Entries Tagged as 'Belgium'

Belgium October/November/December


Love it or loath it Christmas is on its way. Book ahead for fast filling accommodation especially around New Year’s. We take a look at what you can get up to during winter breaks this year in Belgium with P&O Ferries.

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As we all lament the loss of the summer weather and rue though the loss of daylight as the clocks go back (though we must admit it has its benefits) the time to batten down the hatches for yet another winter season is upon us. If you, however, are susceptible to the winter blues (Seasonal Affective Disorder: yes it actually spells out ‘sad’) one means of tackling it is to find something positive to focus on. We’ll grant that’s not always so easy, but treating yourself this festive season may be just the ticket to see you through, or raise a smile on your loved ones face.

Belgium is an ideal country to visit during the winter months because of its close proximity to the United Kingdom as well as the fact that areas of outstanding natural beauty aren’t so far situated from the comforts of urban environment. For such a relatively small land mass there is an exorbitant wealth of cultural, historical and gastronomical pursuits to make even a brief stint fulfilling.

Travel to Belgium via P&O Ferries Hull to Zeebrugge overnight ferry, you can book at your convenience since it ships out daily. Fairs cost as little £139 for a return and if you prefer the mini cruise prices start as low as £49 giving you a round trip with shore leave to visit the port city Zeebrugge. For more information, and to book: Click Here

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A lot of the winter tourism in Belgium is due to the Christmas Markets all the major cities have them, the three major draws are to Brussels, Bruges, and Ghent. Belgium’s border with Germany means there is a fair amount of teutonic influence on the seasonal festivities, since much of ‘traditional’ Christmas fare comes from German convention where better to turn for Christmas fun?

Brussels Christmas Market opens November 24th to New Years’ Eve. It is hosted right in the heart of the Belgian capital at the Grand Place the cities central square. A fantastic destination for couples looking to enjoy the season, there’s skating rink and ferris wheel for lots of hand holding and warm embraces, the cold weather with warm lights and merry atmosphere makes any trip here special with just that touch of romance.

If you tend to struggle with Christmas shopping but want to find something a little bit special these markets offer an excellent selection. You’ll find even something small such as a decoration can become a treasure, brought out each year when most generic gifts have long lost their legs. The market in Brussels has upwards of 200 wooden chalets specially constructed to bring a bit of countrified Christmas village feel to the bustling metropolis. It’s an excellent site to partake in the countries ales with chocolate abound and warm waffles to delight both young and old.

The Christmas market in Ghent opens a little later in the year on the 8th of December As a major city there is naturally a certain degree of traffic but you’l find Ghent’s market a little less crowded than the one in Brussels. The stall holders here remind us that Belgium is considered a crossroads of Europe and therefore there is a more international feel to the market, though it still retains its Belgian charm. The wares for sale and foods available to eat are all from around the world so you could find some uniquely unusual, or perhaps unexpected gifts for your loved ones.

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The third top Christmas market in Belgium for you to visit this winter is in Bruges. This is desirable destination for the winter months. Like Ghent, Bruges is rich in history but its architecture and general feel make it really strike the soul. From the cobbled alleys to the ringing church bells Bruges really is a remarkable place for the short stay visit. The canalled streets are a brilliant way to soak up early evening, savouring the season before reservations. The Christmas lights illuminate centuries old byways, you get the feeling that so much has happened there and just about any twist of fate might befall you if you’re open to it, there is mystery in Bruges.

If we have persuaded you to see the delights of Bruges for yourself with P&O Ferries then the Christmas Market opens there October 24th right through to New Years’ Day.

If you are hoping to bring in the New Year in Belgium this year, and why not they throw one hell of a party, then make you’re booking early accommodation and passage tends to fill up fast. We hope to see you this Christmas.

Book now with P&O Ferries to get you through the winter months, the Hull to Zeebrugge overnight crossing awaits!

Image Credit: Martin de Lusenet , Rod-20 , Susanne NiIlsson

P&O Ferry trips to Belgium this Summer


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There’s still a lot of summer left for you to get some fun in this year, here’s a look at some of the exciting goings on in Belgium this August and September

P&O Ferries’ Hull to Zeebrugge ferry is an overnight service costing £129 each way, with on board entertainment as well restaurants, bars and arcades for you and the family to enjoy during the crossing. A range of cabins are available depending on the level of comfort you require from basics with a shower and place to rest your head to premium cabins with sea views television and room to privately relax. Zeebrugge itself makes a great initial destination with a lively marina plenty of cafes to restore yourself after the crossing. While the summer sun still shines you might like to stop by Zeebrugge’s beaches that travel all the way up the coast to Ostende, on a good day these open expanses make for an excellent place to sun yourself, you could even forget that you’re looking out on to the North Sea when the temperatures are up.

Perhaps it would be remiss of us to declaim that Belgian beer season is here, since there is usually at least two beer festivals going on per month throughout the entire year. Belgium is famed for its brews for a very good reason after all, namely that their beers are . However beer drinkers should be made well aware that the latter part of summer in Belgium is very tightly scheduled with back to back beer festivals. Which some might consider strange seeing as Belgium is a relatively small country but it has a long and rich history of brewing and certainly more breweries per capita than you are likely to find anywhere else. That is why drinking beer in Belgium could be seen, from a certain perspective, as part of a cultural education – though that may not fly should you fail to dabble with the vast wealth of culture (arts, architecture, history etc.) that is on offer in Belgium. If you have your doubts about attending events dedicated to alcohol, rest assured they are not weekend long binges, it’s not about inebriation. The quality, variety and history of the Belgian brewing tradition and its products are what makes these events popular and necessary, you’re far more likely to run in to a connoisseur than someone who’s unaware of their limits.

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TheNorth Sea Beer Festival is the third beer related event in August alone, occurring on the last weekend of the month between the 25th and 27th. The venue is Ostende’s Leopoldpark not a long stretch away from the beach and just opposite the De Grove Post cultural centre. This is only the third edition of the North Sea Beer Festival which welcomes visitors from all countries that have ports on to the North Sea. Upwards of 35 Belgian breweries will be plying over 200 varieties of Belgian beer only €12 for entry, which includes a glass and three tokens entitling you to drinks, more can be purchased at €2 a pop. For more information
click here

Beer Weekend is hosted by beer tasting association De Lambikstoemper an organisation dedicated to the promotion of Belgian beers. On the last weekend of August De BierWeekend the eighteenth edition of this festival will be taking place in at the visitors centre in Alsemberg. This town is just south of Brussels, near Waterloo and 3 star accommodation is as low as £59. De Bierweekend is one of the smaller festivals attracting a footfall in the hundreds rather than thousands but this simply means less queues. If the weather holds the terraced visitors centre makes an excellent spot for beer sampling in the sun.

What makes this event remarkable is that it’s the product of Belgian beer aficionados working to promote the products they love. There is a focus on the Lambic brewing tradition which focus’ on producing beers with wild airborne yeasts from the Senne River valley. Whereas most industrial scale brewers have carefully isolated and quantified yeasts to assure control of the final product, Lambic brewers eschew such manipulations. It certainly produces a product like no other. Here is a link to the website

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There is an intermittent Hop Picking Beer Festival on De Plukker Hop Farm Brewery, not quite the grand stage of the next festival but on August 27th you’ll get to see how craft brewing can develop to a prospering business. An organic farm has developed its own brewing tradition and now exports it out to the world, this event will surely have a convivial atmosphere and offer lots to those interested in brewing.

Following on from the small stage comes the grandest even in the Belgian beer calendar. Belgian Beer Weekend is being held on the first weekend of September and attracts all the major brands and brewers. On Friday 1st in Brussels’ centre square the Grand Plaatz after an initial inauguration and academic graduation of brewers the event will be open to the public at 6pm. For a full list of their program click here

Book now for your P&O Ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge for your getaway with the last of summer’s sun in Belgium this year.

Image Credit: kmf186 , Matt Lewis , Lex Kravetski

Spring 2017 Holidays in Belgium with P&O Ferries


Book your holiday with P&O Ferries this spring for some days of sun on the continent. This time we are looking at what’s happening Belgium 2017 and have made a couple of selections for what might just make your holiday memorable and fun.

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After the fun from last years 21st anniversary of Belgium Pride expect no less joy and vibrancy for 2017. Belgian Pride is a life affirming and joyous event by which the LGBT+ community and its supporters come together to celebrate diversity and affirm their rights. Attendance numbers for this event have swollen since its incarnation in 1996 and it now garners over 100,000 attendees. This LGBT festival will have its main parade on Saturday afternoon, May 20th. The floats this year will be reduced in size so that the procession can party down the streets of Brussels. Belgian Pride Festival is brought you by multiple independent organisers not just one single organisation claiming to speak for a collective.

The theme for 2017 is ‘Asylum and Migration’ with the slogan ‘Crossing Borders’ in keeping the with the community spirit of inclusivity, protection and reception. The goal behind this is not only to assist LGBT migrants but also to find ways to come to the aid of others in their country of origin. Belgium has historically been known as the ‘Crossroads of Europe’ and so what better place to gather for a celebration this May?

It all kicks off at Notre-Dame de Bon Secours 11AM May 20th, where talks about this years theme and the opening of the Village and opening ceremony begins at 2PM. You’ll be able to get refreshments at the bars and food trucks as well as merchandise from stallholders. At 2:30PM the parade will begin in Ravenstein Street and proceed through the city, for a look at the route click here. This should all be wrapped up for a party back in the village from 5PM to midnight -ish.

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Here for its 17th iteration this June is Antwerp’s Beer Passion Weekend or BeerPassie. This is one of the more pedigreed beer festivals that Belgium has to offer. Given Belgium’s long tradition of brewing, the current up trend of micro brewing and the fact everybody is appeased by beer in abundance; there are around 180 breweries in Belgium. Beer Passion is the weekend when the major players in the industry vie for dominance. So if you like beer take advantage of their courtship this June. After the long winter this is the time when brewers unveil their latest batches so you will have the opportunity try some of the new brews for 2017.

Beer Passion is being held in Antwerp on the last weekend of June, so proceedings kick off Friday 26 at 5PM in Groenplaats right in the heart of the city next to the cathedral. The set up for this event is a boxed in beer village, where you will have to pay 5€ entry for your beer glass and tokens, which you can top up for more bevvies at your leisure. A dixie band will be there to liven up proceedings and the traditional brass band will be sharing the aural burden over the weekend.

The second day opens a little later, at 1PM for those who have indulged a little too much the night before and remains open until midnight. There will be talks and a taste along with Ben Vinken in his beer sommelier tent as well as an award ceremony and tasting of eccentric beers.

The following Sunday wraps things up with what will hopefully be a gloriously relaxing day of the finest beers Belgium has to offer in the late spring sun.

For more information on Beer Passion visit them here

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We often recommend city holidays later in the year, when the weather is less clement. This is so that you can take advantage of galleries, museums or gastronomy unique to the area. It is however a misstep to assume that summer means beaches and wide open countryside. You will find that Belgium’s cities Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, Namur, Leuven and Brussels are all brought to life by the warmer seasons. Pick up a guide book and you could have a cost effective self guided tour of any of these cities marvelling at some of the finest architecture of Europe’s history. If casual hustle and bustle of life starts to weigh on you P&O Ferries are the perfect chariot for a mini-brea. Even the time spent crossing the channel could be considered therapeutic as you travel by sea to whatever adventure awaits you on your holiday.

Visit Belgium this Spring with P&O Ferries, the Hull to Zeebrugge service can get you there overnight!

Image Credit: Miguel Discart , Burnt Rostad , Zoetnet

P&O Ferries 2017 Early Holiday Guide to Belgium


Welcome to 2017, from P&O Ferries blog. We’re going to discuss why the best way to kick start your year is to plan a trip to Belgium with our Hull to Zeebrugge service.

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January blues are a common discussion this time of year. Festivities are well out of the way, in fact a whole year away now, there’s a good long slog until summer in which a fair portion of the population will be desperately trying to make our ever-exasperating bodies somewhat presentable. Nevertheless, while we are still in the cruel cold palm of winter let us turn it to our own advantage. Instead of struggling with self discipline focus on what’s to come for the year, make exciting plans to look forward to and perhaps you’ll be able to reignite the embers of festive levity to see you through the January lull.

Holidays don’t always have to mean sun, sea and sand however if it is just not a holiday for you without a coastal walk we have a rather unconventional choice. A North Sea holiday in January doesn’t sound like the greatest beach vacation however Ostend has much to offer the more discerning traveller.

As a ‘crossroads of Europe’ Belgium has historically been viewed a country of significance, not just strategically but also diplomatically and culturally. However, it can be said that Ostend has waned a little since the heady days of the 19th century when Kings would holiday there with entourage of the aristocratic elite in tow.

What has been left behind, and survived an occupation or two, is some truly remarkable architecture. Visit the Atlantic Wall Open Air Museum to experience a bit of modern history. The Royal Galleries constructed over a century ago to allow the monarch passage from the beach to the Wellington Hippodrome, a marvellous race track renovated in 2010, however you will have to wait until the end of June for the races to begin in earnest.

What should really draw you to Ostend is the fact that it is the off season. This city is home to some of the finest sea food restaurants in the country, accommodation costs will be down, the local populace will be returning to their work routine so you will be less encumbered by crowds and tourist focused areas will be beaming to have you there.

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We have said it before Brussels is a fantastic city to visit during the winter. You may have missed all the Christmas larks but if that isn’t your thing anyway there is plenty to see and do in this hub of Europe and with heaving political shifts sure to take place in 2017 it may be best to get a look in at Brussels before travel gets more complicated.

Chocolates on Valentine’s Day may sound a bit cliche but if you know your partner, or perhaps just you, is a bit of a fiend then where better to go than the spiritual home of chocolate for a romantic break. You’ll also be that much closer to Paris if you want to make the journey, or simply take a P&O Ferry from Dover to Calais.

We recommend Brussels for your romantic Valentine’s day because from 10th to 12th of February the capital city will be hosting Belgium’s Chocolate Fair as was held in London last autumn. This showcase covers the weekend before Valentine’s day in Brussels’ exhibition hall. You’ll be able to pick up a gift or perhaps have a fun day viewing the artisan stalls and getting a couple free samples.

If you head to Belgium before March 5th the Fine Arts Palace, or BOZAR as it is lovingly called, will be displaying a 60 piece collection of Picasso sculptures on loan from Paris. Certainly something not to miss as a great number of tourists visit France for Picasso but less so Belgium giving you a greater chance to get a good look in. Admission price is €18.

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Belgium is also famous for its beers and this February 4th and 5th will be hosting the Bruges Beer Festival downtown in Market Place. Always a fun event that doesn’t get quite so messy as some beer festivals (we’re looking at you Oktoberfest!). The history of brewing Belgium dates back centuries making events such as these excellent for those who get more inquisitive the more they have to drink, perhaps there’s already a word for it but we’ll go with inebro-curious.

For full information on this event click here. Entry to the Bruges Beer Festival is free but you’ll want to sample the goods. In order to do so you purchase tokens exchangeable for a 15 cl taste of whichever beer or ale you fancy. Tokens cost €1.80 but you can buy a single package deal that comes with 5 tokens, a complete guide to the event and 2017 Bruges Beer Festival pint glass for €15. If you are going with a friend or partner a double deal costing €30 grants you 11 tokens, 2 glasses and the guidebook. This event is catered but we do strongly advise you book accommodation in advance and ensure you’ve got the travel to and from the event sorted in advance, though we’re sure the good people of Bruges will help you should you need it.

We wish you well in all your endeavours for 2017 and hope to see you on P&O Ferries crossings from Dover to Calais and Hull to Zeebrugge or Rotterdam.

Image Credit: Stephane Mignon , Cristina Valencia , Smabs Sputzer

P&O Ferries Winter Holidays in Belgium 2016


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Not all holidays have to mean sun, sea and sand. P&O Ferries have the perfect midwinter getaway opportunities for you to take advantage of this festive season. If you are after a romantic weekend, or family fun or even a cultural tour of discovery you’ll find just what you are looking for with a holiday to Belgium this winter.

It’s undeniable that once we pass Halloween, Christmas rears its terribly splendid, tinsel wreathed head and attempts to drag us all out of our shells for a bit of merry making. If you require a bit more prompting than anxiously awaiting a certain fizzy drink advert to get in to the spirit this year then try something a little different and pick up a bit of festive spirit on the continent.

Belgium is an excellent choice for winter travel. As a crossroads of Europe, you’ll be able to connect with any friends you may have in neighbouring countries, Germany, France, Holland and Luxembourg. The country itself has great ‘return value’ by which we mean that even though it is considered a relatively small country, such is the wealth of what it has to offer, that you are bound to forgo something your heart really wants to see, leaving you with that ‘one day I’ll come back’ mentality. It is, therefore, best to plan carefully and squeeze as much as you can in to your visit.

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The cities of Belgium are steeped in history, the architecture in Bruges and Brussels dates back to the 13th century, much of the iconic gothic buildings there were finished in the 15th century. What we’re getting at here is, you don’t necessarily need to seek culture to enjoy your time. You are spoiled for choice in a place like Bruges, but Antwerp and Ghent also have a similar make up. A walk down the canal will lead you to courtyards and shops, small cafes and bars thrum with business and laughter. With the sun setting early at this time of year it’s difficult to believe the night is still young. It is the off season for tourism, though museums are open late which still draws a ponderous few. The chill in the air encourages you to wrap up warm and seek comfort in crowds or holding the hand of your loved one. The soft orange of streetlights and christmas decorations set a cosy scene, the spires of churches in the background with the sound of laughter and delighted conversation permeating the air each time a door opens to new custom.

A good winter holiday is all about feeding the soul and what could possibly be more nourishing than treating yourself to a bit of retail therapy. The Christmas Markets of Belgium face steep competition with their neighbouring countries but you’ll find them unique and enthralling all the same.

The major Christmas Markets are to be found in Brussels, named ‘Winter WonderLand’ and in Bruges. Brussels’ Winter WonderLand opens on November 25th and can be found at the Grand Place in the heart of the city right through to the New Year. Brussels’ Christmas market is the main attraction for the season, it comes complete with giant ferris wheel and ice rink. The market covers up 2km worth of shops and stalls throughout the city centre. By night the place is lit up like something from a child’s fantasy, there are of course, food and drink stands as well as live music too.

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For the Bruges Christmas Market, which is also open from November 25th, head to the Market Square and Simon Stevinplein. It’s attractions are similar to the Brussels Market but such as the ice rink, however since Bruges isn’t the capital the crowds won’t be quite so busy.

For more information on Belgium’s Christmas Markets click here. You’ll find plenty of information on all the other markets of Belgium including some of the newer additions to the roster, such as the one in Ypres.

The other major event, besides Christmas, is New Years Eve. Accommodation will be thinly stretched in Brussels by this time, but there will undoubtedly be some spaces available. Last year’s fireworks were cancelled however hopefully this year the party will be all the bigger with crowd ready to rein in the New Year with renewed gusto.

Belgium may have an unwarranted stigma as a sleepy place, but you don’t have to resign yourself to quiet nights at a tavern or early nights at your lodgings, if you don’t want to. Besides the late night museum hours you’ll also find a vibrant nightlife in most cities. One suggestion we’d like to call to your attention is Bonnfooi, a jazz club. Comes complete with dance floor and DJ sets, but also hosts live bands five times a week. Bonnfooi means ‘by chance’ so see if you can stumble across it whilst out at night in Brussels, head towards Music Street, for a good night.

Book now for the Hull to Zeebrugge crossing and warm your hearts to get rid of the chill this winter with P&O Ferries!

Image Credit: Vincent Brassinne , Carlos Andres Reyes , Carlos Andres Reyes

P&O Ferries top picks for Belgium Holidays late 2016


Already looking forward to those autumnal retreats, sneaky weekends away and half-terms abroad? We don’t blame you in the slightest, here is a selection of choice events happening in Belgium later this year.

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We all know Belgium is famed for two main things, rather unfairly we’d just like to say there’s so much more going for it. Nevertheless titles such as beer chocolate capital of the world have been hard earned and well deserved so let us first impress upon you the serious and important business that is the Belgian Beer Festival.

Not such a messy affair as Germany’s Oktoberfest, but certainly just as much fun, you can find a top quality beer festival in Belgium at just about any time of year. Though the art of micro brewing has caught on in a major way in the UK, the Belgians have a long established tradition and some of the oldest breweries in the world. So any discerning beer drinker knows full well, you can’t whack a good Belgian ale.

A great start for anyone new to beer festivals or if you want an established and easy festival (not that any of them could be called ‘difficult’) is the tried and true Belgian Beer Weekend. In 2016 you can attend this event from 2-7th September right in the heart of Brussels at the Grand Marche. This could be called one of the more official Belgian Beer Festivals as it’s hosted by the National Federation of Belgian Brewers, how much more authoritative could you get?

This event is held every year at the first weekend of September, you’re still likely to get that good beer garden weather but it isn’t so hot to be uncomfortable or quickly heat up a pint of the good stuff. Given the prime location of the event you won’t struggle to find it or find your way back to your accommodation which is excellent all things considered. Belgian Beer Weekend is more than opportunity to over-indulge, it’s a competition amongst the breweries to find the best amongst them. After the critics have made their choices theirs even a Knighting ceremony. Arrive in time for the opening ceremony and you’ll get to witness numerous speeches, which may not be so great if you aren’t brushed up on your Dutch, but there’s also traditional garb to admire and a parade of historic beer carts as well a lively fanfare to keep everyone peppy.

Belgian Beer Weekend is as much a networking opportunity for businesses as it is for the general public. It opens for visitors at 6PM running late in to the night, you purchase a glass and then roam the stalls sampling the goods. Heaven.

As we mentioned there is always beer festival going on in some corner of Belgium, usually the further afield you have to go the finer you’ll find the brew is. So keep an eye out for those Trappists Abbots, Pales, Reds, Browns, Blondes, Stouts and just about everything else – and remember to take care.

Here’s a list of some of the Beer Festivals you can attend in 2016.

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Now for a tradition dating all the way back to 1982, it’s Dinant’s annual Bathtub Regatta. Yes we assure you, it’s not made up there are videos to prove it. Each year Belgium’s most persevering competitors congregate on the River Meuse in Dinant to race one kilometre in just a highly decorated bath tub – the only rule, there are no rules: except no sinking other tubs or using a motor. This highly onerous occasion happens in mid August, so there is no time to lose booking your P&O Ferry to Zeebrugge.

The Regatta is free for spectators, simply a fun day out watching people succeed and some circumstances succeeding not so well.

Belgium is steeped in military history and bears many scars and memorials to battles of the 20th Century. At the close of August this year Mons is hosting Tanks in Town to celebrate the 72 year since Liberation by the 83rd US Armed division. There are more details on the events webpage here. This is always fantastic event to help keep history alive, you’ll get to walk amongst the tanks and other armoured equipment used in nearby battlefields, a humbling and amazing experience.

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Christmas comes early to Belgium so if you’re of a mind to see Bruges, Antwerp or Brussels before it’s prematurely bedecked for winter festivities then be sure to book now lest you risk catching the Christmas bug far far too early. That said it never is too early to start thinking about how you’re going to spend Christmas and New Year’s. Prime spots on P&O Ferries for crossings during the festive season do tend to fill up fast so start making your plans now to avoid disappointment.

Take the overnight P&O Ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge and enjoy the last remnants of Summer in Belgium

Image Credit: Tim Samoff , Edward Russell , Russell Trow

P&O Ferries’ guide to the Festive Season in Belgium


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The time is now to sort out your winter holiday. Accommodation starts to fill up fast the closer to Christmas and New Years’ we get so don’t delay! P&O Ferries run from Hull to the port city, Zeebrugge in Belgium for you to brighten up your winter.

An urban tour of Belgium is really best suited to the winter months. The streets are less hectic and if you are fortunate enough to have timed it right, a light dusting of snow in places like Bruges will get even the staunchest Grinch in the Christmas mood. The spirit of Belgian cities such as Antwerp and Brussels is communicated through its architecture. Places with such long histories and so many stories to tell have the ability to really make a holiday enticing, you can fall in love with such places simply by walking down the street. To help you arrange your getaway this winter here is our run down of some of the most scenic parts of Belgium to be admired whilst wrapped up warm, as well as some dates for the Christmas Markets this December.

Both Belgium and France are prime locations for Christmas shopping. Whether you want to spend the whole week gift shopping or intend on a quick weekend getaway then you’re sure to find that perfect something for your loved ones. In Belgium some of the Christmas Markets open in late November and they can remain focal points for tourist shoppers as well as locals in to the new year. Cities such as Bruges and Belgium have cobbled streets and narrow avenues that are perfect for window shopping. Chocolatiers and cafes do their best to outdo each other with tantalising window displays hoping to lure in travellers seeking succour. However with an open market you get to stand shoulder to shoulder with your fellow Christmas reveller, barter for heartwarming bric-a-brac, hear jaunty christmas music, with ringing bells in the distance. A city like Bruges has a truly magical atmosphere come the early evening, swaddled in scarf and gloves both kids and couples will be enthused with a sense of romantic wonder as you bask in glow of fairy lights explore the old town’s of Europe.

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Brussels’ christmas begins with the opening of Winter Wonders which has its grand opening on November 27th, you are welcome to this Christmas fairly land right through to January 4th. Over this period shops stay open all weekend in the hope that the market stalls won’t draw away too much of their custom. The streets are really the place to be though, as the capital city of Belgium the display of Christmas lights is a sight to behold. You can get a sweeping panoramic view of the city by taking a ride on the specially set up ferris wheel which will probably help you find the ice skating rink set up at Place de la Monnaie so you can get a little time on the ice before retreating for hot chocolates or maybe something a bit more fortifying. The only true centrepiece of Winter Wonders is the Christmas tree, a gift donated by the city of Riga, the capital of Latvia, this magnificent fir tree takes pride of place and you’ll definitely need to see it when it’s lit up at night during the Christmas Parade.

Ghent is a less talked about attraction in Belgium, it is overshadowed by the fame of Bruges and the magnitude of Brussels. If you have, however, already seen Brussels at Christmas then it will be worthwhile to try a change of pace in a different city. It lies between Bruges and Brussels so consider a stopover especially since it will put you in good proximity to cross the border and give a French Christmas a try at the markets of Lille. In Ghent you can expect upwards of over 50 different market stalls spread across the city, they do a roaring trade in traditional gifts such as candles and decorations, but there will also be food vendors spreading good cheer with chocolate and waffles as well as a healthy supply of gin to keep things festive.

Ghent boasts some of the finest religious architecture in Belgium with Sint Baafs Cathedral and the Belfry which will be holding special Christmas masses this year. It would also be well worth your while to stop off at the major museums of the city which are holding late night openings as the sun starts to set a little earlier at this time of year. Then is also just a short drive from the P&O Ferry port at Calais, if you would prefer to have a shorter time on the water or just live closer to dover then take advantage of the dover Calais crossing and get to Ghent through the France.

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Your perfect Christmas is just a click away, book now for a Christmas like no other with P&O Ferries Hull to Zeebrugge service.
Image Credit: Rodrigue ROMON , Matt Barber , Darla Hueske

The lesser known side of Belgium


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We’ve come up with a brief guide to the less talked about locations of Belgium. Most people are familiar with the major cities of the country like Antwerp, Brussels, Charleroi and Bruges but there’s so much more to Belgium than that. Backpackers and almost anyone who’s spent time in Belgium will recommend you try out some of the less publicised locations.

As the summer heat lingers you’ll notice the crowds around the major attractions such as Brussels’ Grand Place tend to become somewhat of a tourist trap. Part of the attraction of Belgium is the atmosphere, how the locale can make you feel – it’s hard to build a real connection and make lasting evocative memories if your sweaty and bustling for elbow space to take a simple snapshot. So step off the beaten track – get your beer, chocolate and waffles elsewhere; Belgium has far more to offer!

Mechelen

This city is fairly central in Belgium, if you intend to see as much of the country as possible during your stay (and why wouldn’t you?) it would be a good idea to choose Mechelen for your accommodation. The area has been a site of civilisation since the age of Romans and one of it’s most notable features the Cathedral of St Rumbold dates back to the 13th Century. So if you’re hoping to find a hotel with a decent view of the city you shouldn’t be hard pressed, as with a lot of Belgium there are some fantastic examples of architecture to get you up in the morning ready to seek out more. There are over 300 listed heritage buildings in this small city alone.

Mechelen is a great city to visit for its atmosphere. Students of its Carillon School are often practicing bell ringing they also hold weekly one hour concerts. It is home to one of the oldest breweries in Belgium; Het Anker where Mechelsen Bruynen is made a beer said to be favoured by Charles V. The shops are spaced between cafes allowing you to while away your evenings in the dying sun sipping local beer listening to ringing bells in the distance.

Belgium

Each Saturday in Mechelen an open market is held, allowing you to buy local produce. At the end of August Maanrock a free music festival is to be held. This starts late in the day with DJs spinning from dusk till dawn on multiple stages. For a quieter time boat tours of the city are by far the most relaxing way to see the city and they only cost around €6. Mechelen is just a 25 minute train journey to Antwerp and Brussels so even using public transport you’ll be able to efficiently get around Belgium.

Spa

A favourite for some, if you’ve spent the summer in the sun then where better to rejuvenate your skin than the birthplace of all modern spas? This small town was originally host to royal clientele after Henry VIII attested to the curative powers of the natural springs just outside of Lieges.

Spa is famed for its waters and if you can’t wait to get there then you can buy bottles of it here in the UK. There are around 200 springs in the area, whilst we can’t assure you of their restorative nature the journey and environment will certainly do wonders for your soul.

The facilities available in Spa vary from the deluxe centres to more wallet friendly packages. They even have a mother-baby institute if you feel able to travel, they take children up to 6 months old for both parents and babies to get some cleansing relaxation in.

For a completely different experience of Spa this year’s Belgian Grand Prix will be racing in the small forest town late this August. You may also wish to visit the Casino at spa which could offer a bit of excitement in a place geared more towards relaxation.

Belgium

Namur

An hour journey from Brussels, Namur is well worth the journey. This once well fortified town may no longer have the strategic importance it once had but for tourists it is still a bastion of intrigue.

Namur is situated on the Meuse River, it’s battlements date back to the 13th century but originally it held one of the great European Citadels of the ancient world. The battlements are now open to the public and so don’t miss out on the chance to be afforded some of the best views in Belgium.

Namur boasts some great historical architecture and public art as well. Though the weather should still be with any holiday-makers you shouldn’t forgo the museums particularly the Museum of Ancient Art. This displays some truly breath-taking pieces including medieval stained-glass windows, baptismal fonts, textile and armour. Namur also has works from the renaissance period and the 19th Century a museum dedicated to Felicien Rops, contemporary of Baudelaire, who’s influences on the art world are not fully recognised.

There’s lots more to Belgium that we have yet to cover, but you can always go exploring for yourself with P&O Ferries!

Image Credit: Niels Broekzitter , Stephane Mignon , photophilde

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