offer stinky cheeses, liquor infused hot chocolate and typically, Belgian waffles. Marché aux Poissons boasts a large wheel and ice rink.