In Spain the first week of December there are a couple of public holidays, the “Puente de Diciembre” or “Puente de la Constitución”. During this week, Spaniards take the opportunity to travel abroad, especially to places in Europe.
Many Spaniards take advantage of the national holidays, the 6th and 8th of December, to take time off from work for the rest of the week and have the whole week off. In addition, many universities and colleges also take the entire long weekend, so that some students can enjoy a week’s holiday.
It is a perfect time to enjoy European cities at their best. In most of them, Christmas markets, Christmas lights and Christmas trees decorate and fill the city with illusion and Christmas spirit. In addition, with the low temperatures it can even snow, leaving a perfect picture to enjoy on a Christmas holiday.
However, while it is common for many Spaniards who have holidays to take advantage of them to travel, it is also unusual. Prices for these dates, from 1 to 10 December, tend to be very high due to the demand. Therefore, it is also common for many people who have holidays to stay in Spain due to the price of flights or hotels.
Where do they go in those days?
It can be said that some of the favorite destinations for Spaniards are Vienna, Budapest or Prague. But there is one that is the favorite par excellence, Brussels. The capital of Belgium and Europe is flooded with Spaniards every December long weekend. It is ideal for both families and student groups. Its Christmas markets, lights, gastronomy and leisure activities attract the attention of different age groups.
In addition, near Brussels, there are charming towns that are also famous for their Christmas markets. Bruges and Ghent are two must-sees if you are visiting Brussels. Many of the visitors are also YouTube content creators and upload their experiences in all three places during the holidays. This way they encourage people to come and visit during this period.
Interview with a student who spent her holidays in Brussels
Many students choose Brussels as their holiday destination. It could be because of the charm of the capital and the surrounding villages or because they are visiting to see a classmate who is on Erasmus. Tara Fleitas (21) talks about her experience these days in Brussels.
Why did you decide to come to Brussels?
Well, there are several reasons. This year we had a holiday that week at the university and I decided to take advantage of it and go on a trip. I had a couple of Erasmus friends abroad and I came to Brussels to visit them. I was already looking forward to coming, but the fact that they were here made me want to come even more.
What have you visited during the days you have been here?
I visited Brussels, Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp. I loved all four places, the Christmas markets and the Christmas lights made for example Bruges look even more like a fairy tale. In Brussels, we went to many markets where we ate waffles, tasted mulled wine and skated on the ice rink.
Have you met more Spanish people?
Yes, without a doubt. I’ve met more Spanish tourists than Belgians. Everywhere I went I bumped into Spanish people. I suppose people have taken advantage of the long weekend to travel like me.
Do you know any other students who have come to Brussels?
Yes, I have an older brother who also took advantage of the December holidays last year to come and visit Brussels.
Interview with a tourism expert
Anja Lecointre, a teacher of Tourism Recreation Management (TRM) course at Thomas More Hogeschool in Mechelen, talks about why Brussles is the favourite destination for Spanish people.
I have read in some Spanish newspapers that Brussels is the favorite destination for the Spanish people to spend their holidays. What do you think?
It makes me happy to hear that lots of Spanish people are travelling through Belgium and to Brussels just for a weekend or a week. So that’s very nice to hear. Yeah, because this season is the best season to come, is it not? One of the nice seasons to come as we’re filling the Christmas sphere. We have the central market with the little cabanas and we’re full in Christmas lights. So, it’s a nice season to come over.
So, do you think that they come because of the season or for other reasons?
Exactly. Because also it’s a very short flight or not so far away from Spain. And at least you already have the winter feeling. So, I think there is a match. Um, but I also hope they come to Brussels because we have some cities nearby that are also very, very beautiful to visit. I’m thinking already about Antwerp. It’s just like one hour by train for four trains an hour. It’s also a very lovely and big city. And even though they can make a stop here in Mechelen, that’s a tiny city. But tourist-wise, we have a lot to offer.
I also know that other towns like Bruges or Ghent, because are also very nice destinations. Do you think some activities attract people to go there?
Yeah. So, Bruges is one of the highlights of Belgium. It’s like a fairytale in the winter season. On the way between Brussels and Bruges, you have Ghent, it’s smaller but also very beautiful. The advantage, what I see is you can make like a city trip, 1 or 2 cities combined. They can come another time to combine Ghent and Bruges or the next time they combine, for example, Mechelen to Antwerp. And even though if they have time left, they can go to Amsterdam because it’s all on the way.
And what do you think is the range of age? Families? Students?
I think the destination is focused on every level. I mean, for example, to get to Belgium is easy, accessible by airplane and also by low cost. So, it means that people with a lower budget are able to come, like students. Yeah, if we’re talking about accommodation, all the cities we talked about before have accommodation in different categories depending on what the the tourist wants to pay. We also have some very nice youth hostels. We’re more and more in Flanders focusing also on the young urban traveller. They are the future, and maybe they will come back in 10 or 20 years with a couple when the budgets will be different. And even in 50 years, they will come back again with another budget. So, I think the destination is accessible for all kinds of people, interest and budget-wise.
Text: Estela González
Photo: © Alejandra Perdomo