Pass by the Bourse on Boulevard Anspach, and Christmas is hard to miss. From the nativity scene on the Grand Place to an “ice monster” placed at Place Sainte Catherine, Christmas decorations brighten up the dark December days – literally. It is a bit kitschy. But then: isn’t it meant to be?
The Plaisirs d’Hiver consists of an endless row of little shops and food stalls which stretches for two kilometres through the centre of Brussels. Amid the omnipresent scent of Glühwein (mulled wine), a lot of hats, scarves and handicrafts are on offer to the interested shopper. There is even a knife shop.
Though some Belgians consider Christmas markets an overly German addition to their cityscape, Internal Voices found the place very popular indeed. And with the Glühwein at around 2.50 Euros, the market does make for a good after-work destination – even on a stagiaire budget. But beware: for the most part, shops seemed to be offering warmed-up, less-than fancy supermarket products. If you're looking for quality home-made products, you will have to search for a while.
All the walking in the cold made you hungry? Don’t worry, food stalls abound. Whether it is Bratwurst or paella, crêpes or crabs you seek – there is plenty on offer. A posh Swiss chalet has even been built, with oysters with champagne readily available. And since this is Belgium, there is also an enormous “friterie” (chip stand).
For many EU trainees, the first half of the traineeship is approaching its end. With an ice rink and a large ferris wheel, the Christmas market may offer a nice opportunity to take your mind off reports and feedback notes. And even if you only want to come for a drink, there is a place for all the do-gooders among the trainees: The “Good Guys Bar”, where we found the police having a pint.
Have a Merry Christmas!
Fabian Stroetges is a trainee at the European Parliament’s Office for Promotion of Parliamentary Democracy (OPPD).