In the lead up to Christmas, there really is no better trip to take than a brief weekend away in a European city with a beautiful Christmas Market. The choices are endless, the travel is easy and fast, and the festive spirit is infectious. Our most recent Christmas Market break was to Brussels via the Eurostar from London. If you’re a fan of mulled wine, giant Christmas trees and pop-up stalls, consider the Christmas Markets in Brussels for a December weekend away.
Discover the best places to stay near the Christmas Markets, the easiest way to get to Brussels, the average cost of a weekend in Belgium’s capital city and all the fun things going on to keep you and your family entertained.
Travelling to Brussels from London
There is more than one way to reach Brussels from London, depending on whether you are time rich or cash rich, time poor or cash poor.
1. Flying from London to Brussels
Flying is usually the cheapest if you book your tickets in advance. Brussels Airlines and British Airways fly direct from London Heathrow. Flight time from London to Brussels is 1 hour 10 minutes approximately. Already there are flights available to book from London to Brussels for next December from £90 per person.
Find the cheapest time to fly from London to Brussels with skyscanner.net.
2. Driving from London to Brussels
Driving from London to Brussels takes 5 hours. Tickets for the car ferry between Dover in England and Calais in France start from £120 in December, depending on the time and day of travel. You can choose to cross with P&O Ferries or DFDS Seaways, or for a slightly higher cost choose the Euro Tunnel for a faster crossing between Folkestone and Calais. Around December, tickets for the Euro Tunnel can nearly double in price compared to the cost of the car ferry. The car ferries take approximately 90 minutes whereas the Euro Tunnel takes 35 minutes. To compare prices of the various methods of taking a car from England to France, visit Direct Ferries.
Driving from London to Brussels is not really a great option unless you are extending your travel to include other regions outside of the two cities. If you are on a city break, parking will be costly, as is the transport of your car across the channel. Using a car within Brussels or London is not really necessary and will likely be more problematic than enjoyable.
Both cities are best enjoyed on foot so we recommend you choose transport option number 3, the passenger train.
3. Eurostar from London to Brussels
The Eurostar is the simplest way to get to Brussels city centre with minimum hassle and greater comfort. From London St Pancras International station trains run regularly to Brussels via Ashford U.K. and Lille France. The journey takes approximately 2 hours, with time jumping forward one hour on the way to Brussels and back one hour on the return to London. Seats are spacious, carriages are clean and the newest trains have charging points in every set of seats.
If you are travelling in a small group, try to book table seats for greater comfort and ease. Luggage storage is plentiful with room for handbags and small backpacks above and larger items storage at the entrance and exist to the carriages. Toilets are provided between each carriage too and a cafe carriage or two can be found onboard as well. Tickets vary in price with peak times such as Friday evening and Sunday evening being the dearest. A mid-week break can cost as little as £60 pp whilst a weekend ticket can be found for around £100pp. Prices vary depending on the time and day of travel, as well as how far in advance you book your tickets.
Did you know you can compare prices for the Eurostar along with flight prices at skyscanner.net? Simply enter your search and look out for the ‘airline’ Eurostar down the left handside, and if need be use the filters to bring up just Eurostar and your preferred airline choice.
What is the best way to get to Brussels?
Although flights are often cheaper and the actual journey is faster than the train, flights involve travel to and from the airports either end, which of course are never in the city centre. Once you incorporate the price of airport transfers, you will likely find the Eurostar train to be the most cost effective option for your travel. From Brussels Midi/Zuid Train station, the Christmas Markets of Brussels are a 30 minute straight forward walk.
Traveller Tip: Book your travel from London to Brussels as far in advance as possible to receive the best fares.
Where to stay in Brussels
For a one or two night city break, it makes sense to stay somewhere just as centrally located as the international train station and the Christmas Markets. City break weekends are all about travelling on foot and being in the heart of all the action. We found that one of the most cost effective and best located accommodation options in Brussels was a local hostel.
Sleep Well Youth Hostel in Brussels
Sleep Well is unlike typical backpacker hostels. Leave your stereotype of cheap hostels at the door and enjoy a warm welcome, modern design, multiple lounge areas, and a choice of room types to suit every traveller. Whether you want to share a room in a 6-bed dorm from £46 per night or enjoy a Deluxe Room with private shower and toilet and rooftop views from £80 per night, Sleep Well has the perfect stay for you.
With three of us travelling together, two of whom were young teenagers, we opted for the Deluxe Room up on the roof. The design is sleek and modern and the two levels within the room made the stay even more fun. Enjoy the privacy of your own facilities within a young, fun, hostel environment, but don’t forget to bring your own towels.
Other Accommodation Options in Brussels
Choose from a variety of other accommodation options in Brussels with something to suit everyone in this exciting city. All property recommendations are within walking distance to our top things to do in Brussels.
- For backpackers and budget-conscious travellers, choose Sleep Well Youth Hostel
- For a centrally located and great value for money hotel, choose Hotel Esperance
- For a home away from home, choose Sweet Inn Apartment Monnaie
- For a boutique property with excellent reviews, choose All in One
Where is the best place to stay near Brussels Christmas Markets
If a hostel is not the right choice for you, choose from the hotels and apartments listed above for a stay with a slightly higher price tag. If however you are searching for the best value for money option in central Brussels, book a room at Sleep Well Youth Hostel where even the highest category room and our personal choice, will only set you back 30 euros pppn.
At Sleep Well, enjoy a buffet breakfast with everything from fresh baguettes to cereal, continental meats and cheese to fresh watermelon slices. Help yourself to as much food and drink as you like during the breakfast hours of 7-10am. Tea, coffee and juices, as well as water, are also provided.
Traveller Tip: Fill up your refillable water bottle at breakfast to avoid buying plastic bottles.
Things to do at Brussels Christmas Markets
When it comes to things to do you are spoilt for choice in Brussels at Christmas. Whether you’re a shopper, a wanderer, a street art lover or a selfie queen, find the activities that are right for you. These are our top three recommendations to fill your city break weekend in Brussels.
1. Christmas Shopping in Brussels
From pop-up festive stalls selling candles, food and crafts, to traditional Belgian chocolate shops, you’ll be spoilt for choice for shopping. Enjoy eating your way through Belgium with waffles, sweets, mulled wine, and every type of chocolate delight you can imagine or finish your Christmas shopping with jewellery stalls, high street brands and artistic gifts like handmade soaps.
Traveller Tip: Most chocolate shops will be able to offer a dark chocolate without milk for vegan customers, which also make the perfect vegan-friendly Christmas gifts.
Travelling as a vegan to European cities is not always easy. Check out our top tips for Eating Out Vegan this Christmas.
2. Christmas Market Ice-skating
At Palace de la Monnaie, you’ll find an outdoor ice skating rink for little ones, teens and adults. The rink has a cover to protect you from drizzly December days and a session on the ice costs 7 euros for children and 8 euros for adults. The rink is open from 12pm to 10pm, with the exception of Christmas Eve and New Years Eve when the rink closes at 6pm. Reservations are not needed; simply turn up, buy a ticket and jump on.
Skate hire is included in the price of your ticket and storage of your shoes. The rink does not offer storage for bags so get a friend to hold your things or head to your accommodation first to drop off your stuff. Opposite the skate rink you will find food and drink stalls with cosy outdoor seating and lighting to enjoy. Try a local mulled wine in a re-usable plastic cup.
Traveller Tip: Either keep your Christmas Market special edition re-usable cup as a keepsake or return it when you are done drinking to receive your cup deposit back. Well done Brussels!
Are you looking for Zero Waste Christmas Ideas?
3. Light Show at Grand Palace Brussels
Every hour on week days and every half hour on weekends, Grand Palace offers a spectacular light display that can be enjoyed from the large square. Gather round before the display starts to enjoy photos by the large Christmas tree in the centre or to check out the nativity scene. When the display starts, enjoy multi-coloured lights set to music, increasing in tempo and variety. A wonderful event to enjoy with children, with mates or as a couple.
The roads heading towards Grand Palace are cobbled with beautiful Christmas lights high above. Enjoy discovering the many streets and various light displays on the way and on the way back.
Planning your festive City Break in Europe
When planning your festive city break, there are a number of helpful tips that will make your experience more enjoyable, some of which we’ve shared with you along the way:
- Be sure to book your travel as early in advance as possible to secure the lowest fare and consider mid week travel if you can to make your stay a little cheaper.
- Don’t knock a hostel stay until you’ve tried it. For certain, there was no more cost effective way for us to get the most out of our money in Brussels, especially if you also choose Sleep Well Youth Hostel within walking distance to the Christmas Markets in Brussels and with breakfast included.
- For ease, change up your euros at the currency exchange desk in St Pancras International Station where ICE will offer to change back any euros you don’t spend for free if you keep your receipt.
How much does a Christmas Market City Break in Brussels cost?
As a family of 3 (1 adult, 2 teens) we spent £325 on train tickets, 80 euros on accommodation, around 30-40 euros on average for a meal for three and maybe around 50 euros each on gifts. Chocolate boxes in Brussels cost anything from 3 euros to 30 depending on the size. A mulled wine costs just over 3 euros and our activities totalled around 25 euros. Our average per person price for the weekend away was £175pp inclusive of food, accommodation, travel and spending money.
For another great Christmas Market location, read How to spend a Weekend in Copenhagen during December time.
Travelling to Brussels: Useful Information
- Local currency is euros
- Brussels is the capital of Belgium
- Time difference from the U.K. is one hour ahead
- Local languages include French, Dutch and German – most people will speak to you in French
- Brussels is a small city that is easy to navigate
- Brussels is a two hour train journey from London
We highly recommend a 2 day December city break in Brussels. The market for 2018/19 is running from 30th November to 6th January. Check here for next years dates.
Christmas Markets in Brussels
Europe is full of festive cities throughout December. This trip was a Christmas gift to my beautiful god-daughters because to me, our time together is so much more valuable than ‘stuff’ under the tree. Christmas city breaks are a great idea for young children and teenagers who can enjoy trying another language, experiencing another culture and take on small amounts of responsibility as they explore. Let your teenager lead the way to the hotel, ask your son or daughter to work out the amount of euros needed to buy a gift and let toddlers marvel at new sights and sounds. For adult trips, as a group of friends enjoy mulled wine and ice skating with endless festive selfies and as a couple, spend your time exploring the area and eating your way through all the chocolate treats of Belgium.
If you are considering a Christmas Market City Break in Europe next year, we highly recommend one or two nights in Brussels via the Eurostar. Treat the family to a festive weekend together, use your trip as a shopping spree for Christmas or simply get away from a modern commercial Christmas and enjoy the traditions of a Christmas market. Merci Brussels for a fabulous weekend filled with warm smiles, cosy evenings and cherished memories.
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