On 8 January 2023, this season’s Winter in Antwerp ended with the city reception which was titled ‘t Stad trakteert‘, ‘the City treats’. The City of Antwerp government reckons 1,300,000 visitors came to take a look at the Christmas Market and other seasonal activities.
“The high number of visitors despite the cold and then wet weather shows that people missed Winter in Antwerp during the COVID-19 pandemic. The New Year’s Eve fireworks had a record attendance of 140,000 spectators”, the City says in a press release.
Nearly 125,000 visitors came to enjoy a decorated city centre on the opening weekend of 9 to 11 December. With the opening show on the ice rink, a performance by Metejoor in the Joe FM Christmas House, various street animations and musical acts in the ‘Singing Christmas Tree‘ stand on the Handschoenmarkt, Winter in Antwerp was immediately put to good use.
New this year was that the squares each got their own name and decoration: a fairytale land for an ice queen on Steenplein (‘Het Bevroren Rijk‘), the nostalgic atmosphere of an authentic Christmas market on the Grote Markt (‘Plaza Historia‘), sporty winter fun on Groenplaats (‘Wintertopia‘) and a world of wonder and musical surprises at the Handschoenmarkt (‘Symphonia‘).
The ‘Lichtjeslaan‘ or Avenue of Lights on the Suikerrui and the mill with mistletoe – a first – were very popular for taking atmospheric photos.
“In the mill, visitors were also offered a printed and digital photo by the city that they could share with friends and family: authentic Antwerp Christmas wishes. Our Lady’s Cathedral was also often photographed now that it has been removed from the scaffolding and can be admired again in its full glory.”
“The more than 900,000 passers-by enjoyed an attractively decorated Christmas Market, which with more than 80 stalls meandered from Groenplaats to Steenplein. 33,000 skaters came to test their skills on the ice rink on the Groenplaats. 35,000 visitors got a beautiful view of the city from the ferris wheel. Numerous fans and music lovers visited the Joe FM Christmas House, which broadcast almost 300 hours of live radio, or attended one of the many surprise performances. The winter bars Den Après on Groenplaats and Bar Den on Steenplein were also a great success.”
On December 31, Antwerp traditionally started the new year with a bang and that was a success. 140,000 visitors were impressed by the beautiful fireworks display above the River Scheldt and wished each other the best for the new year. That is a record number and no fewer than 20,000 spectators more than during the transition from 2019 to 2020. The broadcast of the fireworks on VRT tv channel Eén could count on almost 800,000 viewers.
The city treats
On 8 January, the City treated its residents to a festive start to the new year. Visitors could enjoy Winter in Antwerp one last time and exchange their free tokens for a drink, ice skating or round on the ferris wheel.
There were day trippers, but also visitors who stayed longer in Antwerp. In the first week of the Christmas holidays, the Antwerp hotels had a high occupancy rate of no less than 73.6%.
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