January – the month where people dream big and make plans, mapping out the next 365 pages of their story. Career, relationships, family, money and health… they’re all popular categories of reflection and change, but for many, the hot topic of any new year is travel!
The world is so big, but thankfully so accessible, and it seems that nowhere is off limits. With the mind wandering to far-flung destinations, we often overlook the incredible countries right on our doorstep that are simply perfect for a long-weekender with your musical friends.
Our top destination for 2020: Belgium
Belgium may not feel like bucket list material, granted, but don’t discount it just yet! It’s close by (perfect for a long weekender), it’s affordable (which we all appreciate in January) and it’s beautifully underrated, with culture, architecture and history galore.
And the perfect time to visit: Christmas
We know you probably don’t want to hear the word ‘Christmas’, given that the big day was less than two weeks ago, but like any good trip, the key is planning ahead! So let’s talk about Christmas in Belgium.
The great thing about Belgium is that everywhere is so easily accessible. Choose your base for the weekend and you can visit multiple places all within 60-90 minutes.
Brussels, Brugges and Antwerp are all lovely cities with plenty to see and do at any time of year, but at Christmas the streets light up and the squares come to life as the Christmas markets offer their wares to thousands of visitors every day.
The main market square is home to the largest Christmas market in the city, with craft sellers galore and of course plenty of food and drink options. Venture down the high street towards St Salvator’s Cathedral, making sure to appreciate the beautiful Christmas lights en route, and you’ll stumble across another Christmas market. Slightly more quaint and compact than its ‘bigger brother’, yet somehow even more ‘Christmassy’.
Stroll alongside the river that glistens from the reflection of the Christmas lights, take a horse and cart guided tour along the cobbled streets, or head to the park and hit the outdoor ice rink – nothing says Christmas quite like an outdoor ice rink!
The winter wonders of Brussels are everything you would expect – and more! Over 200 chalet-style market stalls and fairground attractions line the streets, whilst an undercover ice skating rink is erected in the Place de Brouckère. With other fun, immersive attractions popping up around the city, it’s a sight not to be missed!
Spread across lots of different squares in the historic town centre, the Antwerp Christmas market is perfect for all ages. The city literally comes alight as buildings, statues and trees are draped in lights. Be sure to visit Het Steen Castle which has been undergoing substantial renovation for a number of years and is set to reopen this year as the gateway to Antwerp.
Performing at Christmas
With an extensive catalogue of indoor performance spaces across the country, there are venues to suit any style of musical ensemble. But at Christmas, the outdoor opportunities could add a new twist to your tour.
Essex and Suffolk-based community choir, Funky Voices, performed on the ‘AlmHut’ covered stage in the centre of the Ypres Christmas market on the 14th December.
‘At the front of the crowd children danced, whilst further back dads lifted their kids onto their shoulders for a better view of the action. To the sides, onlookers danced along with a mulled wine or hot chocolate in hand and needed no encouragement from Musical Director, Sandra, and the choir to sing along. Read the full blog.’
Christmas markets around the country welcome musical groups from all around the world and offer a fantastic way to get into the Christmas spirit.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
So, what do you think? Ready to talk Christmas again yet? Whether it’s Belgium or somewhere else, it’s really important to book ahead for a Christmas music tour.
Start the year as you mean to go on and seize the day! The start of your journey to Belgium is just one click away.