Belgium’s Best Festivals and Parades
You wouldn’t expect a tiny country like Belgium to have thousands of festivals, every single year. But Belgian’s love an excuse to party and whether that excuse is food, drink, history, nature, music, or the downright quirky, there is a festival here for everyone.
1000 Brussels, Belgium
Every even-numbered year, for a week, in August, Brussels’ beautiful Grand Place is even more stunning. The ground is covered in 600,000 flowers, creating a unique pattern. Thousands of visitors flood the market square to capture the perfect photo of the Flower Carpet. Last year, I managed to have it almost entirely to myself, by getting up with the sun. Arrive at Grand Place before 7am and you too can have this peaceful experience. If you’re lucky, like me, you may even catch the golden sun shining on Brussels’ Town Hall. The next Flower Carpet is in 2014.
Kammenstraat 81, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Imagine listening to classical music while surrounded by the art and architecture of a former Augustine monastery. At the AMUZ concert hall in Antwerp, Belgium, you can do just that. AMUZ is home to the Laus Polyphoniea concert series each summer. Throughout the festival, classical music lovers can enjoy concerts by composers and musicians from around the globe. The festival also includes a themed festival menu to enjoy before the show. Meals are served in the beautiful Winter Chapel, pictured here.
Rue du Parc 2, 4577 Modave, Belgium
The Château de Modave sits, perched on a rock, 60 metres (200 feet) above the Hoyoux river in the province of Liège, Belgium. While it is open to the public all summer long, my favourite time to visit this pretty castle is during the Christmas season. For the holidays, the chateau invites local florists and decorators to style its period rooms. While some of the concoctions are rather outlandish (think more gold and feathers than you can shake a wand at) some are traditional and festive. You can still explore the castle during the summer months and it’s well worth a visit for the view alone. You can also explore the extensive grounds and gardens.
Mons, 7000 Mons, Belgium
It’s cold and miserable but how can one say no to this? It’s happening this weekend, 23-24 March in Grand Place of Mons. Go there only if you are not on a diet because you will want to try EVERYTHING :)
Carrefour de l'Europe 3, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Everyone is familiar with the breathtaking Flower Carpet, which takes place in Brussels’ UNESCO-listed Grand Place. Sadly, it only happens for one week, every other year. In an effort to curb the disappointment of tourists who visit during the odd-numbered years, the designers of the Flower Carpet have teamed up with a popular flower exhibition, based in Ghent, to bring us Floralïentime. Floralïentime lets dozens of Belgium’s top floral designers loose inside the dramatic city hall building. There, they create floral displays of all shapes and sizes. The Grand Place itself is transformed into a pretty park area, making the stunning square even more beautiful than normal. Best of all, for the cost of a 5 EUR ticket, Floralïentime offers visitors a look inside Brussels’ stunning city hall building, normally closed to the public. For more information and plenty of photos: http://cheeseweb.eu/2013/08/floralentime-flower-exhibition-brussels-grand-place/
Groot-Bijgaarden, 1702 Dilbeek, Belgium
Most garden-lovers have heard of the Dutch tulip garden, Keukenhof, a few hours north of Belgium. Few, however, have heard of Belgium’s own wonderful spring tulip garden at Groot-Bijgaarden Castle. Also called Grand Bigard (in French), the castle gardens are home to 1.5 million spring bulbs, including tulips, hyacinths, crocus and daffodils. Parts of the castle are open to the public, during this time, and each room hosts a different flower display, such as an orchid exhibit in the chapel. Two large greenhouses, on the grounds, host exhibitions by local flower growers ranging from roses to lilies and even rare tropical blooms. It’s a paradise for garden-lovers and photographers alike. You can even purchase bulbs to take home and plant for yourself.
36 Gouverneur Verwilghensingel
It may look like Japan, but this beautiful garden is in the Flemish city of Hasselt, Belgium. It is the largest Japanese Garden in Europe and was constructed with the help of Hasset’s sister city in Japan, Itami. While the garden is a tranquil place to visit year-round, spring is particularly magical. In April, the garden’s 250 cherry trees burst into bloom, showering the ground with pink and white petals.
Avenue du Parc Royal 61, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
Each spring, the Belgian Royal family opens their private greenhouse complex to the public, for a short two weeks. It is well worth braving the crowds to visit. This incredible 2.5 hectare structure was built in the late 1800s and its architecture is stunning all on its own. Add in the giant palm trees, rare plants and millions of blooms, and you have a magical, colourful space. Visitors also get a rare look at the palace grounds, including views of the Japanese Tower, not normally available to the public.
This is a weekend dedicated to Belgian beers. Small and big breweries present their beer on the Grand-Place. The entrance is free, the tastings have to be paid. And if you are not a beer fan, go for the amazing, fresh oysters sold by different vendors. My favorite place for oysters is at the restaurant Le Roy d’Espagne, in the corner, to the right of the Town Hall.
Rue du Château 30, 7021 Mons, Belgium
We had heard about this charming little castle in Le Havre and went to check it out and on that day there was a big Civil War reenactment right next to the castle. We could not believe our eyes and tried getting some info but nobody spoke English and then finally we found a person who spoke some English and found out they do this every year and it’s for charity. I admit I had fun watching them, even though I am not into this kind of stuff. Their costumes and props are extensive and elaborate and really put a lot of heart into it. And yes the castle is fabulous too :)
Place de Belgique 1, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
Every October, wine-lovers in Brussels rejoice because they know the MegaVino expo is coming. For one full weekend, the Brussels expo centre plays host to over 300 exhibitors presenting wines from around the world. Exhibitors are organised by region and at the 2012 edition, wines from 32 different countries were available to taste and purchase. For the cost of your 10-euro admission, you receive a tasting glass and a catalogue of available wines (so you can be sure to track your favourites). It’s the perfect environment to discover new wine regions and new domains from your old favourite regions. And, being Belgium, of course there is great food available, so you can enjoy a meal between tastings.
This year, Le Roeulx hosted the 50th International Rose Competition titled “Roses Nouvelles du Le Roeulx” . This competition takes place every year in this town, in the beginning of September. I took my son and went there. It was our mother-son outing. I was very happy to find that there is no entrance fee for this event, I am always on the lookout for free things to do in Belgium. The National Royal Society “Friends of the Rose” is organizing this contest in the great hall of the old St-Jacques Hospital. The garden is enormous and there are over one hundred patches where all kind of rose bushes are planted, each with it’s own unique smell. The rose smell is very powerful, you are hit by it as soon as you enter the garden. They also feature nice sculptures by different local artists. For the competition you too can be an active participant. There is a chart and pen offered if you choose to do so and you can grade the roses for a public’s award. Apart from that there is a team of judges and you know who they are cause they are on the ground with their noses in the flowers and discussing very seriously about it. I found it interesting but also kinda funny. Inside the building there is a rose room featuring different floral arrangements and a photo competition for the best rose photo. In the back of the garden a tent is set up to enjoy a cold St. Feuillien beer, also made in this town. A band is playing delightful music while all this is taking place.
Sentier de l'Embarcadère 1, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
There are dozens of foodie festivals in Belgium throughout the year, but my favourite, by far, is the EAT! Brussels restaurant festival, in early autumn. Located in the vast Bois de la Cambre Park, you can sample your way around the Brussels restaurant scene, in one easy location. 25 Brussels restaurants have booths at the festival, where they offer a few small dishes (normally 3-5) in exchange for tokens. Each token = 1€ and can be bought individually or in packages, on-site or in advance on-line. Buying a package will give you a reduced rate and includes extra goodies like tickets for champagne, coffee, and ice cream. In addition to the restaurants, there are several bars, sponsor tents, and eight world regions, also offering food and drink tastings and sometimes products for sale. It’s the best way to discover new restaurants in the city, or sample some of the top offerings without a huge financial commitment. (Michelin-starred La Truffe Noir was on-site this year.) For More Information: http://cheeseweb.eu/2013/09/eat-brussels-restaurant-festival-2013/