Germany leads the way when it comes to the sheer number and size of the Christmas markets held every year. However, many other countries in Europe have fantastic events that are just as magical and will leave you with that warm, fuzzy festive feeling inside. One such nation is Belgium. With stalls taking over the streets of cities like Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Leuven, the country has some fantastic European Christmas markets to explore. So here are some of the delicious culinary treats you are likely to find on your travels.
What better place to start than one of Belgium’s most readily available treats? The waffle is synonymous with this country and any visit to a Belgian Christmas market would not be complete without tucking into one of these freshly made delights. You will be able to watch them as they are prepared on the hot iron in front of your eyes and then choose from a range of toppings.
Another decision to make is whether you want to go for a Brussels waffle or a Liege variety. What’s the difference, I hear you ask? Well, the Brussels type have a more defined square edge and are generally crisper, whilst those from Liege have less-defined edges and are made from a bread-like dough.
Traditionally, Glühwein is the alcoholic staple of a European Christmas market, but Belgium can also offer a few other tipples to warm your insides. One such drink is jenever, also known as Dutch gin. Although this is served cold, an alcoholic content of around 35% will ensure you don’t suffer too much from the elements.
If you choose to visit Leuven, you may also get the chance to taste the local banana liqueur known as Musa Lova. As the unofficial banana capital of the world, Leuven is home to the largest collection of banana plants on the planet. KU Leuven University and local professor Rony Swennen helped to create this sweet aperitif during their experiments. It is often mixed with honey or coffee.
Chocolate (In All Its Forms)
Belgium is home to some of the best chocolate in the world. Every town and city has its own favourite local producers and you get to try them all as visitors to the various different Christmas markets. Whether it’s in praline form, smothered on a waffle, or turned into a delicious hot liquid, there is so much chocolate on which to gorge. And the best part is, many shops and stalls offer free samples.
There are few food experiences more satisfying than watching a traditional raclette baguette being made. This tasty treat can be found at the Brussels Christmas market, as well as others, and is definitely one for cheese lovers. Seeing the warm, gooey raclette being scraped onto the bread and then watching it ooze out the side is enough to leave anyone impatient to try it. The crunch of the baguette with the softness of the cheese is definitely a match made in heaven. This may have originated in Switzerland, but the Belgians do it just as well.
Depending on whether you are in Flanders or Wallonia, these balls of delight might be called oliebollen, smoutebollen or croustillons. Either way, they are essentially the same thing. Similar to doughnuts, but slightly chewier, these orbs of joy are deep fried in rapeseed oil or fat and then given a liberal dusting of sugar. Traditionally, oliebollen are filled with fruit such as raisins or apple, whereas croustillons are not.
If you would like to enjoy the culinary pleasures of a Belgian Christmas market, we have plenty of options available. We will tailor-make your trip to include everything you want to do and can even help you combine this with a visit to other markets in nearby Germany, France or the Netherlands. Call us on 0800 988 3369 for more details.