Best Christmas Markets in Europe
Brussels' Christmas market has been around only since 2002, but it pulls off its Plaisirs d'Hiver/Winter Pret ("Pleasures of Winter") festival with elegant style. The theatrics include a nightly sound-and-light show on the Grand Place and a market surrounding the Bourse (Stock Exchange) and along Place Sainte Catherine. In keeping with that Belgian spirit of a United Europe, the 240 wooden chalets host artisans from around the world hawking a kaleidoscope of Christmas wares, handmade crafts, and souvenirs. Not that Belgian traditions are left out; browse the many food stalls for pots of moules (mussels) and caricoles (peppery whelks or winkles), Belgian fries and fluffy Belgian waffles, seasonal croustillons (sugar doughnuts), and Belgium's two most welcome additions to world cuisine: fine chocolates and powerful beer. The shopping ends at the Fishmarket, which is transformed annually into a long ice-skating rink. A spinning 160-foot Ferris wheel glitters overhead.
Look For: The Île de la Réunion village. Each year, Brussels invites a different guest of honor to set up a market-within-the-market to share some of its own traditions. Past invitees have included Provence, Québec, Tallinn, and Lapland.
Dates: Late Nov.–Jan. 1
For More Info: plaisirsdhiver.be