Belgium might not be the biggest country out there but it boasts rich history, tradition and culture, renowned chocolate and waffles, exquisite beers, and amazing art and architecture. Because of its charming medieval cities, Belgium makes for a perfect destination during wintertime. From incredible Christmas markets and mesmerizing winter scents to stunning decorations and holiday spirit that warms up the heart – you will feel as if you’ve stepped into a fairytale. Here are the top three cities to visit.
Brussels, the enchanting capital
During the winter, Brussels turns into a magical winter wonderland. From the last week of November to the first days of January, there is the famous Winter Wonders Festival held that includes a massive Christmas market, followed by outdoor ice rink (ticket price €7/hr), the Ferris Wheel (€5 per ride), and numerous street vendors. It spreads from Grand Place all the way to the Bouse-de-Brouckère street. The whole city smells like fresh waffles and delicious food that will surely put you in a wintery mood. There are even guided tours (€6 per person) that help you discover the city covered in winter magic. Don’t miss visiting the Atomium – a building made of iron spheres.
While you’re there, take a walk to the Mini Europe: it’s a park where you have an opportunity to stroll through miniature models of Europe’s most famous cities. For sweet tooths, visiting the Brussels’ Chocolate museum would be an amazing experience: entrance fee is €5.50 but it includes chocolate tasting during the visit! And did you know Brussels is the birthplace of many comic characters such as Lucky Luke and Tintin? Go on a strip walk and discover what else is there.
Bruges, the breathtaking Venice of the North
Bruges is one of Belgium’s best-preserved medieval cities and an amazing place to visit during the festive season. You can enjoy vivid Christmas markets on the cobblestone Market Square and Simon Stevinplein and warm up with some fine wine or by skating in the ice rink. Until the middle of January, there’s the annual Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival that takes place at the railway station. There are also the Magical Winter Moments with Flowers at the Old St John’s Hospital that merges the art of flower arranging with winter magic. The best way to soak in the city’s scenery is from the boat. There are plenty of options if you are interested in barge cruises in Europe: sit back and relax while cruising down the Dijver Canal and discover why Bruges is called the Venice of the North. This way, you can explore the remains of the 15th-century Heren van Gruuthuse mansion from a whole new angle.
Leuven, amazing university town
If you’re passionate about architecture, Leuven won’t let you down. The gothic City Hall on the Main Market square looks absolutely surreal and you can explore it from the inside too (entrance fee is €4 and includes a booklet). During the festive season, it’s decorated with amazing lights. St. Peter’s Church is one of the most prominent examples of Brabant Gothic Style and has the Museum of Religious Art as its integral part. The famous University of Leuven is stunning by itself and it boasts with great alumni such as the Desiderius Erasmus himself. Winter in Leuven is so delightful: The Christmas Market held in the city center has been chosen as the Coziest Christmas Market in Europe. From Santa Claus’ enchanting house and gift stands to finger-licking-good treats and sweets – Leuven is perfect for a visit during the wintertime.
For that warm and fuzzy feeling during the holidays, there’s hardly a better destination than Belgium. Belgian 15th-century painters were the first to develop oil painting technique which changed the course of art history so it’s not a surprise one of the best Flemish painting collections can be found in this country. Architecture lovers, prepare to get your mind blown away: from Medieval and Renaissance to Art Nouveau – Belgium’s got it all.
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