Christmas shopping in Belgium and Germany
The Christmas countdown starts as the decorations go up and the mince pies are gobbled down. If you're looking to spice up your celebrations this year, there are lots of interesting traditions and festivities to discover throughout Europe. Nowhere do they do Christmas more spectacularly than in Belgium and Germany, where atmospheric markets and streets filled with seasonal cheer are just waiting to be discovered.
To add a bit of magic to your shopping expeditions, let Eurotunnel Le Shuttle introduce you to some of the top festive markets in Europe.
The children of Belgium have two Christmas visitors each year, first on 6th December when St Nicholas is thought to bring presents, followed by Santa Claus on Christmas Day itself. There is fun to be found for all the family in Belgium, over the festive period, as different regions plan their celebrations and start to create their winter wonderlands.
Right in the heart of Belgium, you can find one of its essential Christmas markets; the Plaisirs d'hiver, just two-and-a-half hour's drive from Eurotunnel Le Shuttle's Calais Terminal.
Strolling amongst the twinkling lights of the Grand Palace and Place St. Catherine, you can browse hundreds of chalets, each dressed up as fairy tale gingerbread houses. In the glow of the city's beautiful historic buildings, you can pick up some unique gifts, from artisan products to fill up those stockings, to tasty local delicacies. If you visit Brussels' Winter Wonders you can even get involved in some outdoor fun including ice-skating, sledging and taking in panoramic views from the Ferris wheel. You can also step through the jaws of the Ice Monster; At 40 metres in length, this dinosaur made of ice is a hungry fellow, devouring thousands of visitors every year!
Brussels is 2 hours from Calais following the A16 and E40
If you're looking for something on a smaller scale, then it doesn't get much quainter than this. The Unesco World Heritage listed city of Bruges has intimate cobbled streets, medieval architecture, and picturesque bustling squares. Add to this an abundance of twinkling lights and impressive Christmas decorations and you've got one magical city. The main market activities take place in the Market Square, overlooked by the Belfry of Bruges, a medieval bell tower that dominates the city skyline. You can expect to see people gliding around the outdoor ice rink or warming up with a hot Belgium waffle or mulled wine.
Bruges is 1 hour 20 minutes from Calais, taking the E40.
Escape modern Christmas commercialism with Germany's traditional markets, offering handcrafted quality gifts. Most German towns and cities have Christmas markets so there are plenty of festive shopping options, just a short drive over the Belgian border.
Dusseldorf is in the north west of Germany just 434km, four hours and 40 minutes from Calais. What makes the Christmas market at Dusseldorf special is that it is held in six individual locations throughout the city. You can browse for handmade gifts at the little festive huts outside the town hall, or take the whole family for a free skate on the huge open-air ice rink at Gustaf-Gründgens-Platz. Schadowplatz is perfect for family fun with a merry-go-round and super-sized Santa Claus hats. Other highlights include the promenade along the Königsallee with big chestnut trees decorated in thousands of little lights, while Engelchenmarkt is the place to go for the hearty taste and smells of traditional German food.
If you're all shopped out and looking to discover a quieter side to Dusseldorf, you could climb the Rhine Tower (Rheinturm) and see picture postcard views of the city and surrounding area from 240 metres up. The communications tower has an observation deck which is open to the public from 10am until late evening. Alternatively, take a walk along the tree-lined promenade here, following the mighty Rhine River and you'll find plenty of cafes to grab a spot of lunch. There's no need to worry about losing track of time in the evening; Horst H. Baumann's light sculpture on the side on the Rhine Tower pierces the dark to become the largest digital clock in the world.
If you're really looking for that alternative Christmas, then you should visit the Medieval Market in Siegburg, just outside of Bonn (438 km, four hours and 15 minutes from the Eurotunnel terminal at Calais, along the E40). On the first day of advent, the city takes a journey back in time with a festive medieval spectacle. Vendors dressed in period costume, jugglers and medieval artisans put up their tents and showcase their skills and wares. You'll be able to buy crafty gifts for your loved ones including baskets, clothing and wooden toys. The absence of electricity and artificial light adds to the dim medieval glow.
Step back in time and give the whole family a Christmas to remember this year with a trip to Belgium or Germany.
How to get there
The magical festive markets in Belgium and Germany are all only a few hours' drive from Eurotunnel Le Shuttle's Calais Terminal.
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