Plan your sight-seeing to the soundtrack of open-air concerts and head to Brussels during one of its many festival periods. Keeping the national spirit alive and well, the people of Brussels know how to throw a party. Putting on displays of everything from music to arts and crafts to traditional commemorations, the city is home to an array of colourful events all your round. Undoubtedly one of the most cultured cities in Europe, the Belgian capital is never short of entertainment. Pack your bags, dust off your dancing shoes, and fly to Belgium to experience seven of the best festivals in Brussels.
Holding an important position in Belgium’s history and culture, the Ommegang festival has taken place every year on the first Thursday in July since 1549. Commemorating the coming of King Charles V to Brussels, the festival features over 14,000 participants dressed in period costumes parading through the streets. If you’re in the city for this event you’ll also come across a lot of horses, crossbows, antique weapons, giants and carts. A type of medieval pageant, the parade or ‘walk about’ as it’s known to regular festival goers, is held at Place du Grand Sablon and is a part of Brussels’ folklore. A favourite amongst locals and the Royal Family, this event is a great way to learn more about the city’s history and get involved with the culture.
This uniquely spectacular event is held every two years and is worth being around for if at all possible. Every second August, alongside the Assumption Day, hundreds of volunteers ascend on the Grand Place to weave magnificently detailed carpets made from colourful begonias. The carpet made from millions of flowers is assembled in under eight hours and covers the whole floor of the famous square. Since the beginning of the tradition in 1971, a new theme has been set for the carpet every year and a musical theme is specially composed to be played at the reveal. Enjoy strolling around the square with the aroma of the flowers and head up to the balcony of the town hall to witness panoramic views of the full creation. Each night, there will be a live concert accompanied by a light show, illuminating one of Brussels’ most visited gems.
Nicknamed Eu’ritmix, the ten day festival in August, is a showcase of both international and European entertainers set across four stages in iconic city landmarks. First organised in 2002, the festival fills the air over Place des Palais and Mont des Arts with music for all to enjoy. Go wild at more than 30 indoor concerts and party like a local at various after-parties across the city.
Known as the craziest festival in Europe, Zinneke was first started at the turn of the millennial in 2000 and aims to unify the multicultural city. The cultural movement held in May, parades through the streets of the city in colourful costumes. Taking place every two years, schools, artists and other citizens march to a carefully selected theme embodying a societal issue they are trying to highlight and paint the town with diversity. This is a really fun day out which will leave you feeling positively inspired.
Filling the city with over 700 musicians performing in over 200 concerts, the Jazz Festival provides the perfect soundtrack for exploring the city. See the sights as the streets echo Blues notes and relax for the evening with a glass of wine and some quality music at one of the open air performances. For three full days in the month of May, watch as the city transforms into an arena for Jazz music and enjoy an unlimited selection of artists as all the concerts are free of charge.
If you’re into horror and a bit of sci-fi then this next one is right up your street. Featuring more than 150 specialised viewing for new submissions, the film festival is held around all the cinemas every year in March. With exclusive events such as the Vampire Ball and competitions, the festival is a thriller junky’s paradise. As one of the biggest fantasy film festivals on the world, the event has had movie-lovers screaming with delight since 1983.
Officially titled, ‘Winter Wonders’, the Belgian capital transforms into a winter-wonderland from late November until January 4th. Wander along over 200 chalets selling food and trinkets and pick up some unique Christmas presents. Stretching from the Bourse Stock Exchange to the Marche aux Poissons and Place Sainte Catherine the market also has a big Ferris wheel, merry-go-rounds and an ice rink for when you need a break from browsing. A visit to the markets is the perfect way to get everyone in the Christmas spirit and kick off the festive season.
Heading to Brussels? Use the hashtag #ryanairstories to tag us in your photos of Brussels’ festivals for a chance to be featured on Ryanair’s social media channels.
Flights to Brussels
- Lucy Norris