A highlight of the Brussels calendar would have to be the annual ‘Winter Wonders’ Christmas markets, when Place Sainte Catherine and Marché aux Poissons are transformed into a festive village of wooden chalets housing an array of Christmas treasures. In addition to ornaments and Christmas gifts, the market stalls’ offerings include gourmet specialties such as crepes and waffles, raclette and sausages, and even fresh salmon smoked on embers. And since it wouldn’t be a Christmas market without glühwein (mulled red wine), there are many vendors serving the winter warmer, along with jenever (a traditional Belgian liquor) for an added local flavour.
I’d been eagerly awaiting the opening of the Winter Wonders, which would be my first ever Christmas market experience. The Brussels market is one of the largest in Europe and stretches from Sainte Catherine to the Bourse and the Grand Place, with numerous chalets offering all kinds of treats – the highlight for me are definitely the edible kind! Boudins géants (giant sausages served in foot-long baguettes) and poutine (a Québécois specialty of fries topped with gravy and cheese curd) are not to be missed.
Aside from the delicious food, one of the stand-out features of the Brussels markets for me are the Jules Verne-inspired Manèges d’Andréa merry-go-rounds. The unique merry-go-rounds offer some fantastic hand-crafted characters including a frog, cricket, ostrich and unicorn as well as a boat, plane and even a space ship that literally transports its passenger high into the air. It would be great to be a kid again just to be able to give one of these original rides a try – the space ship would definitely be my choice!
The Brussels Christmas market is especially impressive at night, when streets and buildings light up with some spectacular lighting displays. This year, the facade of the Sainte Catherine Church transforms into a magic factory in a sound and light show inspired by the worlds of Jules Verne and Escher, while a 3D light presentation is projected onto the interior of the Bourse Palace. At the Grand Place, a light installation featuring over 1600 LED spotlights create a sound and light show inspired by the seasons, beautifully offset by a 21-metre tall Christmas tree alongside a life-size nativity scene complete with live sheep. Having this amazing market right on our doorstep is a fitting addition to our list of things to be grateful for this Christmas…
Plaisirs d’Hiver – Winter Pret
Place Sainte Catherine / Marché aux Poissons, 1000 Brussels