Brusssels, Belgium (December 2014)
I’ve been to Brussels far too many times to count, but my favorite season to visit is the holidays, when the city transforms into what they call, “Winter Wonders,” which starts on the third or fourth week of November till the first week of January.
Despite the fact that the day sets in rather early – between four or five in the afternoon, or the fact that the sun is barely out during this season – be it in the morning or afternoon, or that it can get freezing cold – specially for a tropical girl like me, I still love seeing Brussels during the holidays.
And why, you may ask? It’s because just like any other European city, the place lights up with multitudes of lights and decors giving a whole new meaning to the holidays. There’s just something about visiting Europe during the Christmas season that makes you feel more festive; so if you’re planning that trip to Europe in November / December, let me share with you my favorite things to do in Brussels during the holidays:
1) Head to Grand Place to see the Brussels Christmas tree
Standing 20 metres high, this Christmas tree is set up annually in the middle of Grand Place during the Winter Wonders festivities from the third or fourth week of November up until the last week of December or the first week of January.
2) Go ice-skating
Nothing adds more festivity to a real-life winter wonderland than an ice-skating rink, so if you’re ever in Brussels during this time of year, then find one of the city’s temporarily set-up skating rinks! I remember the two times I visited during this season, it was located in front of Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, which I believe is one of the best locations for an ice-skating rink to be placed. Just make sure to check before you go, (since I’m not sure it’s located in the same place yearly) so you don’t miss out on this experience!
3) Christmas Markets
This is pretty much my favorite thing about visiting Europe during the winter season: the glorious Christmas markets. From finding a couple of pretty little trinkets to grabbing a cup of hot chocolate, or indulging in local food, or simply admiring these beautifully-built stalls and all the lights and decors that surround them; no wonder the Christmas Markets in Brussels are always on the must-do list!
4) Grand Place Sound and Lights Show
Last, but most definitely not the least, this is one thing you must not miss when you find yourself in Brussels during the holiday season. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the show runs daily from 5:00PM every hour on weekdays and every half-hour on weekends up until about 10 in the evening.
Just like the tree and the Christmas Markets, this takes place starting the third or fourth week of November until the first week of January. I’ve seen the Fountains of Bellagio show in Las Vegas with all the sounds and music, but this is far more magical.
A tip, though some say you have to go early, we arrived just about ten minutes before the show and there was more than enough space for more people to arrive; so you don’t really have to go extra-early. It lasts for a couple of minutes, so you don’t need to stand too long, but I’m 100% sure you won’t mind standing for even longer as you watch this illuminating, perfectly-timed and incredibly-done sound and lights show.