Yes, it may only be October but I personally do not think that it’s too early to start talking about my favourite holiday of the year – Christmas! Christmas for Mr ESLT and I has always been spend at home with family and friends. It’s the few days of the year that you won’t find me gallivanting or even wanting to. In fact my never satisfied wanderlust is replaced with contentment and festive ‘cheer’ happily preparing the bird and singing along at the top of my voice to Buble’s Christmas album.
I do however love to visit Christmas markets in the lead up to Christmas and sometimes even over New Year to pick up trinkets for next year’s festivities. Over the past few years I have visited Christmas markets in Dusseldorf (awesome), Cologne (awesome) and Bruges (meh!). Last year we visited Brussels, arriving on 2nd January and to my amazement and excitement the Christmas markets where still up and running!!! It later transpired that Mr ESLT had known they were and therefore had booked us into a hotel (Hotel ibis Brussels Centre St Catherine) near the main market on Marché aux Poissons.
Even though the hotel wasn’t up to much (travelled on a post Christmas budget) we really enjoyed visiting Brussels especially the Christmas markets:-
Place Ste. Catherine
Here you will find all things Christmassy (also some things not Christmassy at all – a Jägermeister stall?) hundreds of beautifully decorated chalets selling a range of decorations, gifts food and drink. On our first evening in Brussels we decided to grab something to eat from one of the stalls and to this day I do not know what it is called. Basically it was sliced potato in a cheese sauce with bacon and a large wedge of bread. I have asked people, googled it and nothing! If you know what this carb fest of a dish is called please let me know! Here you will also find a large Ferris wheel, merry-go-rounds, an ice rink and Santa’s Village – something for all the family! Also, every hour on the hour (after dark) there is a light and sound show projected onto the back of Saint Catherine church which is a very entertaining way to spend 10 minutes. Even though we visited after Christmas it was still super busy so I imagine if you visit leading up to Christmas it may be uncomfortably full especially on weekends.
There aren’t any chalets actually in the Grand Place itself. They are in fact scattered around the neighbouring streets selling the usual Christmas fare – ornaments, decorations etc. together with glorious smelling food stalls and drink stalls selling the Christmas market staple – Gulwein which I’ll be honest I’m not the biggest fan of. The streets around the Grand Place are quite narrow and all it takes is a few people stopping to look at a stall and it becomes quite gridlocked. In the Grand Place itself we found the City’s grand Christmas tree which had come from Riga (2014). The most enjoyable thing was that every hour on the hour after dark there is a sound and light show in the Grand Place, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that lasts for around 15 minutes. This was awesome. Basically all the buildings around the square are illuminated in sequence to Fantasia style music. I love this so much I ‘forced’ Mr ESLT to grab a window table at one of the many bars on the square so we could watch it again in the warmth.
I’ll be honest I was surprised how much I enjoyed Brussels’ Christmas markets after the let down of the one in Bruges but in reality it still wasn’t as great as the ones I have visited in Germany and that’s why this year we have decided to spend New Year in Berlin so not only do we get to experience the excitement of New Year’s Eve in a city that always features in the ‘Top 10 places in the world to spend New Year’ but also it’s Christmas market(s) too. To add to the wonder and excitement I have my fingers crossed it snows!!!
Have you ever been to Berlin at Christmas or for New Year?