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How scenic/vibrant is Ghent at Christmas compared to Bruges and Aachen markets?

Hi, does anyone have strong views on how Ghent Christmas market compares to the larger Aachen one? And to Bruges?

Planning trip from London for 3 nights in mid-Dec. We loved Nuremberg, Aachen and Freiburg Christmas markets and are aware that Ghent is smaller and that some people think Belgian Christmas markets could never match German ones. Your thoughts?

Having done those three German ones (and tiny Bath and Winchester ones in UK), we now want to enjoy a non-UK festive atmosphere with beautiful scenery as close to UK as poss by train. Have visited Bruges (in Summer) and agree it’s stunning, but how does Ghent’s old town compare, scenery wise?

Looking for v walkable and scenic 3 days in a compact, largely pedestrianised area.
Is Ghent’s market worth doing compared to smaller Bruges and bigger Aachen?

Fully aware that Bruges is probably the most atmospheric, but worry that it’ll be too small, and rammed! Aachen and Freiburg markets felt like a good size, and even half that size would be fine, but is Ghent’s market really tiny in comparison?

All Ghent thoughts much appreciated!

Posted by
2148 posts

Well, first of all, a disclaimer - I have not been to the Belgium Christmas markets. That said, I love Ghent much more than Bruges, which I found way too crowded and chaotic. Ghent's old town is wonderfully charming and there is a lot to see any do. I'm sure that the Bruges market will be very atmospheric but it will also be very crowded. One option would be to stay in Ghent and then do a day trip to Bruges to see its market. It's an easy and quick commute.

FWIW, a friend of my daughter's was at the Ghent Christmas market a few years ago and really enjoyed it. She had kids with her and they thought it was the bomb. :)

You might want to check out the Ghent tourist website, which has some info on the Christmas market. https://visit.gent.be/en/calendar/christmas-market

Posted by
1768 posts

Belgian Christmas markets compared to those in Germany have more their own style. The one in Ghent is bigger than in Bruges and to my opinion more atmospheric too. The drawback for the markets in Belgium is the weather as it’s usually so close to the coast cold and damp and so not so much (anyway for me) inviting to do outdoor activities, but neverhteless they draw the crowds. Know that with the energy crisis and serious inflation we have in Europe, people are more careful about their budget and hard to say how much it will effect the number of visitors and so the atmosphere. Both places are illuminated beautifully in the evening and it’s worth looking around in the side streets too. Ghent is anyway more vibrant than Bruges, my vote goes to Ghent.

As other cities are easy to reach, you can make a Christmas market tour if you like to Brussels, Leuven or Antwerp. Never visited it but the one in Brussels seems the biggest and most beautiful, no idea if this really is so, but worth checking out. All places within easy reach by train from eachother, Leuven takes a bit more time depending your base.

A place really surprised me was Lille just across the border in France seven years ago during Christmas. It’s big and very atmospheric in the old part of town with it’s cobbled cosy streets. It’s French but with a Flemish twist, certainly worth considering too. Can't say much about Aachen but maybe worth to combine with Maastricht, but be better informed if this is really the case.

Posted by
3 posts

We went to both the Bruges and Ghent Christmas markets about 5 years ago -- and we're going back to both this year -- and the one in Ghent seemed larger, with more going on. However, I recall that the Bruges market was spread out in several locations in the city center, and it didn't seem any more crowded than the one in Ghent. The Ghent setting was also beautiful and atmospheric.

I haven't been to the Aachen market, but I used to live in Germany so have been to many other Christmas markets there, and I loved the Belgian markets (including the one in Brussels) -- they were just as festive, with the plus of stalls serving Belgian beer! You can't go wrong with either Bruges or Ghent. They're close to each other, so go to both! :)

PS -- I also like Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas market!

Posted by
6055 posts

I looked up, quickly, these population figures:

Bruges 118K
Ghent 472K
Antwerp 520K
Metropolitan Antwerp 1042K
Brussels central area 1218K
Brussels Metro Area 1831K

I'd appreciate a report on Antwerp's Christmas Markets, if anyone has been lately.

Posted by
79 posts

I am reading this with interest, as I am about to do a River cruise to this area. I have in the past visited the Aachen Christmas market on a Rhine River cruise. I did not find Aachens market to be anything spectacular.