Leuven Christmas market and other fun experiences for the holiday season. This is our favourite town in Belgium!

Christmas Season in Leuven, Belgium

In Belgium, Europe, Inspiration by Jurga19 Comments

With the holiday season approaching fast, we thought that the best way to get into the holiday spirit would be to visit a Christmas market. There are so many Christmas markets here in Belgium that it’s always a tough choice to decide where to go. Leuven has always been one of our favourite towns, but we hadn’t been there in a while and so last weekend we decided to pay a visit to Leuven Christmas market.

Winter time in Leuven Belgium

Magical winter time in Leuven

 

Leuven is a very lively town with rich history, beautiful architecture, many good restaurants and plenty of shopping opportunities. Furthermore, Leuven is home to Belgium’s oldest university – KUL – and so there is always great atmosphere in town, especially in the evenings. In short, it has all of the ingredients for a fun day trip or an evening out.

Leuven Town Hall during Christmas season. Winter time in our favourite Belgian town.

Leuven town hall

Leuven Christmas Market

Leuven Christmas market is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Belgium and it’s held in the centre of Leuven every year, 10-14 days before Christmas. I was surprised to hear that the tradition is rather recent – the first Belgian Christmas market dates from 1988 only.

Leuven Christmas market has a very cosy atmosphere and a beautiful setting with the university library in the background. No wonder it had been chosen as the Cosiest Christmas Market in Europe. It’s nothing like the Christmas market in Brussels – Leuven is a much smaller town with much less visitors. More and more foreign visitors discover Leuven during the holiday season recently, but it’s still a much more local event than the Christmas market in Antwerp, Bruges, or Brussels.

Despite being rather small, Leuven Christmas market is very diverse. You’ll find many Christmas decoration and gift stands, as well as food and sampling stands offering traditional Belgian snacks and all kinds of holiday treats and sweets.

Christmas ornaments for sale at the Christmas market in Leuven, Belgium

You’ll find plenty of stands selling Christmas ornaments

Leuven Christmas market

Enjoy the beautiful Christmas market stands

Christmas ornaments at the Christmas market

One can never have enough Christmas ornaments

Belgian holiday sweets 'snow balls' at a Christmas market

Sneeuwballen – snow balls – a sweet treat you have to try during holiday season in Belgium

 

Kids will love visiting Santa’s enchanting houses where they can meet a real Santa Claus! Now, Santa Claus is not such a big deal for the Belgian kids as Sinterklaas is. But our kids know by now that Santa brings presents to the rest of the world, so why not in Belgium, since he is already here anyway… So to be on the safe side, we went to say hi to the Santa and to make sure that our names were on his list for Christmas.

Santa's houses at Leuven Christmas market in Belgium

One of the Santa’s houses

Santa Claus at a Christmas market in Leuven, Belgium

Ho ho ho

 

Holiday season in Leuven

Don’t limit your visit to Leuven to the Christmas market only. Make sure you walk to the beautiful 15th century gothic town hall of Leuven. Its beautiful decorations and Christmas lights turn this impressive building into a true fairytale castle! Not to be missed this season!

Leuven city hall decorated for the 2016 Christmas season

Fairytale-like city hall of Leuven

Leuven city hall Christmas 2016

Leuven city hall – Christmas 2016

 

And since you are at the town hall anyway, make sure to visit the monumental St. Peter’s church and the Christmas stable. Don’t be surprised if you find the Christmas stable locked for the night. As I said, Leuven is a university town and so once in a while students rearrange the nativity scene or move baby Jesus to a new location, and so the city of Leuven takes precautions…

Christmas Nativity Scence in Leuven

Christmas Stable in Leuven. Baby Jesus is not missing this time – he still has to be born

 

You’ll also notice a small wooden house on the town square at the city hall. If it’s open, make sure you go inside. You may have heard of Le Petit Chef, the world’s smallest chef, who turns your plate into a projected grill or a desert plate. It’s so well done and definitely worth seeing! And if you can’t make it to Leuven this holiday season, take a look at the video below!

Little house with Petit Chef dessert table set for dinner in Leuven

Don’t miss Le Petit Chef experience!

Practical information for visiting Leuven Christmas market in 2016

  • Leuven Christmas Market is open from 8 till 21 December 2016, daily till 11PM.
  • Location: Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein and the adjacent Herbert Hooverplein.
  • Leuven can be easily reached from Brussels by train (+- 30min). If you come by car, you can try to park at the underground parking garage at the Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein where the Christmas market is held; alternatively you can leave your car at the parking of the railway station.

Old Town of Leuven, Belgium at night

 

Best places to stay in Leuven

While Leuven is an easy (half) day trip from Brussels, you may want to spend at least one night in town – shopping and dining are great too! If you decide to stay in Leuven, I can recommend these really nice hotels in the old town.

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Europe's cosiest Christmas market and other great holiday season experiences in Leuven, Belgium

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Christmas Season in Leuven, Belgium was last modified: December 15th, 2016 by Jurga

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Comments

  1. Looks like a lovely Christmas market and Town to visit! I love le petit chef! I quite like the look of that dessert!!!

    Lovely lights and beautiful photographs!

    And I love the fact that they have to lock up the nativity scene at night – can’t have baby Jesus disappearing!
    Students!!

  2. We just went there yesterday! 🙂 We’re actually from Hasselt, but we like the Christmas Market in Leuven better than the one in Hasselt. Winterland feels more like a fair than a market. We haven’t been yet this year, but we plan on having a look next Sunday. Can’t skip it. 😉

    1. Author

      Never been to Winterland, although we do like Hasselt a lot. But everyone says Winterland is so busy that it’s not doable on a weekend and definitely difficult with the little kids. That’s why we picked Leuven this time – so much quieter. We might give it a try in a couple of years from now, when the chances of losing the boys are somewhat smaller. 🙂

  3. I feel Leuven is easily overlooked because of the bigger cities Brugges, Ghent, Antwerps and Brussel but this looks amazing! Thanks for introducing it to me!

    1. Author

      You’re so right, Naomi! It’s definitely not the place big tour busses go to. I guess that’s the price to pay for being so close to other bigger and better known places. I don’t mind, actually, that’s what we like about Leuven – it’s a real live town, not like Bruges which is completely deserted at night when all the day tourists leave…

  4. I’ve been to Belgium quite a few times but never been to Leuven. Although I won’t be able to explore this gorgeous Christmas market, I’d love to visit the city on a different occasion 🙂 thanks for sharing!

  5. Never been in Leuven so far. It looks like an excellent place to visit on Christmas time. Christmas market looks lovely. I love a lighting of buildings. Thanks for sharing!

  6. This looks absolutely amazing! I want to revisit Belgium in better weather although I’ll need to return in December for this market as a friend is planning a move there!

    1. Author

      You’ll have to be quick for Leuven – the market closes next week. The ones in Antwerp, Brussels and Bruges stay open longer. And what’s wrong with the Belgian weather? It’s not even raining 🙂

    1. Author

      Belgium has so many beautiful towns, Arianne. I think we’re a bit spoiled and take it all for granted too often.

  7. Christmas is so different in the southern hemisphere Jurga! No beautiful Christmas markets and the buildings aren’t decorated the way they are in Europe! I hope to experience a European Christmas in the near future! I shouldn’t complain though, we get great weather and time to experience the beautiful outdoors during the holiday season 😀

    1. Author

      Last year we travelled to Dubai for the holidays and it was so great to have nice warm weather and some sunlight in December! But yes, there is something magical about winter here in Europe. Nice to experience both I suppose. 🙂

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