Headed to Belgium in Winter but not sure what to do? I’ve got you covered, with this list of must-do winter activities. From visiting charming villages dusted in snow, to exploring the Christmas markets, there’s plenty to keep you busy in Belgium during the winter months.
There’s something undeniably special about visiting a new country in winter. The air is chilly but the scenery is all the more enchanting for it.
In Belgium, the snow capped hills and fairytale castles are even more picturesque against a backdrop of icy skies.
The locals know how to make the most of winter too. They go skating, sip hot chocolate in cosy cafes and take long walks through the forests.
There’s always something happening in Belgium during the winter months – whether you’re into art, history or simply want to enjoy the holiday season.
My Belgian winter guide includes all the essential information you need to know, from what to pack to where to go and what to see. So if you’re planning a trip to Belgium this winter, read on for everything you need to know!
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- Weather in Belgium in Winter
- What to Pack for Winter in Belgium
- Tips for Visiting Belgium in Winter
- 15 Things to do in Belgium in Winter
- 1. Visit a Christmas Market in Brussels
- 2. Sip a Hot Chocolate in Bruges
- 3. See Mannekin Pis Dressed up
- 4. Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day
- 5. Wander the Medieval Streets of Ghent
- 6. Cosy up with a Belgian Beer
- 7. Attend a Festive Music Concert
- 8. Eat Your Way Through Belgium’s Winter Specialties
- 9. Go on a Winter Hike
- 10. Experience a real Belgian Sauna
- 11. Marvel at the Bruges Ice Sculpture Festival
- 12. Dodge the Cold in Some Fascinating Museums
- 13. Visit Bouillon Castle
- 14. Enjoy a Festive Light Festival
- 15. Ring in the New Year in Antwerp
- FAQs about Belgium in Winter
- Need help planning your winter trip?
Weather in Belgium in Winter
Belgium has a bit of a mix weather during the winter months. The average temperature ranges between 1 and 6 degrees Celsius (34-43 Fahrenheit).
Often you could start out with a chilly morning, followed by a sunny afternoon and end with a cold and rainy evening!
And while it may not snow very often, when it does dust the city in a layer of white, it’s truly magical.
What to Pack for Winter in Belgium
Because it’s generally mild in Belgium compared to winter in some European countries, there’s no need to go all out on the full winter gear.
However, there are a few key pieces that will see you through the Belgian winter, such as:
- A good quality warm coat: When the sun isn’t shining, it can get chilly so you’ll want a coat that will keep you warm.
- Comfortable walking shoes: You’ll be doing a lot of walking around exploring, so make sure your shoes are up for the task. I recommend waterproof shoes too.
- A waterproof raincoat: You’ll definitely need this!
- A scarf / shawl: This will come in handy for layering up when it’s cold.
- A hat: A must for keeping your head warm.
- Thermal underwear: If you feel the cold more than most, consider packing some thermal underwear to wear under your clothes.
- A travel adapter: I always take my universal adapter when I travel as I know it’ll work everywhere.
Tips for Visiting Belgium in Winter
Now that you know what to pack, let’s take a look at some general tips for visiting Belgium in winter:
1. Wrap up warm and dry: As I mentioned, it can get chilly in Belgium during winter so make sure you’re prepared by packing plenty of layers and waterproof clothing.
2. Try the local food: There’s nothing better than warming up with a bowl of hearty Belgian soup or stew. And don’t forget to try the local beer!
3. Save money with a Brussels City Pass: If you’re planning on doing a lot of sightseeing, consider getting a city pass which will give you free or discounted entry to some of the top attractions.
4. Check timings of Christmas markets before heading out: Many of the Christmas markets only open in the afternoon or evening so it’s worth checking the times in advance.
15 Things to do in Belgium in Winter
1. Visit a Christmas Market in Brussels
One of the best things to do in Belgium during winter is to visit a Christmas market. And Brussels is the perfect place to do just that!
The city comes alive with festive cheer, with markets popping up all over the place selling everything from traditional Belgian waffles to handmade gifts.
Grote Markt is the main square in Brussels and the focal point of the Christmas markets. This is where you’ll find the biggest and best selection of stalls, as well as the famous 18-metre tall Christmas tree.
Other top markets to check out include the Place Saint-Catherine market and Marche aux Poissons market.
Make sure to try a cup of gluhwein, a traditional mulled wine, to warm you up as you wander around the markets!
2. Sip a Hot Chocolate in Bruges
Belgians know their chocolate, that’s for sure. And no visit is complete without indulging in a delicious Belgian hot chocolate, especially during the chilly months.
There are plenty of cafes and chocolate shops to choose from, but my personal favourite is The Old Chocolate House, serving up some of the best hot chocolate in Bruges since 1997!
Bruges is also the perfect place to stock up on Belgian chocolate to take home with you as a souvenir or gift (if you can make it without eating it all!).
3. See Mannekin Pis Dressed up
Mannekin Pis is a famous statue of a little boy peeing (yep, you read that right), located in Brussels. It’s one of the most iconic landmarks in the city and definitely worth a visit!
But interestingly, you can find the little boy dressed up in different costumes, depending on the time of year and occasion.
During winter, you can usually find him wearing some kind of festive outfit, so it’s definitely worth checking him out if you’re in Brussels during this time.
4. Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day
Every year on December 6, Belgium celebrates Saint Nicholas Day.
This is a special day where children receive gifts from Saint Nicholas (or Sinterklaas), often leaving their shoes out by the fireplace the night before (Saint Nicholas Eve) in the hope that they’ll be filled with presents the next morning.
For the days leading up to Saint Nicholas Day, many parades and events take place throughout Belgian cities to celebrate the occasion. Saint Nicholas is, of course, the guest of honour at the parades, but you’ll also find floats, musicians and dancers taking part.
5. Wander the Medieval Streets of Ghent
Ghent is a beautiful medieval city located in the Flemish region of Belgium.
In winter, the city is even more enchanting, with its cobbled streets and medieval buildings, it’s like something out of a fairytale.
Make sure to visit Ghent’s three main squares – Vrijdagmarkt, Sint Baafsplein Square and Sint Veerleplein Square – which are all located within the medieval city centre.
And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even climb the steps to the top of Saint Bavo’s Cathedral for breathtaking views of the city.
6. Cosy up with a Belgian Beer
Have you even been to Belgium if you haven’t had a beer? I think not!
There are so many different Belgian beers to choose from, it’s impossible to try them all. But that’s half the fun, right?
If you’re not sure where to start, why not visit a beer museum like the Brussels Beer Project or Cantillon Brewery. Here you can learn all about the history of Belgian beer and taste a few different varieties.
Or head on a beer tasting tour! This is a great way to see the sights of Brussels while sampling some of the best beers that Belgium has to offer.
7. Attend a Festive Music Concert
If you’re a fan of classical music, then you’ll be spoilt for choice in Belgium, especially when it comes to festive concerts.
During winter months, many of the country’s top orchestras and choirs put on special performances of festive music, making for a magical experience.
If you happen to be in Brussels, check out the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts‘ Christmas Family Concert by the Belgian National Orchestra.
Whether you’re in Brussels, Bruges or Antwerp (or any other Belgian cities), make sure to check out what concerts are taking place during your stay and see if you can snag yourself a ticket.
8. Eat Your Way Through Belgium’s Winter Specialties
When it comes to food, Belgium definitely doesn’t disappoint!
There are so many delicious winter dishes to try, from waterzooi (a chicken and vegetable stew) and stoemp (mashed potatoes with vegetables), to Carbonnade flamande (beef stew) and chicons gratinés (gratinated endives).
And let’s not forget about the sweets! Winter is the perfect time to indulge in some of Belgium’s finest chocolate, Belgian waffles, and of course you’ll have to try the Yule Log this time of year.
If you’re not sure where to start, why not sign up for a food tour? This is a great way to sample some of Belgium’s best winter dishes while getting to know the country’s food culture.
9. Go on a Winter Hike
One of the best ways to experience Belgium’s stunning scenery is by going on a winter hike.
There are plenty of hiking trails to choose from, depending on your fitness level and what kind of scenery you’re looking for.
The Ardennes region in east Belgium is a great place for a winter hike, with its rolling hills, forests and rivers.
A hike around Lake Gileppe is also a must-do – the views around the lake are simply breathtaking!
Be sure to pack your warmest clothes and hiking boots if you choose this Belgium winter activity!
10. Experience a real Belgian Sauna
While most people associate saunas with Finland and neighbouring Nordic countries, the truth is that Belgians are also big fans of this relaxation practice.
There are plenty of saunas to choose from across the country, but be aware that if you want to join in the ‘locals’ sauna rather than the tourist sauna, you may see more than you bargained for. That’s right, to experience an authentic Belgian sauna, you’ll have to go nude!
A wonderful way to end a long day of exploring in the winter cold.
11. Marvel at the Bruges Ice Sculpture Festival
The Bruges Ice Sculpture Festival is an absolute must-see if you’re visiting Belgium in winter.
Held every year in the city’s Market Square, the festival sees world-renowned ice sculptors create incredible sculptures from blocks of ice.
It’s definitely a sight to behold!
Once you’ve got your fill of all the wonderful ice sculptures, head next door to the ice-rink for another great winter activity.
12. Dodge the Cold in Some Fascinating Museums
Belgium has no shortage of museums, and when it’s cold and wet outside, there’s nothing better than spending a few hours exploring some of Belgium’s most fascinating museums.
Art lovers will enjoy the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, which houses an impressive collection of art from the 15th to the 20th centuries.
Then there’s the Bruges Museum of Beer... because what’s more Belgian than beer? This museum is dedicated to the country’s rich brewing history and traditions.
For something a little different, check out the Brussels Sewer Museum, which takes you on a tour of the city’s sewer system! (Yes, you’ll go into an actual working sewer!).
13. Visit Bouillon Castle
This 11th century castle is one of the best-preserved castles in the country, and its location atop three rocky peaks makes for some stunning views.
Explore the castle’s grounds, which are home to a number of sculptures, and be sure to visit the on-site museum which houses a collection of weapons and armour.
14. Enjoy a Festive Light Festival
One of the most popular Light Festivals across Belgium is in Ghent, which sees the city’s ancient buildings and canals lit up with millions of twinkling lights.
It’s truly a magical sight!
If you’re in Brussels, don’t miss the Winter Wonders light festival, which transforms the city into a winter wonderland.
Make sure to walk along the Avenue des Arts/Kunstlaan, where you’ll see some of the most incredible light displays.
15. Ring in the New Year in Antwerp
What better way to ring in the new year than in one of Belgium’s most beautiful cities, Antwerp?
The city comes to life during New Year’s Eve, with parties and celebrations taking place all across town.
Head to the quays along the Scheldt river for some of the best views of the fireworks at midnight.
FAQs about Belgium in Winter
When is the winter season in Belgium?
The winter season in Belgium typically runs from December to February.
What is the average temperature in Belgium in winter?
The average temperature during winter is around 1-6 degrees Celsius, however it can sometimes go below zero.
Is there snow in Belgium during winter?
Yes, there can be snow in Belgium during winter, although it doesn’t tend to snow much (usually just a dusting).
Need help planning your winter trip?
If you’re flying, I recommend booking your flights through Skyscanner as you can find the best flight deals available.
And to book day trips and activities throughout Belgium, GetYourGuide and Viator are your best bet. You can either type in the area and browse the various tours or you can put in more specific activities (i.e. Beer Tasting Tour in Brussels).
Maybe it’s the way the snow dusts the medieval buildings in Brussels, or the way the Christmas markets come alive with the smell of mulled wine and fresh waffles. Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that winter in Belgium is a special time of year.
I hope this list gives you some ideas for your next trip to Belgium in winter. If you’ve done any of these activities or have any other ideas, let me know in the comments!
If you’re interested in more travel guides on destinations for winter travel, check out these posts:
- 15 Wonderfully Magical Things to do in Prague in December
- 13 Magical Things to do in Finnish Lapland in Winter
Vourneen is a travel junkie and chronic illness warrior. Although she was late to game in terms of travelling, she has picked up numerous tips and tricks from the almost 30 countries she has visited in the past 5 years.