If there’s one sure-fire way to fall for a new city, it’s got to be getting fully involved in its big events. You can look at all the landmarks and see all the sights, but there’s nothing quite like immersing yourself in a city full of people having a great time to make you appreciate that place.
As far as running great events goes, Brussels’ game is exceptionally strong, and never more so than during the lovely summer months. We’ve put together a little summary of some of the best summery events and festivals you can enjoy in Belgium’s beautiful capital...
Eat!Brussels is the city’s biggest and best food festival, and it happens every September.
Brussels is pretty famous for a few dishes in particular – waffles, chips, mussels and chocolates are just a few of the delicacies that spring to mind – but Eat! Brussels celebrates more than just famous local dishes; it showcases local culinary talents and fine Belgian produce.
Dozens of acclaimed local chefs choose one signature dish from their restaurant’s menu for each day of the festival, so you can sample some of the very best food that Brussels has to offer.
Best of all, while you’re eating Brussels, you can drink Bordeaux, because the festival offers a wine tasting pass that allows you to taste and learn about the famously good wine from France’s beautiful Bordeaux region. Bon appetite and bottoms up.
Brussels Summer Festival is a ten day extravaganza of music, theatre, art and drama… but mostly music. Good music.
They often have huge line-ups that are particularly impressive. It’s not just the music that’s kept people coming back to the BSF for over 17 years though; the festival has a superb atmosphere and there’s loads going on beside the bands.
The side activities themselves are enough to keep you, your mates, your family – anyone really – entertained for the full ten days. A pass for the entire festival is only €62, with day passes from €22-€27.
Bar Eliza is a pop-up bar that’s built in Elizabeth Park as part of the Plazey Festival in the city, but it’s far more than just a bar.
In addition to serving up beers in the sun, it also runs workshops, showcases the work of young artists, acts as a mini cinema and concert hall, provides a chill-out area for athletes, and much more.
It opens at 11am daily and stays open until sunset – head there on Thursdays for live music and drinks, Sundays for kids’ workshops and DJs, and Saturdays for yoga.
BOZAR (Palais des Beaux-Arts) is the centre for fine art in Brussels, and they have an amazing exhibition running until the end of September, showcasing almost 180 works by artists from both Europe and the former Soviet Union.
All the art on display was created from 1945 on, and it’s a fascinating look at how the art scene was revived in the still turbulent period after the horror and devastation of two World Wars.
What’s particularly interesting, and quite cool to see, is how artists on either side of the Iron Curtain developed their art and experimented in the same way, and with the same techniques, despite the huge divide and tension between Western and Eastern Europe.
Ok this one isn’t summer-specific, but it’s particularly good in summer because if you make your way to the top ‘ball’ of the building on a clear and sunny day, the views are pretty unforgettable.
The surrounding gardens are beautiful too, and definitely more pleasant to visit in the summer sunshine! The Atomium was built for Expo 58, the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair but was renovated in 2004, and is now a museum to the Expo and the building itself.
A sightseeing tram ride around a new city is always a pleasure, but this takes things to a whole new level – this is no ordinary tram ride. This is a full-on journey to full-on foodie heaven, complete with champagne, crisp white tablecloths and impeccable service.
The menus are designed by esteemed chefs from some of Belgium’s best restaurants and change every few weeks, but while the menu itself changes the restaurant’s remit doesn’t.
Whoever is designing your menu, you can be sure that you’ll be chowing down on a thoroughly fancy version of some of Belgium’s best loved dishes as the tram trundles through Brussels’ pretty streets.
Belgian beer. A weekend entirely dedicated to the sweet amber nectar that Belgium is renowned for. If there is any better reason to visit Brussels for a weekend, we have yet to hear it.
This weekend takes place at Brussels’ Grand Place, the central square of the city, and it basically consists of you sampling the beers Belgium is particularly famous for, from small craft breweries to the larger more established ones. Entrance to the Belgian Beer Weekend is free, all you have to pay for is your beers.
Just as Brussels does waffles, beer, chips, and chocolate exceptionally well, its comic game is incredibly strong too… this is the city that brought TinTin to the world, after all. The Comic Strip Festival has been held in the city every year since 2010 to celebrate Belgium’s contribution to the world of comics, and it’s a great weekend.
Held in Brussels Park, the festival hosts comic museums, publishing houses, book shops, and comic sellers, authors and artists, as well as running workshops over the whole weekend. There’s a night show in the park too, as well as various other comic-related activities and events. Combine it with the beer festival, which is running in the city the same weekend.
- Dee Murray