The Mechelen Christmas Market is a yearly event in Mechelen, Belgium. It is located in the middle of the city, encompassing 0.2 square km and centered on Vismarkt and the plazas that connect to it. It is one of the most traditional and beautifully decorated markets in Belgium. It is known for having a medieval theme and feeling like an old-fashioned Christmas town. The market has over 150 booths that sell handmade goods, food and drinks. Its medieval roots go back to the 13th century, which became what it is today in the late 1980s.
The market is open daily from Saturday, December 2, 2023 until Monday, January 8, 2024. It is located at Vismarkt, 2800 and is surrounded by historic buildings like St. Rumbold's Cathedral. The church, the Toy Museum and the City Museum are nearby. There is no fee to shop, ice skate, enjoy holiday music or enjoy the historic atmosphere. There are many Belgian treats and drinks at Mechelen's market, such as Liège Waffles, Flemish Stews and Mulled Wine. You can buy handmade gifts, toys, clothes and glasses. The market is a fun place for both locals and visitors to celebrate. It can be reach by train, bus or car and hotels are nearby, such as the Novotel Mechelen Centrum. Nearby places, such as Carbon Bar & Kitchen, offer food that goes well with shopping at the market.
What is the Mechelen Christmas Market?
The Mechelen Christmas Market is an annual holiday tradition in the medieval city of Mechelen, Belgium. The market is focused around Vismarkt and adjoining plazas in Mechelen downtown. It spans about 0.2 square km in total area, making it a large market compared to other Christmas markets in cities like Brussels or Cologne. The market's theme is medieval setting under lights and old-fashioned Christmas village. Mechelen Christmas Market is one of the most traditional, authentic and elaborately decorated in Belgium. The market has over 150 decorated wooden chalet stalls lined up in the pedestrian areas, selling handmade arts, crafts, gifts, clothing, toys, sweets and more. The tempting smells of holiday foods like sausages, waffles and mulled wine fill the air, as choirs serenade shoppers browsing the market. An outdoor ice skating rink adds to the old-world charm.
The Mechelen Christmas Market started out of a long tradition of winter markets and fairs in the city back to the Middle Ages. As early as the 13th century, trade fairs and open-air markets were held in Mechelen, which was a prominent commercial center. Christmas-themed markets likely began appearing in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Modern incarnations of the Christmas market began taking shape in the late 1980s, when city promoters aimed to revive Mechelen's winter tourism and shopping appeal by putting on a traditional, intimate market. It has grown steadily since, while maintaining its old-fashioned village charm.
Mechelen Christmas Market combines classic features like handcrafted gifts, seasonal foods and family-friendly entertainment with more modern lights displays, sound systems and amenities. It provides a festive atmosphere welcoming both locals and visitors to eat, drink, shop and play. Mini-events like the Christmas Parade and Saint Nicholas festival have also become annual traditions within the market's run.
When does the Mechelen Christmas Market 2023 open?
The Mechelen Christmas Market 2023 is open from Saturday, December 2, 2023 until Monday, January 8, 2024. Market stalls open between 10:00am to 12:00 pm each morning and close between 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm in the evening, though specific times can vary by date. Mechelen Christmas Market is spread over different plazas and maintains a cohesive layout and connection between sites.
Where is the Mechelen Christmas Market taking place?
The Mechelen Christmas Market is located at Vismarkt, 2800. The market is situated just one block east of the Dijle, surrounded by the grand St. Rumbold's Cathedral and rows of medieval architecture. During the Christmas Market, it transforms into a festive pedestrian area filled with wooden stalls, lights and seasonal music. The streets connecting the squares also integrate into the vibrant Christmas atmosphere. The charming historic location serves as an ideal, intimate setting for Mechelen’s Christmas tradition.
Why should you visit the Mechelen Christmas Market?
Find below the reasons why someone should visit the Mechelen Christmas Market:
- Shopping: Mechelen Christmas Market is a shopper's paradise, with over 100 huts and stalls that line the streets. Visitors can explore a variety of gifts, clothing, toys and sweets. The emphasis on locally produced items ensures a unique shopping experience.
- Ice Skating: Mechelen Christmas Market has the large outdoor ice skating rink at Vismarkt. Visitors can lace up their skates and enjoy a spin on the ice, surrounded by a backdrop of lights and festive decorations, adding to the market's atmosphere.
- Festive Music: Mechelen Christmas Market has the sound of choirs, carolers and musicians who perform throughout the market. These performances occur in various squares, adding a lively and joyous ambiance to the market.
- Historic Setting: Mechelen Christmas Market has colorful lights, providing a stunning backdrop for the market. The market historic setting, with its cobblestone streets and ancient buildings, transforms into a good atmosphere during the Christmas season.
- Santa Visits: Mechelen Christmas Market is a special attraction for children and the opportunity to meet Santa Claus. Santa makes appearances at the market and hosts fun workshops at the nearby Toy Museum, offering an interactive and magical experience for the young ones.
What is the cost for visiting the Mechelen Christmas Market?
Mechelen Christmas Market is completely free to enter. It has no admission tickets or fees required. Visitors are welcome to stroll through the market squares and surrounding streets to soak up the sights, sounds and scents without any cost. All areas with festive stalls, lights, music and entertainment can be accessed at no charge.
What are the attractions close to Mechelen Christmas Market?
Here are the list of things to do in Mechelen during Christmas Market:
- The Toy Museum: Toy museum is located just 3.8 km (2.4 miles) from Mechelen Christmas Market. It features interactive exhibits, workshops and special visits from Santa Claus. The museum offers a playful and educational experience, focusing on the history and evolution of toys.
- St. Rumbold's Cathedral: St. Rumbold's Cathedral is located just 5.5 km (3.4 miles) from Mechelen Christmas Market. It is a magnificent Gothic cathedral dominating Mechelen's skyline. This historic building is known for its impressive tower and richly decorated interior, including a Carillon with 49 bells.
- City Museum: City Museum is located just 2.1 km (1.3 miles) from Mechelen Christmas Market. This museum provides insights into the local history and art of Mechelen. It houses various exhibits that showcase the city's past and present, including artwork and historical artifacts.
Is there an alternative name for Mechelen Christmas Market?
Yes, the alternate name for Mechelen Christmas Market is “Mechelen Kerstmarkt”. The Flemish Dutch term “Kerstmarkt” translates directly to “Christmas Market” in English. This alternative name reflects Mechelen's roots as a historic Flemish city, before becoming officially bilingual with French later on.
What food can visitors eat in Mechelen Christmas Market?
Here is the list visitors can eat in Mechelen Christmas Market.
- Liège Waffles: A signature Belgian treat, these are unlike typical waffles. They are dense, chewy and sweet, characterized by pearls of caramelized sugar embedded in the dough. These waffles are often enjoyed hot and fresh, straight from the iron.
- Frites: No Belgian experience is complete without trying fresh-fried Belgian fries. At the Mechelen Christmas Market, these are served up from festive food trucks, often with a variety of sauces to choose from.
- Meatballs: Bitterballen, a popular Dutch snack and other meatballs are a winter favorite. These are usually served with mustard or other dipping sauces, making them a perfect warming snack.
- Flemish Stews: These rich, local stews are a highlight of Belgian cuisine. Brimming with flavors, they often include beer as a key ingredient, adding depth and richness to the dish.
- Smoked Salmon: Grilled fresh and often served in warm, crusty rolls, smoked salmon at the market is a treat for seafood lovers. The salmon is seasoned and smoked to perfection.
What to drink in Mechelen Christmas Market open?
Here is the list visitors can drink in Mechelen Christmas Market.
- Mulled Wine: Mulled Wine is a warm, spiced wine that is available in Mechelen Christmas market. The drink is available in both red and white varieties.
- Hot Chocolate: Belgium is famous for its chocolate and the hot chocolate at the Mechelen Christmas market is a rich and decadent treat. The drink is topped with whipped cream and a favorite among visitors of all ages.
- Coffee Drinks: The Mechelen Christmas market offers a variety of coffee drinks, from strong espressos to creamy cappuccinos and flavored coffee creations.
- Belgian Beer: Belgium's beer culture is celebrated at the market with a selection of local winter ales, stouts and IPAs, sourced straight from nearby breweries. These beers offer a taste of the local brewing traditions.
- Tea: A selection of herbal teas and infusions is available for tea enthusiasts or those looking to ward off the winter chill. These teas range from traditional blends to more exotic infusions.
What can people buy in Mechelen Christmas Market?
The Mechelen Christmas Market offers over one hundred artisan vendors and stalls brimming with unique gift ideas and local handicrafts. Here is the list visitors can buy in the market:
- Ornaments: Mechelen Christmas Market stalls feature an exquisite collection of Christmas ornaments, including delicate glass balls, handmade wooden decorations and designed stained glass pieces.
- Toys: The market offers a range of handcrafted toys. This includes soft stuffed animals, beautifully made dolls, playful puppets, classic rocking horses and spinning tops.
- Clothing: The Mechelen Christmas market offers clothing options at the market including cozy sweaters, warm coats, elegant cloaks and mittens. There are also unique one-of-a-kind fashion pieces, perfect for those looking for something special and distinctive.
- Glassware: The market showcases an array of blown glass items such as vases, cups, jewelry, ornaments, mirrors and wind chimes.
- Pottery: The market has stalls selling made pottery items like dishes, mugs, bowls, vases and decorative objects. These pieces often reflect the local style and are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
How to get to Mechelen Christmas Market?
Mechelen Christmas Market is accessible from across Belgium and Europe and offers several modes of transportation for visitors. The city has frequent direct train connections from Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and other major cities, with the Mechelen train station being only a 10-minute walk from the Christmas market. For those driving, it's a 30-minute drive from Brussels via the A1/E19 highway and there are affordable parking garages available near the market squares. Bus services operated by De Lijn connect Mechelen with Brussels, Antwerp and various locations in Flanders, with a centrally located bus station for ease of access.
Where to stay in Mechelen near Mechelen Christmas Market?
Here are the best hotels to stay near Mechelen Christmas Market.
- Novotel Mechelen Centrum: Novotel Mechelen Centrum is located along the Dijle River, Mechelen, just a 2-minute walk from the Fish Market and a 5-minute stroll from the St Rombouts Cathedral and the Mechelen Christmas Market. The hotel offers modern, air-conditioned rooms with spacious layouts that include a bath. Guests can enjoy a range of local and international dishes at the hotel's restaurant, relax with a drink at the bar or unwind in the hotel's hammam and fitness center.
- B&B Hotel Mechelen: B&B Hotel Mechelen is situated just a 10-minute walk from the city center, making it easily accessible to the Christmas market. The hotel provides comfortable accommodations and convenient amenities like parking and complimentary tea and coffee, ensuring a pleasant stay for its guests.
- NH Hotel Mechelen: NH Hotel Mechelen is just a 15-minute walk from the Mechelen train station. This central location is excellent for visitors to the Christmas market and for exploring the city. The hotel's proximity to the bus route and availability of day tickets is particularly beneficial.
Where are the best restaurants to eat in Mechelen Christmas Market?
Here are the best hotels to stay near Mechelen Christmas Market.
- Carbon Bar & Kitchen: Carbon Bar & Kitchen is located at Désiré Boucherystraat 4, 2800 just 8-minute walk from Mechelen Christmas Market. The menu is a blend of local ingredients and international flavors, complemented by a range of cocktails and mocktails.
- Zahia's Cuisine: Zahia's Cuisine is located just 4-minute walk from Mechelen Christmas Market. This restaurant ranks #45 in Mechelen and #5 Moroccan restaurants in the city. It offers a diverse Moroccan menu with vegetarian, vegan and Halal options.
- The Chick Mechelen: The Chick Mechelen is located just 8-minute walk from Mechelen Christmas Market. The restaurant ranks #4 in Mechelen and renowned for its Belgian, European and healthy cuisine. It boasts a MICHELIN rating and the Travelers' Choice 2023 award.
What is the Mechelen Christmas market in Impact on Local Economy and Tourism?
The Mechelen Christmas market brings an impact in consumer spending to Mechelen during the holiday season. Visitors spend money on food, drinks, gifts and souvenirs at the market, providing revenue for local businesses. Tourism in Mechelen increases significantly when the market is open, as hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions benefit from the influx of over 1 million visitors. Many are day-trippers from Brussels and Antwerp, but many are tourists who come just for the market. The market also creates seasonal employment and stimulates the local job market with opportunities for locals to work at the stalls.
Is Mechelen Christmas Market better than Münster Christmas Market?
Yes, Mechelen Christmas Market is better than Münster Christmas market. Mechelen Christmas Market is larger with more international name recognition and set in the historic part of the city. Vendor prices may also be cheaper on average in Mechelen than the larger Munster market. Munster attracts more visitors and has more stalls and attractions. The best market depends on individual preference between size and international reputation versus cozy atmosphere and cheaper prices. But Mechelen's regional fame and historic setting give it a unique appeal.
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