I confess: Even if I thoroughly enjoy shopping for winter trinkets at the Chrismtas markets, I honestly and unequivocally go for the food. And I’m willing to bet good money that most visitors share the same laser-focused goals as I—to savour the atmosphere that’s thick with holiday fuzzies, and to enjoy a variety of scrumptious food, washed down with the season-staple glühwein.
Since 2012, I’ve made a pilgrimage to the most popular Christmas markets in Germany known worldwide to be the very best. I have thrown (calorie-counting) caution to the wind and have gorged my way through the legendary Weihnachtsmarkt of Cologne, Frankfurt, and Dusseldorf—each one living up to their reputation to be the best in the world. So you can imagine my surprise when a weekend trip to the Brussels Christmas markets had me questioning this altogether.
There are 2 reasons why Brussels should be very high in your must-visit list for Christmas:
Reason No. 1: Watching the Christmas lights show at the Grand-Place is truly something out of a Disney movie. Every hour on the hour, from 5PM to 10PM, the Grand-Place serves as a stage to a spectacular lights show synched with beautiful music. It’s a must-see for anyone who loves this time of year, and no, you won’t find this in any of the Christmas markets in Germany. See the 360-degree view here.
Reason No. 2: The food offering is much more diverse. The Belgian food stalls offer more options other than the usual German fare of kartoffelpuffer and krakauer in bread. In the 1km-radius from our hotel, we faced what could only be the best problem to have by a foodie: the task of choosing from French-style champignons, Moroccan couscous, German sausages, Turkish wraps, Italian Bolognese pasta, and of course, the classic Belgian favourites of waffles, chocolates, mussels, and frites.
My tip: When you visit the Brussels Christmas markets, be ready to eat. Sample everything first by sharing with your friends and identify your favourites. Here are 5 of mine:
With over 170.000 tonnes produced each year, Belgian chocolate is one of the best in the world. And at the Brussels Christmas markets, every other store sells them—milk, dark, with nuts, with fruits, balls, solid blocks, liquid, and everything else you can think of. Even better, so many shops offer free tastes!
KRAKAUER, WURST, AND OTHER GRILLED MEAT
Like their German neighbours, the Brussels Christmas markets have a solid offering of grilled meat. So if you find yourself craving for the usual German fare of currywurst, krakauer, or wurst and sauerkraut, you won’t be disappointed.
WAFFLES, WAFFLES, WAFFLES
In a span of 48 hours, I ate 6 waffles. Yes, I am embarrassed to admit this yet I also do not regret it. It did not help that our hotel was right across Maison Dandoy—known for the best waffles in town. You have a choice between the Brussels Waffle and the Liege Waffle. Or do as I did, and have both. Multiple times.
MUSSELS & FRITES
A personal favourite, any trip to Belgium won’t be complete without a serving of mussels with a side of Belgian frites. Although this dish is not readily offered in the Christmas market stalls, most restaurants next to the stalls have mussels in their menu served in a variety of ways—in a tomato base, with cheese, or my favourite, in white wine with garlic and parsley.
My absolute favourite food find in the Brussels Christmas markets is the raclette baguette. Seeing soft melted cheese slowly blanket my sandwich is a real treat for the eyes but biting into the crunchy toasted baguette and tasting the warm cheese is certainly a treat for the belly.
Up next: where to stay in Brussels. Stay tuned!