Though the weather may not always be in our favor, as we enter June we cannot deny that summer is here in Brussels. Rain or shine, it’s time to make the most of the warm months in the capital and we’ve gathered some of the best events and initiatives taking place in the city to create your ultimate bucket list. With a mix of urban festivals, pop-up initiatives and magical expositions, there’s plenty of entertainment awaiting you this year with traditional favorites and new events.
While some may choose to board a packed train and travel to the Belgian coast, those looking to soak up some summer vibes can check out Brussels’ own urban beach park. From the 1st of July to the 7th of August 2016, the Brussels Canal area gets a new, sandy look and becomes host to a whole slew of summertime activities, including fun games, live music and open-air screenings.
For those that were not able to secure those precious tickets to Tomorrowland, fear not! There are plenty of great options to take part in the music festival experience right from within the capital. What began as a summer concert series in 2002, the Brussels Summer Festival is now a large, 10 day cultural event hosting some of the greatest musical talent from four distinct locations in the city. Don’t forget the equally popular urban festival known as Couleur Café: held in the historic Tour & Taxis venue this is a can’t miss event with a host of world music acts and delicious food market.
Why not spend the early summer weeks enjoying a few flicks? The Brussels Film Festival starts up again in mid-June and delivers a cinephile extravaganza, with a full lineup comprised of 100 movies from 20 different countries. When the weather is cooperating, films will be screened outside the Flagey studios with free admission to the public.
Home to several cultural initiatives and exhibitions throughout the summer, one particularly worth noting this summer at BOZAR is Facing the Future: Art in Europe 1945-68. This particular exhibition is a retrospective of the artistic trends which developed in post-war Europe on both sides of the Iron Curtain. This is a great opportunity to discover the thematic similarities in a time of evolution for the continent and for artists during the period.
Potter fans, be prepared, as the magical world of Harry Potter lands in Brussels this summer! Held in Palais 2 of Brussels Expo, visitors will have the opportunity to observe set designs, costumes and props from the lauded film adaptations of J.K.Rowling’s popular book series. This exhibition is not only a great opportunity to relive the magic for die hard fans, but also gives an up close and behind-the-scenes look at how producers were able to recreate this imaginative wizard world.
Thur 30th June – Sun 11th September 2016, pre-order tickets online
Organized in the early 1500s, Ommegang was a ceremony that consisted of a religious procession around the church honoring saints and religious relics. It became such a significant event for Brussels, that the residents also included it as part of the ceremony welcoming King Charles V. What is now seen as a traditional folklore festival, Ommegang is brought to life in the modern day with a historic parade, fair, market and plenty of characters to bring everyone back to medieval times.
Tues 5th – Thur 7th July 2016
For full location listings, see the event’s website
Besides the booming number of fun, cultural festivals taking place in the city, there is also something to do during those low key days. Throughout the city there are a number of pop-up initiatives just waiting to be taken advantage of. For rooftop cocktails, check out Rooftop 58 or Play Rooftop Bar – both unique stops to indulge in some delicious food and sip on some cocktails while enjoying a great view of the city. Those interested in finding local spaces without the heights can sit poolside among palm trees at La Terrasse de l’Hippodrome, relax in a green oasis at Bar Eliza held in Elisabeth Park or meet new people within the urban bustle of the European Quarter at European Canteen!
For full pop dates and times plus aperos, check out the Visit Brussels website
Panorama Brussels (Rooftop 58) | Courtesy of Rooftop 58
Have fun at the Foire du Midi (Midi Fair)
For those longing to spend a summer day or evening at a carnival – the Foire du Midi (Midi Fair) is the answer! One of the biggest fairs in Belgium, the Midi Fair commences the first weekend before National Day and hosts numerous game stands, rides and the traditional ferris wheel, not to mention plenty of options to get a hearty portion of Belgian fries and other fun carnival food.
For all newcomers to Belgium, mark your calendars for July 21st, Belgium’s official National Day! Though not exactly held on the date Belgium separated from the Netherlands, July 21st commemorates the date Belgium swore in its first King, Leopold I. Other than being a public holiday, this is a particularly special occasion to enjoy within the capital, as there are numerous activities, festive booths, parades and a firework display to close the day.
While usually admired from the street, those keen to learn more about the Belgian royal family and its palace can visit the stately quarters this summer. Beginning with Belgium’s National Day, the Royal Palace of Brussels opens its doors to the public for a few short weeks between July and early September. Guests can catch a glimpse of some of the ornate rooms including the Goya Room, filled with tapestries based on the work of the artist, and the elegant Mirror Room.
Probably one of the more iconic images of Brussels is when the Grand Place transforms into a botanical heaven with its colorful flower carpet. Held every two years at the end of August, the UNESCO World Heritage site features more than 600,000 brightly colored begonias staged in a beautiful pattern observing a new theme each edition. This 2016 marks a special occasion, as it is the 20th anniversary since the Flower Carpet’s inception in 1971, and the theme of the carpet is Japan. Be sure to head to City Hall to get a full panorama of the beautiful design!
Think you’ve seen it all when it comes to art and culture in the city? Brussels Museums and the Brussels Museum Council urge locals, visitors and tourists alike to think again! During the summer months, the 100 Masters project invites everyone to dig deep and explore Brussels’ permanent collection and witness the most unique and special treasures, ranging from the city’s most prominent museums to its low key gems. Why not make it a goal to admire all 100 masterpieces before the beginning of fall?