Lights! Music! Decorations! Treats! Cheer! Memories!

Close your eyes and think of Christmas. Images of winter and snow and twinkling lights, carols and gifts, gingerbread houses, tall decorated trees, and special delicious delights pop into one’s mind. Open your eyes and behold the magical Christmas Markets of Belgium: Brussels, Bruges, and Ghent! These three Belgian cities are world renowned for beautiful old-world holiday festivities that last the entire month of December. 

Begin in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium and the home of the European Union. The city centre, from the old Mint to the Stock Exchange to the charming quarter of Sainte Catherine, hosts a market of more than 200 little wooden chalets, each packed with delights, as well as a covered ice rink, fabulous merry-go-rounds, and an enormous Ferris wheel. And around the corner, Brussels’ stunning Grand Place, a World Heritage UNESCO site, is the location of  an unforgettable Christmas Tree Sound and Light Show offered in the evenings. Wander the streets while munching on roasted chestnuts or sipping hot mulled wine, soak up the cheer in the festive atmosphere, and enjoy Christmas shopping like never before. The Brussels Christmas Market runs from 30 November through 6 January.

Then on to Ghent, an easy train ride from Brussels. Stroll through this lovely old city, past medieval and neo-gothic castles, cathedrals, churches, and brilliantly painted row houses. Famed for its van Eyck Altarpiece, Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, in the Saint Bavo Cathedral, the Belfort Belfry is also worth a visit. The view from the top will include the heart of the city with the bustling Christmas market below. Smaller than the Brussels market and not as touristy as Bruges, Ghent offers a splendid array of more than 150 wooden huts set amongst firs and pines; food and drink as well as authentic hand crafts and special trinkets are all for sale. Craft beer is offered throughout the market and unique craft mustard, from a 1790 recipe, can be found in a shop called Tierenteyn. And, don’t forget the “Red Noses”—sweet sticky treats special to Ghent! The Christmas Market takes place from 8 December through 6 January. 

And now to Bruges! Untouched by time, Bruges is a beautiful fairytale come to life, a maze of narrow cobbled-stone streets that weave their way through the historic old town centre, over little bridges and along canals. The entire pretty medieval city is decorated to celebrate the festive season; twinkling fairy lights and boughs of greens line the shops and streets. A horse-drawn carriage will give an authentic tour of Bruges and stop in the city’s “Grote Markt”  (MarketSquare) which, from 23rd November until 1 January, will be the focal point of Bruges’ Christmas Market. The 272’ Belfort Tower, Bruge’s belfry with a 47 melodious bell carillon, marks the spot. Climb the 366 steps to the top of the tower for a stunning view of the city and the surrounding area. Back down on the street, find a cozy cafe and enjoy a hot chocolate before venturing out into the Christmas bustle. One of Europe’s most popular destinations, Bruges and the Christmas Markets will be full to the brim with good cheer. There will be no shortage of fresh waffles, local chocolates, or Speculaas, famous ginger spice cookies; lots of special shopping will be available in the square, with a glittering ice rink in the background. Not to be missed!

There are daily flights to Brussels from Atlanta. The train connections within Belgium are easy and enjoyable. All of these magic memories are just waiting for you to make them happen!