Looking for winter activities away from the classical Christmas fairs?

During the winter period, you can’t avoid the typical Christmas markets. In every city, you can find a square packed with stalls. We’ve found you some alternatives for those bustling markets.

Winter markets are becoming very popular. For instance, Winterland Hasselt attracted 650,000 visitors last season and the Christmas Market in Brussels drew almost 3.5 million visitors. Are you looking for a less crowded alternative to get the Christmas spirit?

1. Wintergarden in Leuven

Immerse yourself in a real Christmas forest on the Grand Square of Leuven, the biggest student city of Belgium. Wintertuin is decorated with wooden deer and 150 Christmas trees. The cozy green garden is located in the middle of the city centre, with a Christmas crib and 15 metres 15-meter-high Christmas tree. You can take a break from the packed Christmas market by wandering around in the winter garden.


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Een bericht gedeeld door Stad Leuven (@leuven)

2. Visit a Christmas show in a garden center

In many garden centers, you can find Christmas shows. They display their whole assortment of Christmas decorations and Christmas miniature villages. It’s ideal to do some Christmas shopping but also fun to just look at. The biggest garden center of Belgium, Floralux, offers different themes of Christmas decoration but in other garden centres, you’ll also keep your eyes glued to all the decorations.


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3. Christmas cribs walk in Merksplas

During the Christmas break, you can also go walking from crib to crib through the countryside. In Merksplas and Baarle-Hertog, close to the Dutch border, you can find walking routes from 8 to 25 kilometers on forest and countryside roads. You pass different cribs and bars for a little pitstop. The Christmas crib of Zondereigen, village in the Noorderkempen, is one of the most beautiful cribs of the Kempen, build by the villagers of Zondereigen.

To get to the cribs, you walk through different nature areas © Lisse Franck & Johan van den Hout

4. LGBTQ+ Christmas Market in Cologne, Germany

In the Schaafenstraße in the Christmas city of Cologne, you can find the LGBTQ+ Christmas market, Heavenue. Besides the typical stalls, you can also enjoy a cabaret and show. The street is known as the hotspot for the LGBTQ+ community the whole year round, but during the holidays they transform the street into a safe spot for everyone for a nice Christmas atmosphere.


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5. Christmas Market in a cave in Valkenburg

Just over the border with the Netherlands, you find the Christmas market of Valkenburg, in a marl cave. Under the ground, you can go shopping or get some food from the different stalls. The historic cave is also fairytale-like decorated with Christmas lights and other ornaments which you can enjoy as you walk through the ancient corridors.

The cave is lit up with christmas lights Neuwieser (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

6. Nostalgic Christmas in Bokrijk

Winter light is an evening event to experience Christmas in the days of your (great)grandparents. Five days, between Christmas and New Year, Bokrijk, in Limburg between Hasselt and Genk, organises theater acts, art and a nostalgic party village. You can ride in the old fair attractions or enjoy a concert with DIY drums. They organise some demonstration as well, such as basket weaving or an explanation by the water mill.


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7. Winterglow in Bruges

In Bruges you can feel the Christmas atmosphere in the whole city. Beside the traditional Christmas Market and the iceskating rink you can walk a light trail. This year, the theme is Aurora, better known as the Northern Lights. Along the 2.5 kilometers long trail through the city center of Bruges, you come across 10 art installations. The Light Experience Show is from the 24th of December until the 7th of January, every day from 5 pm until midnight.

The legend of the swans comes to life © Visit Bruges – Jan Darthet

Text: Lotte van den Hout
Photo: Matt Seymour via Unsplash