Christmas market stalls, spectacular ice-skating, scrummy chocolates and a delicious glass of Delirium or two!
Having fallen in love with the beauty of Brussels’ Grand Place, I already felt our brief visit to Belgium’s capital was more than worth it. The main reason for visiting Belgium at this time of year, however, was for the famous Christmas market, so off we trotted to Place Sainte Catherine.
Brussels Christmas Market
29th November 2013 to 5th January 2014
We had already discovered a couple of small markets in Sablon and Marché de la place Agora but the main Christmas market is held in Place St Catherine each year with over 200 stalls in delightful Swiss chalets.
While there were some lovely stalls, with many tasty treats and pretty hand-crafted presents, the highlight for us was the ice-skating exhibition which had the audience gasping on many occasion as they danced, somersaulted and flew across the ice. The blades of one skater coming perilously close to the ‘crown jewels’ of another on a number of occasions!
Sofitel Le Louise
Having had our fill of Christmas delights and tasty treats we wondered back tired but happy. The lights of our hotel were a welcome sight and following a night-cap from the bar, we snuggled into what is possibly the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in, for a very good night’s sleep knowing that an equally good breakfast awaited us in the morning.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
The next day we re-traced some of our steps and sort out an arcade that I’d been told was well worth visiting, Galaries Royals, just around the corner from the Grand Place. Opened in the 1840s the arcade has been home to some 70 luxury boutiques including jewellers, fashion designers and the finest Belgium Chocolatiers ever since. In addition you’ll find theatres, a cinema and an art gallery as well as private residences. It’s the perfect place to explore on a rainy day but well worth popping by whatever the weather.
Out of the chocolate shops we found Le Belgique Gourmande (pictured above and below) the most welcoming. The staff were very helpful and were handing out delicious samples!
Before we knew it was nearly time to leave but not before a sampling a glass of the beer that Belgium is so famous for on rue des Brasseurs by the Grand Place. Somewhere so close to the most popular square in town is usually not the best place for a bite to eat or a drink but a particular bar had caught our eye and even though it was just a few yards from the Grand Place we decided to give Au Brasseurs a go. I think it was the parasol covered in pink elephants and a promise of a glass of Delirium that swung it for us.
As we stepped inside we immediately felt at home in this colourful down-to-earth pub that I could imagine locals enjoying as much as the tourists. Although they had a long list of beers to choose from, how could we say no to a glass of Delerium and very good it was too.
After a little more window shopping we popped back to the same street and were going to try a different bar, just opposite the first, but as we stepped inside we immediately withdrew as it had a most unwelcome feel about the place and without even discussing it we both turned around and headed straight back to Au Brasseurs.
This time instead of selecting a beer by its name, we went for the shape of the glass! Kwak is served in a unique fluted glass with a round bottom, designed so that a coachman, who couldn’t leave his horses to enter an inn, could easily hold the glass while still wearing thick gloves. Once again this proved to be a perfect selection process as another fine beer slipped down our throats. Part way through the second drink I felt as if I could have happily spent all afternoon there sipping beer and chatting. I was then beginning to feel a little light-headed which surprised me as we hadn’t drunk that much. Just as well it was time to go, as I later found out that the two beers we had tried were 8.5% and 8% abv respectively!
I really would love to go back one day to this very bar for a little more beer research work plus we hadn’t even scrapped the surface when it comes to Belgium cuisine so a return visit is inevitable!
I found Brussels the perfect place for a weekend break and, while it may not be as pretty as Bruges or as cool as Antwerp, I can’t imagine anything, anywhere in Belgium (or even Europe) beating the splendour of Brussels’ Grand Place.
More of my photographs of Brussels at Christmas can be seen on Flickr.Disclaimer: This post has been brought to you in association with Avios. As always, these are my own, honest opinions.