Entries in ‘Belgium’ Journal

Top Five European Christmas Markets

Thursday October 25, 2012 at 5:05 AM | 6 Comments

"Christmas Market"

Berlin, Germany has over 60 Christmas markets.

It’s that time of year again!  Get into the Christmas spirit – take a city break and visit some of the European Christmas markets where you could combine your holiday shopping with a culture trip as well.

With the sound of carol singers, the smell of roasting chestnuts and mulled wine to fuel you up from the inside, there is no better way to get into the Christmas vibe than visiting one of the many Christmas markets there are on offer.

Originating from Germany, the ever increasing popularity has meant many countries have introduced their own versions so here are our top five European Christmas markets that we feel are worth a visit.  You can hop on the Eurostar or take one of the many cheap flights on offer for that true Christmas experience.

Berlin, Germany

With over 60 Christmas markets, there is plenty to choose from in this fascinating contemporary city.  With textiles, paintings, jewelry and more traditional gifts, you could get all your Christmas shopping done in one go, and still have time to enjoy a drink and see some of the sights on offer.  The most popular Berlin markets include the largest market situated next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and Weihnachts Zauber on the Gendarmenmarkt,  Held from 26 November – 31st December 2012.

"Belgian Chocolates"

Who can resist Belgian chocolates?

Brussels, Belgium

Held from 23rd November – 1st January, this market attracts more than 2.5 million visitors a year.  This is more than a Christmas market, Brussels Winter Wonders Christmas market also hosts an ice rink, sleighing run, and hundreds of chalets selling traditional Christmas gifts.  There is also a Ferris wheel so if you are with the family, there are plenty of things to do in Brussels and the  kids will be thoroughly entertained.  Being famous for its cuisine, this market is also a good choice for foodies.  Stalls are packed with mulled wine, Belgian chocolates and speculoos (gingerbread Santa Claus!)

Vienna, Austria

This market is situated on the square in front of the wonderful Town Hall.  With rows of wooden huts, trees decorated with theme lights, and stalls selling hand crafted decorations, this market is one of the best known and most visited in Europe.  This is a great choice if you are with the kids and you want to do your shopping. In the Vokshalle, in the Town Hall, daily workshops are put on for children, so parents may enjoy shopping in peace.


Christmas markets in Prague are typically low key and family-friendly.

Prague, Czech

Vanocni trh (Christmas markets) in Prague are usually fairly low key and family friendly.  The Czechs take Christmas seriously so this market is a colorful show of stalls, plenty of mulled wine, as well as theater shows and folk displays.  The main ones are found at Wenceslas Square and the Old Town square.  You’ll find Prague markets running from 1st December – 6th January.


Copenhagen, Denmark

Open from 16th November – 30th December, Copenhagen’s Christmas Market at Tivoli Gardens is a truly remarkable market. You will find Christmas trees, a theme park with roller-coasters, and plenty of food stalls and an abundance of ‘gløgg’, a hot and spicy mulled wine drink.  The lake is transformed into an outdoor skating rink and all around the edge you will find stalls selling locally produced arts and crafts and porcelain or wooden dolls.

So take a break before the Christmas buzz, and head to one of the many delightful Christmas markets Europe has on offer.  Book a city break, do your holiday shopping and enjoy some Christmas festivities.

Where are your favorite Christmas markets?

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Best Things to See and Do in Ghent, Belgium

Friday July 9, 2010 at 12:12 AM | 0 Comments

canal boats along the Leie, river, ghent, belgium

Canal boats rest along the Leie – river, in Ghent, Belgium

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is to the Belfry, St. Bavo’s Cathedral and “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” and St. Michaels’ Bridge.

When I crave Ghent cuisine, I turn to a table for two in a romantic restaurant or a group meal in a great setting.

For complete quiet, I can hide away at some of the many parks in Ghent. The town council would like even more greenery in the city. Near St. James’ Church, an entire street has been sacrificed to this effort. Bibliotheekstraat was grassed over to make the Baudelopark even bigger and more enjoyable.

After enjoying the classic or modern art in MSK or the SMAK, you can take in some fresh air in the Citadel Park. Children will enjoy the playground in the park. Visit the pond next to the waterfall before strolling back to the city centre via Sint-Pietersplein.

The modest Muinkpark, laid out in the English landscape style, is the last remnant of the 19th century Ghent zoo. The surrounding streets still bear the animal names who once resided there. Today, you will find their likeness engraved into the ten benches around the park.

In the 1930’s, a park in neo-baroque style was laid out here on the site of the former Zuidstation. Few people, including the citizens of Ghent, realize that the city of Ghent has a nature reserve. The Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen is a 230 hectar flood area that provides a migratory winter habitat for hundreds of birds. The reserve can be explored on three different walking routes. Check out the new visitors’ center – a model of sustainability.

For exotic greenery and an extensive collection of medicinal herbs, fit in a visit to the Plantentuin at Ghent University Botanical Garden.

If you have to order one thing off the menu at Stropke Brasserie, get the Gentse Waterzooi, a soup with chicken.

Ghent is my one stop shop for mustard. Visit Tierenteyn-verlent “the best mustard in the world” according to the employees.

When I want to eat organic  for a good price, I go to Brasserie Pakhuis. For something different, try the Framboos Beer.

nancy d. brown, ghent, belgium, flanders, castle of the counts

Children and adults will enjoy visiting Ghent’s Castle of the Counts in Belgium

For a huge splurge, I go to Belga Queen.

Photo ops in Ghent  include the Castle of the Counts and The Belfry. The best vantage points are by walking to the top of St. Michael’s Bridge.

The most random thing about Ghent is the Ghent Festivities. This feast for the people sets the city a flame for 10 days. It opens with a parade and closes with the “day of the empty wallets.”  Events include the International Street theater Festival and the Puppet Buskers Festival, free musical performances on various stages in the center with more than 700 theater performances, exhibitions, guided tours and fireworks.

In Ghent an active day outdoors involves walking.

My favorite walking route is the “Nibbling Through Ghent” tour with stops at the Grand Meat Hall for Ganda ham, Daskalides Chocolatier, Kaas Meeka and a candy shop.

On my visit, professionals from the Los Angeles, California Getty Foundation were working to restore the individual panels of the “Adoration of the Lamb” at St. Bavo’s Cathedral.

For a night of dancing visit The Culture Club. On the Oude Beestenmarkt you’ll stumble across the trendy places to be and in the city center, the Make Up Club, Tijuana and Club Central for salsa dancing. Jazz lovers will enjoy The Hot Club of Ghent.

To find out what’s going on a night or on weekends, read Weekup and “Zone 09″ also visit Gratis (if you can read Dutch) for what’s hot.

In the summer you should attend the Gent Jazz Festival and Jazz in the Park.

In the fall you should visit OdeGand. The International Flanders Festival Ghent opens with the festive OdeGand and a sparkling fireworks display. Also check out the International Film Festival Ghent where the World Soundtrack Awards are presented annually.

Graffiti street, ghent, belgium, nancy d. brown, travel, flanders

Teenagers must see the Graffiti Street in Ghent, Belgium

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss the World of Kina: the Garden and The World of Kina: the House.

Also visit the Castle of the Counts. Adults find the Gravensteen imposing. Indeed the Counts of Flanders built the castle to intimidate. For children, the castle is nothing less than breathtaking. The stories of knights and ladies may even come to life on a visit.

Make time for a visit to St. Peter’s Abbey Arts Centre where the virtual monk, Alison, guides you on a mysterious journey through the abbey.

If you have teenagers, you must visit the Graffiti street.

Where are your favorite things to do in Ghent, Belgium?

Thanks to Freya Sackx and the Ghent Tourist Office for assistance with this post. For information on Brussels and Belgium Visit Flanders. Visitors, check out the Brugge City Card for attraction discounts.

Article, photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown

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Things to See and Do in Brussels, Belgium


Best Things to See and Do in Bruges, Belgium

Friday June 18, 2010 at 12:12 AM | 7 Comments

"Bruges Canal Boat"

The best way to see Bruges, in Belgium, is to take a boat trip or carriage ride

Are you traveling to Bruges in Belgium? The first place I take a visitor from out of town is to Bruges city center. The historic centre of Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

At the end of a busy day,  I go to the city parks to relax and watch people.

Hoping to escape the crowds and tourists?  The wind mills of Bruges and the Beguinage are great places for peace and quiet.

When you visit Bruges, get your picture taken at Rozenhoedkaai.

Bruges and food

Everyone knows that Bruges is famous for its waffles, but when I am hungry for Bruges cuisine, I head to Cafedraal.

One of my favorite places to dine in Bruges is Restaurant Den Dyver, order anything paired with beer menu.

When visiting Bruges , this is the place for Belgium chocolates, fine lace and tapestries.

If you are traveling without a lot of money, go to the French fries stalls in front of the Belfry; the waffles are cheap, too.

For a huge splurge, I go to De Karmeliet or Patrick Devos. While the Market Square is the spot for late night dining.


"Nancy D Brown Bruges Belfry"

The entire town of Bruges is a photo opportunity. Here is Nancy D. Brown with the Belfry in the background.

Photo opportunities in Bruges are as easy as standing by the canals with swans swimming in the background, but they also include Rozenhoedkaai or on top of the Belfry.

The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of the Belfry or Concertgebouw.

The most random thing about Bruges is the Holy Blood Procession. While the name of the annual event is not catchy, the procession, held in May is amazing to watch. Check out my YouTube video of the Holy Blood Procession for parade highlights.

In Bruges, an active day outdoors involves walking or hiking or biking.

My favorite walking route is the route along the canal to Damme.

Bruges best museum is De Groeningemuseum.

For a night of dancing, go to another city!

To find out what’s going on a night or on weekends, read Exit.

In the spring you should visit the Beguinage, the inner square is filled with flowers.

In the summer you should walk and bicycle in and around Bruges.

In the winter you should go to the ice skating rink on the market square and the Christmas market.

"The Madonna"

The Madonna is one of the masterpieces of the Groeningemuseum in Bruges, Belgium

A hidden gem in Bruges is Gouden Handrei, the unknown canal.

For a great breakfast treat or espresso, go to the Dagelijks Brood.

Just outside of Bruges you can visit Damme.

The best way to see Bruges is to walk, take a boat trip on the canals or ride in a horse drawn carriage.

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss boat trips on the canals or Boudewijn Sea Park.

What are your favorite places in Bruges?

Thanks to Liliane Opsomer  and Visit Flanders for assistance with this post.

Photos and YouTube video by Nancy D. Brown

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Surrounded by horses in Bruges, Belgium