One Day of December in Ghent - Make the Most Out of the Christmas Market

Indulge in the festive spirit of Ghent's Christmas Market for a magical December day. Explore twinkling lights, savory treats, and artisanal crafts, immersing yourself in the holiday charm of this Belgian city.


So, it's the most wonderful time of the year! And what a better way to get into the Christmas spirit if not going to a crowded agglomeration of food and alcoholic beverages stalls with loud Holidays' songs? Yes, as worst as it may sound, we love visiting as many Christmas markets in December as we can; we visited Antwerp Christmas Market and Maastricht Christmas market in 2022, as well as Frankfurt Christmas market in 2021. Since we are now based in the south of the Netherlands, we've looked for some options around and Ghent kept appearing in our researches and, as we have visited it once but very quickly, we decided to go check out if it was worth the visit to its Christmas market.


Although there are records of December's markets happening in Europe since the 13th century, the first editions of a market happening purposely for Christmas started in the German-speaking region of Europe (part of the once-great Holy Roman Empire). The Striezelmarkt held in Dresden in 1434 is considered the first genuine Christmas market and it started off as a one-day market on Christmas eve to supply the citizens of the city with meat for their Christmas meal after their fasting period during the Advent. Since then, this tradition spread around the world and now happens all around the Advent period offering traditional food, drinks and gift options for a no-longer fasting nor religious crowd.

Castle of the Counts, Ghent, Gand


Ghent, a captivating Belgian city, offers multiple transportation options for travelers:

  • By train: Ghent is easily accessible by train from major Belgian cities like Brussels, Antwerp, and Bruges. The Ghent-Sint-Pieters railway station is a primary hub for both domestic and international train services. With approximately 80 trains running daily, travelers can enjoy frequent service, with trains departing every 20 minutes on average. The train journey from Brussels to Ghent takes around 40 minutes, with tickets costing approximately 11 EUR.
  • By car: Travelers can reach Ghent by car via major highways such as the E40 and E17. Several parking facilities are available in the city center, but be mindful of driving restrictions or low-emission zones. From Brussels, the drive to Ghent typically takes around 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic conditions.
  • By bus: Several bus companies operate routes to Ghent from neighboring towns and cities, providing another transportation option for travelers. Flixbus also offers long-distance bus services to Ghent from various European destinations, making it a convenient choice for those traveling from further afield.

Whichever mode of transportation you choose, accessing Ghent is convenient, allowing you to explore this charming city with ease.


So overall Ghent is totally worth to visit in Christmas time. The city is magically decorated with not only beautiful Christmas lights but also true pine trees attached to light poles around the central part. Even the iconic Castle of the Counts got into the Holidays mood and adorned its medieval patio with Christmas tree and fake snow. By the way, a visit to the castle is highly recommended.


With all this jolly atmosphere around us, certainly Ghent's Christmas market wouldn't disappoint us. They offer more than 150 wooden huts spread around its old town picturesque neighborhood and this is what makes it unique. All the market is framed by imposing medieval constructions: the St Bavo Cathedral, the Belfry of Ghent and the St Nicholas' Church (yep the saint who inspired the creators of Santa Clause). All this sensorial experience is completed with the scent of the Glühwein (mulled wine) and wooden fire and the many food options of seasonal food (raclette, tartiflette, smoked salmon, brätwurst, etc.). For those more adventurous, there is also an ice skating rink for you to burn some calories and a Ferris wheel to admire it all from above.


| Opening days - Dec. 8 to Dec. 31 |

| Opening hours - from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. |

Admission - free of charge |


Of course we couldn't visit Ghent and not see one of its most important monument. The Castle of the Counts (also know as Gravensteen) is the only preserved medieval castle in Flanders and maybe this has to do with its moat and rather developed defensive system.


Although the location had been fortified before due to its strategical location between two branches of the Lys rive, it is only in 1180 that Philip of Alsace built the current version of the castle. While it may be said that he might have been inspired by the crusader castles he witnessed during the Second Crusade, it is clear that the construction was meant to intimidate the merchants of Ghent who would often challenge the Count's authority. It served as the residence of the Counts of Flanders until 1353 after which it served as a court and a prison which explain why there is an extensive collection of torture instruments exhibited in the castle.


The best part for the Middle Age lovers is that all the castle is open to visit from the gatehouse and its ramparts to the count's residence and the stables. There is an audio guide which you can definitely not miss: it takes you through an immersive journey through the history of the castle while offering funny anecdotes and true facts about this iconic fortress.


Opening hours - from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. |

Admission - 10 EUR (audio guide included) |


To sum up, we were really glad to have chosen Ghent as one of our Christmas market destinations this year. Of course it will be overcrowded during the weekends and you might find things are a bit pricey in the market. However, we think Ghent succeeded to put up a pretty decent Christmas market experience really worth visiting while not losing its medieval charm.

And now it's your turn to let us know what you think about the city of Ghent. Have you every experienced it in December? We look forward to reading your comments in the section below.