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Leuven Christmas Market & Winter Wonderland – Belgium

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Leuven Christmas Market & Winter Wonderland – Belgium

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 favorite towns and so we often pay a visit to the Leuven Christmas market as well. It’s a great little market where you quickly get into a real holiday spirit.

In this article, you can find more information about visiting Leuven in winter and what to expect from the Christmas market.

Of course, no two markets on different years will be the same, but it gives you an idea of what Leuven Christmas market is about. Take a look!

Winter time in Leuven Belgium
Magical winter time in Leuven

Leuven is a very lively town with a 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 a great atmosphere in town, especially in the evenings.

In short, this beautiful little town just a stone’s throw from Brussels has all of the ingredients for a fun day trip or an evening out. Add to that the stunning holiday decorations and a cozy Christmas market and you’ll understand why Belgians love Leuven in winter!

Leuven Town Hall during Christmas season. Winter time in our favourite Belgian town.
Leuven Town Hall is like a fairytale castle at Christmas

Leuven Christmas Market

Leuven Christmas market is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Belgium. It’s held in the center 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 only dates from 1988.

Leuven Christmas market has a very cozy 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 way fewer 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 decorations and gift stands, as well as food stalls 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
Christmas ornaments at the Christmas market in Leuven
Belgian holiday sweets 'snow balls' at a Christmas market
Sneeuwballen – snow balls – a sweat 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!

In case you didn’t know, Santa Claus is not such a big deal for the Belgian kids as Sinterklaas is. Sinterklaas brings all the presents for the kids on December 6 already, but by Christmas, it’s all forgotten and so Santa is very welcome as well.

Our kids know by now that Santa Claus brings presents to the rest of the world. So why not in Belgium, since he is already here anyway…

Just to be on the safe side, we usually go 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 at the Leuven Christmas market
Santa Claus at a Christmas market in Leuven, Belgium
Ho ho ho

Holiday Season in Leuven

Don’t limit your visit to Leuven in winter to the Christmas market only! The town might be small, but it’s so beautiful.

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 in the holiday season!

Leuven city hall decorated for the 2016 Christmas season
Fairytale-like city hall of Leuven
Leuven city hall at Christmas
Town Hall in Leuven looks like a fairytale castle at Christmas

And since you are at the town hall anyway, make sure to visit the monumental St. Peter’s church and the Christmas stable just outside of the church.

Don’t be surprised if you find the Christmas stable locked for the night though. 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.

When we visited last time, there was also a small wooden house on the town square at the city hall. 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 was so well done and definitely worth seeing!

I guess it won’t be in Leuven every holiday season, so take a look at the video below!

Little house with Petit Chef dessert table set for dinner in Leuven
Le Petit Chef experience at Leuven Christmas market

When Is Leuven Christmas Market Open

Leuven Christmas market is normally open in December. No dates have been announced for 2021 yet.

Practical Information

  • Location of the Christmas market: 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.

Where 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! And there are many great cafés, pubs, cocktail bars, etc.

If you decide to stay in Leuven, I can recommend these really nice hotels for all budgets. They are all located in the old town.

READ ALSO: Hidden Gems of Europe’s Christmas Markets

More tips for visiting Belgium:

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Visit the Christmas market of Leuven in Belgium
Sinterklaas Celebration in Belgium & the Netherlands
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Friday 9th of November 2018

We are moving to Leuven and will be arriving on 26th Novemeber. We are from South Africa,so I am so excited to experience a difference kind of Christmas. Would love to know if there are any restaurants that offer Christmas lunch or Dinner.


Saturday 10th of November 2018

Hi Janine, welcome to Belgium! Although... we're often dreaming about moving to South Africa... :) I just published a post about all the best Christmas markets in Belgium - check it out - plenty inspiration to get into a true holiday spirit. I'm not sure about restaurants, there are definitely some that are open on Christmas day and in the evening, but you'd have to research it and book in advance. They usually have set menus for special occasions like that, it can be quite festive. Check some of these restaurants from TripAdvisor 'most-romantic' selection, I see quite some well known names in there, and just give them a call (or check their websites for more info).

Byron Miller

Thursday 1st of February 2018

I was here as a very small child, I'm inspired to go back and visit and going back during holidays would be a fantastic experience to share with my kids! thx!


Friday 2nd of February 2018

Oh, really? Then you are one of very few foreigners that I know who visited Leuven, Byron. It's a really nice place, a lively student town, and it's easy to fall in love with the great atmosphere there. I'm sure you and your family would love it in any season.

Absolute Wanderlust

Friday 30th of December 2016

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 :D


Sunday 1st of January 2017

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. :)


Monday 19th of December 2016

Wow, it must have been amazing. Merry Christmas to you and your family. xx finja


Monday 19th of December 2016

Thanks Finja. Have a great holiday season too!


Monday 19th of December 2016

Never been! So much history and architecture I love it


Monday 19th of December 2016

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

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