Ghent Christmas market 2020, an insider’s guide

The days when tourist magnets Bruges and Brussels used to overshadow Belgium’s other medieval cities are long gone. In recent years, gorgeous Ghent has made a name for itself as an outstanding European city break destination. Inspired by its increased popularity, the city has gone to great lenghts to reinvent the winter celebrations as well. The Ghent Christmas market has grown from a modest collection of stalls to a wonderful winter wonderland that can compete with its popular neighbours. Picture the most enchanting fairytale decorations and festive sparkling lights against a backdrop of medieval buildings and stepped-gable houses, without the massive crowds that Bruges and Brussels are known for. That’s exactly what celebrating Christmas in Ghent feels like. So, let’s dive in and explore the Ghent Christmas market in further detail.

Psst… When you plan on traveling to Belgium in winter, then you’ll be pleased to learn that your winter visit to Ghent can easily be combined with a day trip to Brussels or another seasonal day out to the Brussels Christmas market or the Bruges Christmas market.


This article contains affiliate links. Clicking on such a hyperlink and/or making a purchase to the website it refers to, may result in a commission for CosmopoliClan at no additional cost to you. It allows us to dedicate enough personal time and energy to this blog. For more information, visit the Disclaimer page.

The Ghent Christmas market is one of the most magical winter experiences in Belgium. Check out this insider guide to celebrating Christmas in Ghent. | Ghent Christmas market | Belgium Christmas market | Christmas market Ghent | Christmas in Belgium | Winter escape | Christmas markets Europe | Winter travel
Celebrating Christmas in Ghent is one of the most cozy winter experiences in Belgium. Check out this insider guide to the Ghent Christmas market. | Ghent Christmas market | Belgium Christmas market | Christmas market Ghent | Christmas in Belgium | Winter escape | Christmas markets Europe | Winter travel

Ghent Christmas market 2020 dates and times

Note that, due to COVID-19, this event will not take place in 2020.

The Ghent Christmas market is a 3-week event and will take place from Thursday 10 December up to and including 31 December 2020. It opens at noon on weekdays and at 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. You can visit the Bruges Christmas markets daily from 10.30 a.m. untill 10.00 p.m. The daily festivities end at midnight on weekdays, at 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday night and at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The festiviteit conclude with a fireworks event on New Year’s Eve at the Portus Ganda marina.

Special events:

  • Saturday 19th at 8 p.m. and Sunday 20th December at 3 p.m. at the Capitole Theater: The Nutcracker ballet peformance.
  • Tuesday 22nd December at 8 p.m. at the Ghent Opera: Christmas concert “A Ceremony of Carols” and “Historia Nativitatis Domini Nostri lesu Christi” by the Children’s Choir.
  • Thursday 24th December: Midnight Mass at St Bavo’s Cathedral.
  • Monday 28th December at 2 p.m. at the Capitole Theater: Snow White, a fairytale ballet.

Ghent Christmas market locations

Various enchanting sites, one more mesmerizing than the other, make up the Ghent Christmas market and the charming cobbled streets that connect these locations form a sparkling intermezzo. No wonder that Forbes considers the Ghent Christmas market to be one of the best-kept wintry secrets in Europe.

Heart-warming treats and unique gifts at Sint-Baafsplein

Wooden stalls and twinkling lights at St Baafsplein during the Ghent Belgium Christmas market

This stunning square, framed by the Ghent Belfry, the St Bavo Cathedral and the City Theater, forms the grand decor for an impressive ensemble of wooden Christmas stalls. From local delicacies to handmade gifts and from warm winter accessories to international treats, you’ll find them here.

Tip: Climb the 366 steps to the tower of the Ghent Belfry around sunset and for the most magical views over the main Ghent Christmas village.

Ice skating rink and Moose bar at Botermarkt

Entrance to the ice skating rink at Botermarkt during the Christmas market Gent

Under the modern Stadshal or City Pavilion, you’ll find the ice skating rink. Time to tie those figure skates and join in on the icy fun before indulging in a mouth-watering chocolate-topped Belgian waffle from one of the market stalls. You might even run into a local or international choir singing Christmas carols. Afterwards, head to the Moose Bar to enjoy a drink by the fireplace or dance the night away during an epic après-ski party.

Tip: The skating rink has a dedicated kids section and little ones are invited to participate in a training session on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Ferris wheel and Husky bar at Korenmarkt

The Korenmarkt is one of the highlights in this Ghent Christmas market review

The eye-catching 144 ft or 44 m high Grand Soleil ferris wheel can be found at the Korenmarkt. Take a ride for the best views over Ghent under its twinkling Christmas blanket. Street performers and magicians roam the Ghent Christmas market on a regular basis for your entertainment. Treat yourself to yet another heart-warming snack from one of the wooden chalets or head over to the Husky bar. This glass pavilion in Klein Turkije is the place to be to enjoy a hot beverage with the most finger-licking tapas.

Burgundian feast at the Winter Wonder Castle of the Counts

The Castle of the Counts is one of Ghent’s most spectacular landmarks. Its oldest, wooden, structures date back as far as the 9th century. When, in the 12 century, Count Philip of Alsace visited Ghent after one of his crusades, he had it transformed into the most impressive and luxuriant stone building of the city to prove his supremacy. Visiting the Castle of the Counts is a must any time of the year. Even more so during the Ghent Christmas market when this cold stone structure undergoes a magical make-over. The result is a Winter Wonder Castle, with convivial castle chambers that are tastefully decorated in warm tones, elegant chandeliers and inviting dining tables that are lavishly set.

Other noteworthy sites

Ghent’s Christmas celebrations aren’t limited to the festivity zone in and around the Three Towers. You’ll find strings of lights and decorations throughout the pedestrian zone. Here are some other sites that complement the magical atmosphere:

  • Gras -en Korenlei: These cobbled streets flank the canal and together they form one of Ghent’s most photographed sites. You’ll find plenty of cosy terraces here and all the blankets you need to snuggle up and take in the twinkling views.
  • Groentenmarkt: This enchanting little place is located just off the Korenmarkt. It’s framed by some interesting building such as the 19th century Tierenteyn-Verlent mustard shop and the Great Butcher’s Hall.
  • Veerleplein: This is the square right in front of the entrance to the Castle of the Counts. It’s such a picturesque place to explore thanks to the gorgeous stepped-gable houses and the grand entrance to the Vismijn.

Gent by night is a magical experience any day of the year thanks to the city’s well-thought-out light plan but during the winter festival, it’s nothing short of spectacular. So, make sure to add a nightly stroll to your Ghent Christmas itinerary.

Treats to try when celebrating Christmas in Ghent

Celebrating Christmas in Ghent is a delight to the palate as well. Did you know that the city makes it a point of honor to offer organic, vegetarian or fair-trade food in at least one fourth of all food stalls? Here are some must-try delicacies to try:

  • There’s this local delicacy during the winter period that you just have to try: speculoos. It’s a crunchy spice-biscuit with a blend of cloves, white pepper, nutmeg and cardamom. We absolutely love it and our guess is… so will you.
  • You’ll usually find the fluffiest waffles in Ghent in the art deco styled eatery called Max, just across from the City Pavillion.
  • The glazed, chocolate crème au beurre cake Bûche de Noël has been rolled to a cylinder to look like a log of wood. A handful of countries have this as part of their Christmas tradition, all in their local variation. Make sure to try the Belgian one during your Ghent Christmas market visit.
  • You know Belgian beers, right? But did you know that we have Christmas beers also? It’s said to be historically inspired after Scotch Ale. Look out for Bush De Noël and Glühkriek. Three popular beer cafés in Ghent are Waterhuis aan de bierkant, De Trollekelder and De Dulle Griet.

Tip: If you plan on spending Christmas eve in one of the Ghent restaurants, then it’s recommended to book well in advance.

Meet and Greet with Santa

There’s no formal meet and greet session with Santa Claus. You might occasionally come across Santa at one of the Ghent Christmas sites. Keep an eye on the official Facebook account to find out when you might find him there.

Ghent Christmas shopping

The Ghent Christmas market is the perfect occasion to get that perfect gift for your loved ones and treat yourself to a souvenir. Belgian chocolate is always a good idea, especially when it comes in these irresistible Christmas-themed boxes.

In the month of December, most shops will exceptionally be open on Sundays as well. Public transportation is free of charge on these so-called Shopping Sundays.

Other wintry things to include in your Ghent Christmas itinerary

Pop-up Winter Forest at Zebrastraat

Just a bit outside of the Ghent city centre, in the Zebrastraat (which is both the name of the street and that of the venue), you’ll find the Winter Forest. Discover the best bands in town while treating yourself to some delicious street food or a wintry drink.
Tickets for the main act are available here. The opening act and the afterparty are free of charge.

Ghent Light Festival

Even if you happen to miss out on the Ghent Christmas market, then you still get a chance to see this gorgeous gem in a different light: Just like many other destinations across the globe, Ghent hosts a biyearly Light Festival. This free event takes visitors on a captivating journey to the most spectacular locations in Ghent, from courtyards to cobbled squares. More information about the various locations and art installations can be found here close to date.
The coronavirus-proof edition is split in two different sessions for crowd-management purposes:

  • Wednesday 27th January up to and including Sunday 31st January 2021
  • Wednesday 3rd February up to and including Sunday 7th February 2021

Ghent sightseeing itinerary

Ghent Friday market on a clear winter day

Ghent has so much to offer that we’d warmly recommend staying for a few days. Even more so during the holiday season, when you’ll be combining your sightseeing with a visit to the Ghent Christmas market. Check out our article on the best things to do in Ghent for itinerary recommendations and plenty of insider tips to make the most of your Ghent city break.

Do note that most museums are closed on Mondays, on Christmas day and on New Year’s day.

Practical information for your visit to the Ghent Christmas market

Getting to Ghent

Let’s start with the basics: where is Ghent located? You’ll find this gorgeous Belgian city right in between Brussels and Bruges, which means that it’s very well-connected.
Getting from Brussels to Ghent by public transport is pretty straightforward : There’s a direct train from Brussel Central and Brussels Midi train station to Ghent Sint-Pieters train station, a journey that only takes half an hour. If you’re coming from Brussels Airport, there’s a 1h direct train (or more options if you choose to transfer in Brussels Midi station).
Check train timetables and rates on Eurail (non-EU passport holders) or Interrail (EU passport holders).

From Ghent Sint-Pieters, it’s a 25-minute walk to the city center. Alternatively, you can take tram 1 or tram 22 to the Korenmarkt. (You’ll need to buy your ticket before boarding the tram, at the ‘Lijnwinkel’ ticket shop at the railway station or from the vending machine.)

Where to stay in Ghent for Christmas

As a former Front Office Manager for one of the Ghent hotels, I’m certainly in the know about the best accommodation options in the city. Here are my favorites:

Or you could stay at one of the many stylish Airbnb’s in Ghent. Here’s my personal selection:

Other Christmas markets in Belgium

There are more enchanting Christmas markets in Belgium than the one in Ghent. We’d warmly recommend the Brussels Christmas market, with its spectacular sound and light show at Grand Place, and the Bruges Christmas market, with its fairytale backdrop. No matter which (combination of) Belgium Christmas markets you choose, we’re confident you’ll enjoy the magic.

Not sure which Belgian gem is right for you? Check out our in-depth comparison on Bruges vs Ghent.

Now, tell us all about your winter plans! Will you be spending Christmas in Ghent this year? Or will you be traveling elsewhere to visit the Christmas markets? Let us know in the comments. Wherever you go: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Pinning this post would be much appreciated!

Ghent hosts one of the most magical Christmas markets in Belgium. Check out this insider guide to the Ghent Christmas market. | Ghent Christmas market | Belgium Christmas market | Christmas market Ghent | Christmas in Belgium | Winter escape | Christmas markets Europe | Winter travel
Check out this insider guide to one of the best winter experiences in Belgium: The Ghent Christmas market. Find out why it's one of the most magical Christmas markets in Europe. | Ghent Christmas market | Belgium Christmas market | Christmas market Ghent | Christmas in Belgium | Winter escape | Christmas markets Europe | Winter travel


This article contains affiliate links. Clicking on such a hyperlink and/or making a purchase to the website it refers to, may result in a commission for CosmopoliClan at no additional cost to you. It allows us to dedicate enough personal time and energy to this blog. For more information, visit the Disclaimer page.

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