Located at the geographic and cultural juncture of Germany, France and England, it is not surprising that Belgium boasts one of the most popular Christmas markets in Europe. Though overshadowed by the mammoth markets of Southern Germany and Central England, the Winter Wonders festival of Brussels is nevertheless one of the standout holiday markets of Europe. Boasting well over two million visitors annually, it is the largest annual festival in Belgium and one of the best Christmas markets in the world.
The Winter Wonders festival enjoys several traditions that set it apart from many other markets. Sprawling across a huge swath of Brussels’ historic center, the Winter Wonders festival is physically among the largest Christmas markets around. It is also one of the longest, as well as one of the few major markets that usually continues after Christmas, allowing the lucky citizens of Brussels to extend their holiday season and festivities just a little longer.
The Winter Wonders festival has a unique, very international feel. Unlike most other Christmas markets, which are either local or German in flavor, the Brussels market is designed to feel more like a Christmas around the World celebration. The Winter Wonders festival is also hosted each year by a different region of Belgium, giving the host region the opportunity to put its own Christmas culture, heritage and traditions on display for all the world to enjoy. If there were such a thing as a World’s Fair of Christmas markets, this would probably be it.
The Winter Wonders festival is broken into two main clusters: one running from the Fisherman’s Market to the Plaza St. Catherine, which features the bulk of the market and many of the attractions; and the other running from the stock exchange to the Grand Place, where the magnificent Electrabel Nights light display as well as the main Christmas tree can be found. The festival usually runs from late November through late December, including shorter hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (dates and times vary each year). There is no cost of admission. Web: www.plaisirsdhiver.be (official website of the Winter Wonders Festival)