Winter Season is a series of Christmas and winter events in the Leuven city centre, including the Leuven Christmas Market. Winter Season includes Christmas concerts, the Light Art Festival and the Food Truck Festival.
In this guide, you’ll find confirmed 2023 dates, locations, events and what to expect while in Leuven at Christmas.
Leuven has a compact city centre that is inclusive and accessible for all. The Christmas activities are spread around the Grote Markt, where you’ll find the stunning Town Hall, and Oude Markt, a bustling long square lined with trees, bars and restaurants.
Leuven Christmas Market 2023
The Christmas markets in Leuven are some of the prettiest in Belgium. With its stunning backdrop of the city’s historic buildings, the market is home to over 140 Christmas chalets selling a range of products.
In addition to handmade crafts and gifts, you’ll find a wealth of gourmet food and drink, including local Belgian beers and the popular Speculoos biscuits.
The Christmas market on Grote Markt is just part of the festive experience. You’ll also find specialty stores and food trucks along Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein and Herbert Hooverplein, two squares that are a short walk from Grote Markt and the Town Hall.
Dates and Location
Leuven Christmas Market dates: 7th to 21st December 2023.
Winter Season dates: 7th January 2023 to 7th January 2024.
Location: Leuven Christmas Market is located at Grote Markt.
Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein, Herbert Hooverplein and Oude Markt host Winter Season events.
Opening times: From around 12pm to 9pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Admission: Free, no tickets required.
Ice skating: No.
Vegetarian: Yes, plenty of options.
Vegan: Yes, plenty of options.
Gluten free: Yes, but limited.
Pet-friendly: Yes, but not recommended.
Reason to visit: The location in front of the 15th-century Historical Leuven Town hall and the Light Art Festival.
Specialities: Glühwein bars, Speculoos biscuits, knitwear booths and local food trucks.
Where to stay: Stay directly on Grote Markt at The Fourth.
Hotels near Leuven Christmas Market
Leuven is a compact, walkable city where most of the city’s sights are centred around Grote Markt, Oude Markt, Saint Peter’s Church and Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein (another large square). This central district is around 1km from the main train station along Bondgenotenlaan.
If staying overnight, The Fourth is well-located directly on Grote Markt; it’s a 3-minute walk to Oude Markt and 5 minutes to Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein.
For more ideas on where to stay, I have a full guide to hotels near Leuven Christmas Market that covers several well-located hotels.
Location of Leuven Christmas Market
Christmas in Leuven
Plan your Christmas holiday with my Belgium Christmas market guide. Discover where to go, things to do and the best ways to experience Belgium food, history and culture.
Food at Leuven Christmas Market
No matter where you travel in Belgium, you can find incredibly delicious local food and specialties that help make your visit memorable.
Speculoos Biscuits: Traditionally baked for St Nicholas’ Day, Speculoos are crisp, spiced shortcrust biscuits and they’re ubiquitous in Belgium around the festive season. These buttery biscuits, often beautifully decorated, carry a distinctive flavour from a careful blend of spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.
Kerststronk: A Christmas favourite in Belgium, Kerststronk or Yule Log is a delicious cake that resembles a miniature log. It’s typically a sponge roll layered with cream, covered with chocolate buttercream, and decorated to look like bark. A slice of this dessert is sure to add some sweetness to your Christmas market experience.
Chocolates and Pralines: Belgian chocolate needs no introduction, and the Christmas market in Leuven provides the perfect opportunity for you to savour these world-renowned treats. Look out for festive shapes and fillings – from rich, creamy pralines to tangy fruit-filled varieties, there’s something to suit every taste.
Boudin Blanc: While you might find sausages at any Christmas market, in Belgium, you have the chance to try Boudin Blanc – a white sausage typically made from pork, milk, and a combination of bread or rice. Often flavoured with herbs and spices, these sausages are a hearty snack for a cold evening.
Belgian Beer: Not a food but a vital part of Belgian cuisine, the country’s vast array of craft beers are worth exploring at the Christmas markets in Leuven. From strong Trappist brews to fruity Lambics, you can discover a diverse selection of traditional and unique beers. Don’t miss out on tasting some of the seasonal Christmas brews which are often richer and spiced.
Belgian Waffles: A classic Belgian treat that you can’t miss at Leuven’s Christmas Market. These warm, fluffy waffles come topped with a variety of sweet options like powdered sugar, chocolate sauce, and fresh fruits. Perfect for a sweet snack as you meander through the market.
Frites: On any Belgian street, these delicious fries are a common sight and Leuven at Christmas is no exception. Traditionally double fried and served in a paper cone, they are often accompanied by a generous dollop of mayonnaise or other sauce, making for a warming, savoury snack.
Stoofvlees: Another Belgian specialty, Stoofvlees is a hearty slow-cooked beef stew that will keep you toasty in the winter chill. Often served with a side of frites, it’s a substantial and satisfying dish that’s perfect for the cold evenings.
Gluhwein: This traditional German mulled wine finds its way into the Christmas market in Leuven. Spiced and served hot, gluhwein is a comforting festive drink to warm your hands and heart on a frosty winter evening.
Oliebollen: Similar to a doughnut, Oliebollen is a Dutch treat often found at the Christmas markets. Deep-fried until golden and dusted with powdered sugar, these sweet balls are a favourite during the Christmas season.
Raclette: A staple of European Christmas markets, this Swiss dish involves melting a wheel of raclette cheese and scraping the gooey melt onto potatoes, pickles and onions. The warm, melted cheese is perfect for a chilly day at the market.
What to Buy
Artisanal Belgian Chocolate: Across Leuven Christmas Market, you can find expert chocolatiers selling their delicious creations. From exquisite pralines to rich chocolate bars, there’s a plethora of choices to cater to every taste bud. Some vendors even customise chocolates for Christmas, making them ideal gifts.
Local Crafts: Handcrafted items from local artisans are abundant in the Christmas chalets. From unique handmade jewellery to intricate woodwork and beautifully woven scarves, each item holds a piece of Leuven’s artistry and tradition.
Belgian Lace: Leuven shares Belgium’s rich tradition of lace-making. You might find stalls selling delicate lace items such as handkerchiefs, tablecloths and doilies. These intricate pieces can make a timeless souvenir or a precious gift.
Belgian Beer: Leuven, the birthplace of Stella Artois, is a city with a beer culture that dates back centuries. You can often find a variety of local brews at the Christmas market, including the popular Leuvense Tripel. Gift sets of these carefully crafted beers make for a special present.
Christmas Decorations: As with any Christmas market, you’ll find a wonderful selection of festive decorations at Leuven. Traditional Belgian Christmas ornaments, hand-painted glass baubles, and beautifully crafted nativity scenes are just some of the festive items you can take home to add a touch of Belgian charm to your Christmas celebrations.
Speculoos Paste: A delightful spread made from those classic Belgian Speculoos biscuits, it’s like Christmas in a jar. Usually sold in beautifully decorated jars, Speculoos paste can be a unique edible gift for your loved ones.
Belgian Waffles Mix: While you can’t take a hot Belgian waffle home, some stalls sell Belgian waffle mix. It’s a lovely way to bring a piece of Leuven back home with you. This treat can be enjoyed long after your trip is over, and the mixes often come with easy-to-follow instructions.
Visit Flanders is an excellent resource for visiting Leuven and the entire region of Flanders.
Sustainable Travel Tips
The choices we make have an environmental and social impact on the places we visit. When visiting the Christmas markets, keeping sustainability in mind is important. Implement some or all of these responsible travel measures during your visit.
- Shop mindfully. Only purchase what you really need.
- Walk, cycle and use public transport to get around.
- Stay in a sustainable hotel powered by renewable energy.
- Stay in hotels. Short-stay apartment accommodation can lead to a lack of affordable housing for locals.
- Avoid using plastic or buying items made or packaged with plastic.
- Try to eat locally sourced organic food where possible.
- Limit your consumption of meat and dairy.
- Be open to diverse cultures and experiences.
- Explore more than just the main tourist areas.
- Support the arts and attend local events.
- Visit fewer places but stay longer at each destination.
The Christmas market in Leuven starts on the 7th to 21st December 2023. The Winter Season events continue until the 7th January 2024.
Leuven is an easy day trip from Brussels as it’s only 40 minutes on the train from Brussels Central.
Leuven is a beautiful small city near Brussels that is worth visiting to experience the incredible architecture, excellent museums, urban nature, gabled mansions and the longest bar in Europe.
If you have visited Leuven in winter or want to leave a review of the Xmas market, please comment below. This helps others interested in visiting and trying to plan their holiday.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Leuven, Belgium. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.