More and more people are going on holiday around Christmas, and it's not a surprising trend.
Not only can you avoid the horror of the shops on Boxing Day, but it's a great way of experiencing how another country gets itself into the festive mood.
In recent years, Belgium's had a rise in popularity, due to its famous Christmas markets. Imagine the scents of the sweet and savoury food, a warm cup of mulled wine in your hand, and a huge array of unique market stalls to choose from. There are worse ways to spend the run-up to Christmas, surely?
Brussels Christmas Market
Visit Brussels and take in its beautiful Christmas market, which stretches along a 2km walkway that makes its way through the city. The market is called Winter Wonders, and it has beautiful light displays, twinkling, Christmassy music and impressive Christmas decorations. It's enough to get even Ebenezer Scrooge into the Christmas spirit.
With well over 200 chalets selling Christmas goodies, you’re bound to find a few stocking fillers for the family - or a few treats for yourself.
Getting there: Why not take the Eurostar from London to Brussels? Travelling by train helps avoid the stress of flying and it’s just as quick, as the standard journey time is 2 hours 22 minutes.
Bruges Christmas Market
Bruges is beautiful all year round, but it’s particularly special at Christmas time. Bearing in mind that Bruges is so traditional, its huge Christmas market is especially impressive. It's got all of the necessary Christmassy features, such as mulled wine, speciality foods, and unique continental market stalls. Many visitors say that it’s the ice rink and ice sculptures at Bruges that make it a truly magical experience.
When you’ve finished with all of your Christmas shopping, the UNESCO page is a brilliant resource for anyone who wants to get the most out of visiting Bruges.
Getting there: Bruges isn’t too far from Amsterdam, so a quick flight (or ferry) and a train ride and you’re enjoying the festivities in no time.
Ghent Christmas Market
While in Ghent, make sure you visit the beautiful Belfry Square and the Cloth Hall - the city’s famous medieval commercial centre, which dates back to the 13th century. For an impressive, although humbling, experience, visit Menin Gate: a war memorial dedicated to British Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in World War I.
With a few essential landmarks ticked off your list, it’s time to check out Ghent’s Christmas market festivities, held in the beautiful Saint-Bavo Square. Expect over 50 stalls from all over Europe, with food, drink and hand-crafted goodies. Ghent itself has distinctive architecture that is beautiful by day and stunning when it's lit up by night.
Getting there: You can get there by train easily enough, but travelling by river cruise is a much more luxurious experience. The River Cruise Line offers a unique cruise that visits Ghent just in time for the Christmas market, and it also passes Brussels and Bruges on the way.
If you want more information on all of these locations and their wonderful Christmas markets, then the Visit Belgium site is very useful and easy to navigate.
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