Christmas and winter markets serve as a key highlight of the Benelux holiday season. (Courtesy photo)

Bits of the Benelux: Celebrating the holidays with markets

Story by USAG Benelux Public Affairs

CHIEVRES AIR BASE, Belgium – For visitors and residents alike, Christmas and winter markets serve as a key highlight of the Benelux holiday season.

Found across the region from mid-November to early January, these markets offer a variety of seasonal items and other goods for sale, as well as culinary options, live performances and holiday displays. Some even include rides and winter sports such as ice skating and curling.

They can vary greatly from location to location, ranging from a few stalls in a town square to multiple city blocks. Each one is special, with their own unique themes, regional food and drink specialties, local customs and more.

The tradition of holding markets during the winter season in Europe dates back to the Middle Ages. One of the earliest known markets, Vienna’s “Krippenmarkt” (English: December Market) was first recorded in 1298, and the world-famous “Christkindelsmärik” (English: Christ Child Market) in Strasbourg, France, has occurred since 1590.

While the earliest winter markets are thought to have been secular in nature, records of Christmas-focused markets began appearing in the late 1300s. Originally found in Germany and its territories, they began to grow in popularity during Reformation in the 1500s.

The tradition has continued to expand ever since, with holiday-themed markets now found as far away as Canada, the United States, Chile, South Africa, India, Japan and Australia.

In the Benelux, host nation and military communities alike take part in the seasonal fun. To experience this historic holiday tradition for yourself, check out our list of Christmas markets in the Benelux below.

[Note: This is may not be a comprehensive list of all markets in the Benelux region. No federal endorsement implied for external links.]

Canadian Christmas Market/Marché de Noël | Nov. 19

Enjoy more than 40 vendors offering handmade arts and crafts, textiles, jewelry, food and drink and more. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the SHAPE International School cafeteria.

Chièvres Air Base WinterFest Bazaar | Dec. 1 to 4

New this year, Chièvres Air Base will kick off the festive season with a multi-day bazaar offering hand-crafted items, food, furniture and décor items from around Europe. Only U.S. and Canadian ID card holders with tax-free status may purchase items. Open Dec. 1 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Dec. 2 and 3 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Dec. 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

German Christkindlmarkt | Nov. 26

Discover handcrafted gifts, Christmas decorations, German food and drinks, baked goods and much more. Open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. behind Building 312 on SHAPE.

Italian Christmas Market | Dec. 3

Enjoy Italian crafts, decorations, food and more. Open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the SHAPE International School cafeteria.

Norwegian Christmas Market | Nov. 26

Experience a taste of Norway with Norwegian food and drinks, a children’s Christmas workshop and handmade arts and crafts for sale. Open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the SHAPE Chapel.

Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum Christmas Market | Dec. 15

After a two-year break, the JFC Brunssum Christmas market is back with holiday treats from participating national delegations, local vendors, live music, a petting zoo, pictures with Santa and more. Open starting at 4:30 p.m. at the International Conference Center.

Christmas and Thanksgiving Fayre | Nov. 26

Enjoy food, games and a variety of international vendors. Admission is €2 per adult and is available to all NATO ID card holders. Open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the AFNORTH International School.

Foggy Fields Bazaar | Nov. 18 to 20

Browse 33 vendors offering a variety of gift items, food, artwork, furniture, home goods and more from across Europe. Admission available to all U.S. and NATO ID card holders. Open Nov. 18 from noon to 7 p.m., Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Nov. 20 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Hangar 2 on Geilenkirchen Air Base.

Antwerp/Anvers: Winter in Antwerp | Dec. 9 to Jan. 8

For over four weeks, Antwerp will be imbued with a magical winter mood. During this time, whirl around a skating rink, shop for gifts at the Christmas market or admire the city’s lights from the Ferris wheel. Afterwards, explore the many exciting acts and activities taking place in the city center.

Bastogne: Le Marché de Noël (link in French, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Dec. 9 to 11 and Dec. 16 to 18

The Christmas Market is back with 40 chalets and different activities. Held on Place Charles Govaerts and in the Quartier Latin.

Brussels: Spirit of the North in Brussels (Indoors) | Oct. 28 to Jan 8.

Step into a world of pure imagination. Catch snowflakes and bring drawings to life in this interactive room, decorated with wintery themes and plenty of room to play, run around and experience an impressive lightshow! Other activities: ride a sleigh in an electrifying VR experience, go down the sledding ramp, visit Santa at his own workshop and take a family photograph. Held at Horta Gallery on Rue du Marché aux Herbes, 116 in Brussels. Open from Monday to Sunday – closed Tuesdays.

Brussels: Winter Wonders and Christmas Market (Outdoors) | Nov. 25 to Jan. 1

Claimed to be one of the most beautiful in Europe, Winter Wonders hosts nearly 250 chalets on a route of nearly three kilometers in the heart of Brussels. The event also offers a number of activities in the center of Brussels: a magnificent Christmas tree and sound and light show on the Grand-Place, cultural activities, artistic discoveries, a large ice rink and shows of all kinds for young and old. The Winter Wonders event takes place before and during the Christmas holidays, at the Grand-Place and city center of Brussels.

Chièvres: Chièvres en Hiver | Nov. 26 and 27

There will be 25 chalets, as well as music, food and activities for children. Held on the Grand-Place. Open Nov. 26 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Nov. 27 from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Durbuy: Christmas Market in the Ardennes | Nov. 25 to Dec. 18 (weekends only) and Dec. 19 to Jan. 2 (every day)

Known as one of the world’s smallest towns, Durby hosts a market with 70 chalets and Christmas lights. Held near the Park Roi Baudoui, the market is open Nov. 25 to Dec. 18 during weekends from noon to 8 p.m., Dec. 19 to Jan. 1 daily from noon to 8 p.m. and Jan. 1 to 8 daily from 4 to 8 p.m.

Enghien: Christmas Market at Enghien Castle | Dec. 16 to 18

Discover a Christmas Market full of artisanal products, decorative items, seasonal treats and more in the beautiful Enghien Castle park. Held at Parc d’Enghien 1.

Havré: Christmas Market at Chateau d’Havre (link in French, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Dec. 9 to 11

Held on Rue du Château 30 in Havré. Entrance fee is €2. Open Dec. 9 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., Dec. 10 from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Dec. 11 from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m.

La Roche-en-Ardenne: La Roche en Hiver | Dec. 25 to Jan. 1 (ice skating rink until Jan. 16)

A small Christmas Market in the Ardennes boasting 20 chalets and an ice skating rink. Held at Quai de l’Ourthe.

Liège: Christmas Village | Nov. 25 to Dec. 30

One of the largest Christmas Markets in Belgium with 150 seasonal chalets. In between the Alsatian and German Christmas markets, near Maastricht and Valkenburg, discover the enchantment of Liège, the “City of Christmas”. Held from Place du Marché to Dalle St-Lambert, with an ice rink at Place de la Cathédrale.

Mons: Mons Coeur en Neige (link in French, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Dec. 3 to 31 (skating rink until Jan. 7)

Held in the city center with numerous stands, attractions, local delicacies, an indoor skating rink and more.

Namur: Marché de Noël de Namur (link in French, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Nov. 25 to Dec. 31

Discover a Christmas village with 100 chalets and many activities. Held on Place de l’Ange and Place d’Armes.

Soignies: Christmas Market (link in French, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Dec. 17 and 18

Discover a Christmas Market with 60 chalets. There will be activities, shows, concerts and a Christmas Parade on Sunday at 5 p.m.

Aachen: Aachener Weihnachtsmarkt | Nov. 18 to Dec. 23

More than 100 vendors will offer Christmas decorations, candles and Printen, food and handicrafts from traditional workshops. Held around the Cathedral and Rathaus (English: Town Hall) in the city center.

Berlin: Berliner Weihnachtszeit | Nov. 21 to Jan. 1

Enjoy a diverse array of offerings, including a medieval market, Ferris wheel, ice skating rink and more. Held between the Rotes Rathaus (Berlin City Hall) and St. Marienkirche in the city center.

Berlin: WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt | Nov. 11 to Dec. 31

Considered one of Berlin’s most popular Christmas Markets, experience a diverse array of handmade arts and crafts, holiday treats, music, acrobatic exhibitions and more. This year’s market will be held at the Bebelplatz due to construction to Gendarmenmarkt. Admission is €1.

Learn more about additional Christmas Markets in Berlin via the official Berlin website

Bonn: Weihnachtsmarkt in der Innenstadt | Nov. 19 to Dec. 23

For 35 days, downtown Bonn will once again be transformed into an atmospheric city of 165 Christmas stalls selling a mix of arts and crafts and culinary offerings.

Duisburg: Duisburger Weihnachtsmarkt (link in German, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Nov. 10 to Dec. 30

In the run-up to Christmas, the Duisburg city center is transformed into a sea of lights with over a hundred decorated wooden huts, decorated fir trees and all kinds of illuminated installations.

Dortmund: Dortmunder Weihnachtsmarkt | Nov. 17 to Dec. 30

Claimed to be one of the largest Christmas Markets in Germany, over 300 stands sell handicrafts, Christmas decorations, toys, food and drink and more. There will also be entertainment options and a 45 meters tall Christmas tree.

Dülmen: Dülmen Winter and Christmas Market (link in German, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Nov. 26 to Dec. 18 (Friday through Sunday only; ice skating rink and toboggan hut open daily until Jan. 8)

During the winter, Dülmen is transformed into an atmospheric setting with colorful wooden huts, bright lights and festive sounds. An ice skating rink is open daily, along with a two-story toboggan hut. During the Advent weekends, a Christmas market with over 40 vendors offers gift ideas, regional products, handcrafted items, food and drink.

Düren: Dürener Weihnachtsmarkt (link in German, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Nov. 17 to Dec. 30

A market offering gift and food stalls, music, a nativity play and other events. Held in the Kaiserplatz.

Düsseldorf: Weihnachtsmarkt in Düsseldorf | Nov. 17 to Dec. 30

At least six Christmas markets are spread throughout Düsseldorf, each with their own unique theme and decorations.

Essen: International Christmas Market | Nov. 12 to Dec. 23

Enjoy lights, decorations and 170 food and gift stalls throughout the city center.

Geilenkirchen: Der Nikolausmarkt in Geilenkirchen (link in German, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Nov. 25 to 27

Enjoy around 25 vendors, food and drink and musical performances. Held in the inner courtyard of the Episcopal Gymnasium St. Ursula.

Gelsenkirchen: Der Weihnachtsmarkt in der City | Nov. 18 to Dec. 23

Enjoy around 40 vendors, musical entertainment and food and drink options. Held on Heinrich-König-Platz and Neumarkt. Open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m.

Jüchen: Schlossweihnacht Schloss Dyck (link in German, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Nov. 26 to Dec. 18 (weekends only)

Set against the backdrop of the historic Schloss, around 140 exhibitors offer a variety of Christmas decorations, jewelry, textiles, home accessories, food and drinks and arts and crafts. The stable courtyard and tea house are open to visit, and a nativity play is held every half hour from noon to 7 p.m. on the Schloss terrace. Tickets are €16 for adults and €3 for children ages 7 to 16. Admission is free for children under 7.

Koblenz: Koblenzer Weihnachtsmarkt (link in German, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Nov. 18 to Jan. 8

Visit a Christmas Market spread across six squares in Koblenz’s old town. In addition to food, drinks and an arts and crafts market, the façade of the town hall on Jesuitenplatz is transformed into the largest advent calendar in the city.

Köln/Cologne: Hafen-Weihnachtsmarkt | Nov. 18 to Dec. 23

Set overlooking the Rhine River, Köln’s Hafen-Weihnachtsmarkt (English: Harbor Christmas Market) offers a variety of fish specialties, food, drinks and products with a nautical theme. The event also includes a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and a robust entertainment program. Held at the Köln Chocolate Museum.

Köln/Cologne: Market am Kölner Dom (link in German, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Nov. 17 to Dec. 23

Held in front of the famous Kölner Dom (Köln Cathedral), the market includes 130 vendors offering handicrafts, food and drink options, artist demonstrations and over 100 free music and cultural events.

Köln/Cologne: Heinzels Wintermärchen | Nov. 21 to Jan. 8

Köln’s largest Christmas market boasting over 140 vendors, an ice skating and ice stock sport (similar to curling) rink, live demonstrations and a robust program of events. Held across the Alter Markt and Heumarkt.

Langerwehe: Romantischer Weihnactsmarkt at Schloss Merode | Nov. 23 to Dec. 21

A market offering traditional handicrafts, food and drink and interactive performances by regional musicians, actors and artists. Tickets are required for admission and can be purchased online in advance or at the market entrance.

Monschau: Der Monschauer Weihnachtsmarkt (link in German, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Nov. 25 to Dec. 18 (Friday through Sunday only)

After a two-year hiatus, the Monschau Weihnachtsmarkt returns for the 2022 Advent season. Many Christmas highlights await, such as the visit of St. Nicholas on Saturdays, local tours and hikes and Advent concert performances throughout the market season. A variety of vendors offer handicrafts, jewelry and accessories, fashion items, leather goods, antiques and more.

Münster: Advent in Münster | Nov. 21 to Dec. 23

Six Christmas markets transform the Old Town into a winter fairy tale, with lights, decorations, live music and over 300 product and food stalls.

Wesseling: Wesselinger Weihnachtsmarkt (link in German, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Nov. 25 to 27

A small market of around 50 local exhibitors held in Wesseling’s Alfons-Müller-Platz. Open Friday and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.

Wuppertal: Der Weihnachtsmarkt Schloss Lüntenbeck (link in German, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Dec. 2 to 4 and Dec. 9 to 11

Enjoy a market of around 100 stalls selling handicrafts, food and drinks, selected works of art and musical entertainment. Tickets are €7, with free admission for children under 14. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Alkmaar: Winter Wonderland (link in Dutch, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Dec. 9 to 18

Discover a Christmas Market with a variety of stalls, as well as food trucks, warm drinks and activities for children. There will also be a holiday tent with evening events and Christmas shows on the weekends. Held at the Waagplein.

Amsterdam: Amsterdam Winter Paradise | Dec. 15 to Jan. 1

The RAI Amsterdam Convention Center will once again be transformed both inside and out for the winter. Activities include an indoor and outdoor ice skating track, cross-country skiing, curling, a Ferris wheel, cinema, live music and more.

Amsterdam: Ice Village (link in Dutch, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Dec. 15 to 26

A small market held in front of the Rijksmuseum, offering a variety of vendors, food, live entertainment and a ice skating rink.

Learn more information about additional Christmas Markets in Amsterdam via Amsterdam's official website.

Arnhem: Winter Wonderland Arnhem | Dec. 18

Claimed to be the “Biggest Christmas Market in the East,” the market in Arnhem includes more than 200 stalls, musical performances, food and drink, a Christmas Express steam train, festive lighting and much more.

Brunssum: Christmas Village Brunssum (link in Dutch, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Dec. 16 to 18

Enjoy Christmas shopping, food and drinks, musical entertainment, decorations and more. Located at the Lindeplein, with additional activities in the Kerkstraat.

Haarlem: Kerstmarkt Haarlem | Dec. 9 to 11

From Dec. 9 to 11, the city center of Haarlem will be transformed into one of the largest and liveliest Christmas markets in the Netherlands.

The Hague: Royal Christmas Fair | Dec. 8 to 23

Located in the historic heart of The Hague, the seventh edition of the Royal Christmas Fair is planned to be bigger than ever. In addition to 110 stalls, the event includes a children’s Christmas fair, food and drink, a diverse program of cultural events and visits from Santa.

Maastricht: Magical Maastricht | Dec. 1 to 30

Winter activities abound in Vrijthof Square during the month of December. The square will be filled with winter-themed chalets, and musical and cultural events are planned throughout the month. There will also be a Ferris wheel, ice skating and curling rinks and a tube glide. Outside of the square, lights and decorations wind throughout the city in three illuminated routes.

Rotterdam: Winter Fair Ahoy | Dec. 14 to 18

Enjoy winter in Rotterdam with shopping and activities for everyone. More than 200 vendors offer products for the holidays, lifestyle, personal care, fashion, home accessories, food and much more. Performances, fashion shows and various workshops are also scheduled each day. Tickets are €11 in advance or €14.50 at the fair. Admission is free for children under 7.

Sittard: Wèntjer Druim (link in Dutch, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Dec. 17 to 24

The entire city center of Sittard will be decorated with lights, winter trees and more. Shop for gifts, take pictures with Santa, visit a living nativity scene and enjoy a singing Christmas tree with shows every hour.

Thorn: Kerstmarkt Thorn (link in Dutch, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Dec. 11

Discover 70 vendors offering Christmas decorations, jewelry, antiques, ceramics, garden décor and more set in the historic city center.

Utrecht: Country and Christmas Fair at Kasteel de Haar | Nov. 22 to 27

Enjoy the wintery ambiance of Anton Pieck, in the leafy gardens of Kasteel de Haar. Walk through 220 exhibitors showcasing collectibles, antiques, jewelry, clothing, food and more, and enjoy entertainment ranging from carol singers to water shows.

Utrecht: Winter Market Molen de Ster | Dec. 11

The yard of Molen de Ster will once again be transformed into a winter wonderland with over 50 stalls offering local products and food and drink options on site. Free guided tours will also be given in the mill.

Valkenburg: Christmas Market in Valkenburg | Nov. 18 to Dec 30

Claimed to be Europe’s largest underground Christmas market, the Municipal Cave is home to hundreds of decorated stalls, food options and lights located alongside charcoal drawings and cave art. Tickets are €8.50 for adults and children ages 12 and older, €5 for children ages 5 to 11 and free for children younger than 5.

Valkenburg: Santa’s Village (link in Dutch, best viewed in Google Chrome for translation) | Nov. 18 to Dec. 31

An atmospheric Christmas market in the heart of Valkenburg. Hosts a variety of chalets offering food and gifts, and a twice-weekly parade on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.

Colmar: Magic of Christmas | Nov. 24 to Dec. 29

Situated right in the heart of the historic town center, Colmar’s six Christmas markets radiate warmth and an inviting atmosphere to all. Each hosting its own particular theme, the markets and illuminated streets will delight young and old visitors alike.

Lille: Lille en Fête | Nov. 18 to Dec. 30

During the market, the heart of Lille is decked out in lights and a multitude of decorations! More than 90 chalets offer a variety of gift ideas from both local and international craftsmen, a Ferris wheel offers breathtaking views of the city and festive activities are scheduled throughout the market season. Held on Place Rihour.

Paris: Tuileries Garden Christmas Market – The Magic of Christmas | Nov. 19 to Jan. 8

Visitors will walk from Place de la Concorde to Rue des Pyramides (near the Louvre) and discover 100 chalets selling French crafts, cheese, chocolate, mulled wine, and more. Visitors of all ages will enjoy the Ferris wheel, which offers views of the capital’s largest Christmas tree, the big ice rink and the Eiffel Tower.

Paris: Christmas Village on La Defense Esplanade | Nov. 23 to Dec. 24

The huge Christmas Market along the La Défense Esplanade boasts 350 chalets, making it the largest in Paris. Held on Parvis de la Défense.

Learn more information about additional Christmas Markets in Paris via the Paris City website.

Strasbourg: Christkindelsmärik | Nov. 25 to Dec. 24

Held since 1570, its famous "Christkindelsmärik," the Alsatian dialect name given to the traditional "Christ Child Market", is one of the oldest in Europe. During the market, over 300 chalets are set up almost everywhere in the city center. Additionally, the streets, houses, bridges, church facades and most monuments are clothed in light and the “most decorated Christmas tree in Europe” can be found in Place Kléber.

Luxembourg City: Christmas in Luxembourg City | Nov. 18 to Jan. 1

Spread across four locations in the city center and Gare district, chalets offer a variety of both traditional and unconventional decorations, handicrafts, toys, clothes, jewelry, food and drinks. There is also entertainment in the form of children’s rides, a Ferris wheel, a circus, workshops, children’s shows and more.