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Christmas Markets TTG Features Surprises in stall

Brussels and Bruges are easily combined into one Christmas markets trip. Katherine Lawrey–with the help of SuperBreak – uncovers some unexpected and contrasting festive experiences

Brussels Grand Place

square is ablaze with colour. The gothic-style 17th-century buildings are swathed in illuminations and classical music reverberates off the walls. The medieval bell tower of the Hotel de Ville dominates the scene. The lights change in time with the music, turning white, blue, purple, orange, red and green. During the 15-minute show, all pedestrians are rooted to the spot, hypnotised. The lights and music, the giant fir


tree and the life-size Nativity scene deliver a supercharged adrenalin shot that pulses Christmas through my veins. Turkey and tinsel, I’m ready for you. With a seasonal market stretching

for 250 stalls, it’s not hard to find Christmas spirit here. I begin my night with a free tour advertised on the Visit Brussels website. Guide Paquita leads me away from the streets lined with Christmas market stalls and

he atmosphere in Brussels’ Grand Place is electric. It’s a dark, rain-spattered night, yet the car-free

I follow the lights of a big Ferris

wheel and immerse myself in the rows of stalls that flow around the Grand Place, Bourse (Stock Exchange), Place Sainte-Catherine and Marche aux Poissons. Christmas markets are a multi-

Nativity scene in Brussels

reveals architectural gems that would be easy to miss with all the seasonal razzmatazz. “Brussels is not a beautiful, prestigious city,” she says. “Sometimes you look around and things don’t work. It’s very human in that respect. But open doors, and you find something amazing.” She leads us down side streets,

peppering her tour with anecdotes about city life, architectural comment and restaurant recommendations. But it’s cold, and after an hour’s walk I’m ready to hit the food stalls.

sensory experience. The aromas of the food reach me before my eyes alight on the piping hot pans of Tartiflette, a French concoction of potatoes, bacon and cheese; Belgian frites; garlicky fried mushrooms; and spicy sausages. My cold hands yearn to be wrapped

around a warming mug of gluhwein (mulled wine) and my eyes are drawn to the stalls peddling a dazzling array of jewellery, soap, candles, children’s toys, woollen hats and traditional Christmas decorations. It may sound obvious, but it’s

worth reminding clients that Christmas markets are an outside activity, so they’ll need to pack layers and thermals to keep warm. Gluhwein is a great winter warmer but the effect is only temporary. Brussels delivers an authentic

Christmas market experience, but after recent terrorism-related events in the heart of Europe, clients may be wary to visit a bustling capital. After the Paris attacks last November, the authorities are on high alert and armed police are an inevitable presence around the markets. The stark realities of

the terrorist threat are less evident in nearby Bruges,

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