Ghent Christmas market 2023 | Insider’s guide to celebrating Christmas in Ghent

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 lengths 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 neighbors. 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 2023 in further detail.

Psst… When you plan on traveling to Belgium in winter, 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.

Affiliate links are sprinkled throughout the site content. Clicking on such a hyperlink and booking on the accommodation platform it refers to, may result in a commission for CosmopoliClan at no additional cost to you. As Amazon Associates, we also earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, visit the Disclaimer page.

Christmas in Ghent with decorated terraces, illuminated streets and a ferris wheel
Ghent Christmas market with a view of the Belfry, the ice skating rink and the ferris wheel
Stepped gable houses and clock tower decorated for the Ghent Christmas market

Ghent Christmas market 2023 dates and times

The Ghent Christmas market will take place from Thursday 7 December up to and including Saturday 31 December 2023.

You can visit the Ghent Christmas market stalls daily from noon on weekdays and from 11.00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The festivities end at midnight on weekdays, at 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday night and at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The Ghent Christmas market concludes with a fireworks event on New Year’s Eve at the Portus Ganda marina. The official program is available here.

The Midnight Mass on Thursday 24 December 2023 is held at St Bavo’s Cathedral.

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 traditionally find the skating rink. No ice skating rink, though, since The City has replaced it with a roller rink.

Time to tie those (figure) skates and join in on the not-so-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. Afterward, 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. The intimate winter bar completes the festive picture.

Note that, if the time frame of last year will be respected, this event will take place from Saturday 8 December 2023 up to and including Sunday 7 January 2024. Tickets are available online or at the entrance.

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:

  • Graslei and 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.

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 (next edition in 2024)

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 triennial Light Festival. This free event takes visitors on a captivating journey to the most spectacular locations in Ghent, from courtyards to cobbled squares.

This event usually takes place mid-November. More information about the various locations and art installations can be found here close to date.

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:

  • 1898 The Post: Gorgeous hotel with a unique and eclectic personality, located in the former 19th-century Post building.
  • Pillows Grand Hotel Reylof: Luxurious Louis XIV style townhouse with a beautiful courtyard.
  • Yalo Urban Boutique Hotel: Newcomer in the Ghent hotel scene offering breezy designer rooms (including a gorgeous family suite) and the coolest rooftop bar in town.
  • NH Gent Belfort: Stylish hotel in the heart of Ghent, across the City Hall.
  • B&B De Waterzooi and De Waterzooi Lodge: 18th century house across from the Castle of the Counts. The owners can take you on a private boat tour (upon request).
  • B&B Hotel Verhaegen: 18th century townhouse with a wonderful garden oasis.
  • Maison Margo: A warm and cozy guesthouse with a gorgeous patio in one of the smallest streets of the city.

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

  • Maison12: Design apartments with terrace and view over Ghent towers.
  • Maison N: Sleek 2-bedroom apartment located right in between the best shopping areas.
  • LivingTheMoment: Neutrally-toned 3-bedroom holiday home in a tranquil corner right in the heart of the city.
  • Living The Dream: Cool 3-bedroom loft in a 13th century guild house.
  • For Four Flat: Pleasant open-plan apartment designed to make you feel right at home.
  • The Hide: Tastefully decorated hangout in one of Ghent’s liveliest streets. One of the rooms even has a swing-bed!

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…

Christmas-themed food, decorated streets and a ferris wheel during Christmas in Ghent
Festively decorated streets with stepped gable rooftops in Ghent during winter
Ferris wheel and a decorated street during Christmas Ghent Belgium
Festively decorated squares and streets during the Ghent winter festivities” data-pin-description=

Affiliate links are sprinkled throughout the site content. Clicking on such a hyperlink and booking on the accommodation platform it refers to, may result in a commission for CosmopoliClan at no additional cost to you. As Amazon Associates, we also earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, visit the Disclaimer page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.