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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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…
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!
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.
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.
- Martin’s Klooster. Superior hotel in the 16th-century former convent. Unique experience.
- Pentahotel Leuven. Great atmosphere, modern comfort and perfect location.
- B&B Oude Brouwerij Keyser Carel. If B&B is your thing, then you’ll not be disappointed with this highly-rated B&B in an excellent location.
- Park Inn by Radisson Leuven – for those who prefer modern comfort. Convenient location close to the railway station.
- Hotel Ibis Leuven Centrum – an excellent budget-friendly option in the centre of Leuven
- Cube Hostel – excellently rated and very popular hostel in the centre of Leuven. If I were to stay at a hostel, it would be this one!
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