The final stop of my Christmas Market adventure is Brussels, Belgium. I have been to Brussels before – for less than 24 hours – so was looking forward to spending more time exploring this fun city and seeing what it has to offer at Christmas time.
Manneken Pis and Friend Statues
First and foremost, Brussels is (in)famous for its Manneken Pis bronze statue. Essentially, it’s a statue of a naked boy urinating into the fountain base. The original statue was put up in the early 1600s and is said to represent both the sense of humor and rebellious spirit of the Belgium people.
The Manneken Pis is often dressed up in different costumes throughout the year and he was in his Christmas outfit when I visited!
Not about to let just the boys have all the fun, Brussels also has statues of a peeing girl, Jeanneke-Pis and dog, Zinneke Pis. You can easily find all three within a short walk of each other in the Old Town area.
Brussels Grand Place
Brussels central square is called the Grand Place (in French) and Grote Markt (in Dutch), it is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe, and while I’m sure there are many opinions on this, I do find it to be especially gorgeous. It is referred to in documents as early as the late 11th century. The square is surrounded by the Town Hall (center left photo), the City Museum, and other various guild halls. In 1998 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Museum of the City of Brussels
The Brussels City Museum sits opposite the Town Hall in Grand Place and focuses on the history and folklore of Brussels. It houses the original Manneken Pis statue and many of the 900 costumes the statue has worn. They have a digital catalog of all the costumes you can search through to see pictures of them all. There are also to-scale dioramas of the city from its early days and the Middle Ages, along with many different paintings, statues, and tapestries representing the city’s history.
Brussels Christmas Markets
As evening approached, the Christmas Markets in Brussels came to life! Referred to as Plaisirs d’Hiver or Winter Wonders, the Brussels Christmas Markets fill up many different squares in the city. I found them to be easily walkable to each other and enjoyed seeing the streets light up as I walked from one place to the next.
Here is the Place de la Bourse (“Stock Exchange Square”):
From there, I walked over to Sainte-Catherine’s Cathedral:
And just around the corner was the Marche aux Poissons Vismarkt (the Fish Market), where I found my favorite Christmas Market activity – the Ferris Wheel!
Of course, I wouldn’t pass up a ride and got to see the lights of the market from above:
Finally, I made my way back to the Grand Place for their stunning sound and light show. Last year, it featured music from Australian singer/songwriter Sia with lights dancing against the facades of the buildings, moving and changing color in time to the music. It was extremely crowded, but such a magical experience!
Musée Magritte and Musée Fin-de-Siécle
Cost: $15 (combo ticket)
The next morning, I set off to see a little more of the culture of Brussels. I started with two of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium: the Musée Magritte and Fin-de-Siécle museums.
TIP: I bought a combo ticket the day I was there that offered discounted entrance to these two museums. But watch for free days, as the Royal Museums offer free admittance on the first Wednesday of the month after 1 pm!
The Musée Magritte is the largest collection of the works of Belgian Surrealist artist René Magritte, with over 200 items in its collection.
Musée Fin-de-Siécle houses a spectacular collection of works from Belgian and foreign artists that focuses on the period of 1868-1914, the “end of the century”.
… including one of my favorites, Rodin’s The Thinker:
Brussels Street Art
Another type of art that Brussels is known for is its vast collection of street art. Spend a couple hours walking through the streets of Old Town and you will find a wide variety of styles, designs, and colors painted on the walls of the city.
The. Best. Treat. Ever.
While I experienced my share of pretzels, hot chocolate, and vin chaud during my Christmas Market adventure, by far my favorite treat is the Belgian Waffle. These are not like American waffle, nor even what Americans call a Belgian Waffle. These are better, so so much better!
I had them plain, (as you see in the Grand Place pictures above) and covered with fruit, but there are endless topping options as you can also smother them in chocolate, whipped cream, ice cream… Trust me when I say: you must go to Belgium, you must have a Belgian waffle, you’re welcome.
Mont des Arts
While walking to the train station, I came across this beautiful area called the Mont des Arts. Here you will find the National Archives of Belgian, the Royal Library of Belgian, a meeting center and public garden. It seemed so magical to watch the lights come on as evening fell and I was mesmerized by the view. It was a beautiful way to end my visit.
Brussels Grand Place Hilton
I stayed at the Brussels Grand Place Hilton. It sits directly across from the Central Train Station, making it very easy to get to – you literally walk out the door and across the plaza. It is next to the Old Town area and was very easy to walk to all of the museums and Christmas Markets I saw while in Brussels. Their lobby is very shiny and opulent, with a fun elephant statue in the middle. (I will note, that I paid for a regular king room, but I do have Silver status at Hilton and I think they may have upgraded my room because it was much larger than I expected!)
The Budget for Brussels, Belgium
The budget for these two days in Brussels came to $250:
My budget has been translated to USD, based on my final credit card charge or a google conversion where I paid in cash.
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I love Brussels, and makes me want to return for the Christmas market. Such a great idea how you reviewed your itinerary with the associated cost. Your pictures and descriptions were informative and inspiring. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
Great photos – I have never been to a Christmas market but really want to!
Thank you! They’re great fun, I hope you get the chance to go one year!
Brussels looks amazing! I have never been to Brussels and your post has made it skyrocket up the list! That main square is stunning and I did not know Magritte was Belgian. And then there’s the little peeing statues and Belgian waffles. Glad you had such a wonderful getaway. Great info and photographs.
Awesome, I hope you get the chance to visit soon! I just love Brussels – there’s such a fun air to it. In addition to the museum, there’s also the Magritte House which shows off a place where he once lived. Really interesting to see!
I really love Brussels but have never been at winter time. It’s so easy to get to for us from London, I think it’s a great choice for a European Christmas market. Great post showcasing some of Brussels key sites alongside the night lighting and the Christmas market.
Definitely an advantage you have is the close proximity to so many different countries!
We were just there in the last week of October. All those Christmas trimmings add more glitter to Brussels. Plus a Christmas market and possibly all the good eats all over again. I would love to go back now!
Visiting Brussels is addicting, isn’t it?! I’ve seen Brussels in spring and at Christmas time, and now I want to see it in the fall one year! It’s a great city and I love the food there.
Your Christmas market adventure was awesome, I loved following the series! I discovered lots of new things (e.g. I had no idea that the Manneken Pis wears costumes every now and then)
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the series!! I’ve seen the Manneken Pis in 2 different costumes now. It’s fun to see the differences. I enjoyed looking at the catalog in the museum – they even had him in an Elvis costume once!
Hmmm, part of me thinks I’m walking way from this article wondering why the Belgians are so fascinated with urinating 😉 But in reality, it shows me how inexpensive a trip to such a beautiful city can be. Only the hotel really charges up the cost. I’ve only been to Bruges in Belgium and would love to visit Brussels. Amazing to think that town square is 1000 years old!
Haha, yes there does seem to be a fascination with urinating! Not what one expects when touring a new city but there it is! I haven’t been to Bruges yet but it’s on my list, I hear it’s quite beautiful!
Brussels looks like such an amazing city, especially at Christmas. I would love to experience the markets, especially for that price! It looks amazing!
It was absolutely beautiful at Christmas time, I’d highly recommend it!
Incredible festive city! I love the Christmas market photos, they are so stunning and lively. Depending on one’s lodging, you can really do the same tour for close to $150!
Very true, lodging has a big impact on the cost so depending on what you want and/or are willing to give up, you could make the trip much cheaper or much more expensive!