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Bruges' 10 Unmissable Events and Festivals in Summer 2014
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Bruges' 10 Unmissable Events and Festivals in Summer 2014

Picture of Sally Pidgeon
Updated: 9 February 2017
The city of Bruges is a stunning example of a gothic medieval metropolis that has kept its shape through the centuries and remained intact as one of Belgium’s most beautiful places. This UNESCO world heritage site is also a cultural destination par excellence, with numerous dining options and art galleries worth visiting. Find out what’s on in the city this summer, from art exhibitions to music festivals and eye-opening tours.

Music | Cactus Festival of Contemporary Music

12 – 14 July

Minnewater is an idyllic park with a lake of swans and a great panoramic view across the city of Bruges, well worth a visit any time of year, but especially in July as it hosts the Cactus Festival, a popular three-day event. The summer of 2014 sees a stunning line-up of international contemporary music artists including Massive Attack, Mogwai, The Afghan Wigs, Caribou and Belgium’s very own homegrown Selah Sue, Coely, and Arsenal. The festival was launched in 2002 and has already welcomed numerous stars of the international music scene. Various combination tickets are available, with the option of onsite camping proving to be a very popular way to spend the festival weekend.

Minnewater Park, Bruges, Belgium, +32 50 33 20 14

Music and Culture | Moods Festival in the heart of Bruges

25 July – 7 August

Nothing brings out the beauty of a Bruges summer more than some fabulous live music in the open air. The annual Moods Festival is set in the heart of the city, the Burg Square, presenting a line-up of internationally renowned contemporary acts that get to make the most of the added acoustics provided by the dramatic backdrop of the Bishop’s Palace, the City Hall, the Old Civil Registry and the Holy Blood Basilica. Summer 2014 sees Suzanne Vega, Sophia, Babylon Circus and The Magic Numbers performing free outdoor concerts, alongside supporting acts, while the 13th century Gruuthuse Museum, currently closed for renovations, opens its doors for a moderate fee to see artists such as Buika, Nils Frahm, Melanie de Biaso, and Flamenco group Jesus Camona featuring Vanessa Caloma.

Various venues around the city

Outdoors | Bicycle tour of the Bruges region

All summer

What better way to strike a leisurely balance between town and country than to spend a day on a bicycle, riding beyond Bruges city’s streets, along the canalway, soaking up the surrounding region on a sunny day? There are a few organised tours to choose from at a laidback pace, taking you through some stunning scenery – past the beautiful Hoeke windmill, and into the medieval Damme, the port town for Bruges in the 13th century, now renowned for its numerous bookshops and book fairs. The tours always include enough visiting time to take some lovely shots of the area, as well as a well-earned fuel stop to take a breather and sample some local beers. 

More information on the official Bruges tourism website

Music and Culture  | Vélo Baroque

11 August

Nature continues to provide endless inspiration for composers, as has been the case since the dawn of musical times.  Summer 2014 sees the second musical bicycle tour called Vélo Baroque, also referred to as, ‘Tis Nature’s Voice’, quoting the famous passage in Purcell’s Hail! Bright Cecilia. This is a unique chance to take an alternative journey by bicycle, a 30-kilometre round-trip, through woodland and wetland, and along canalways, from Bruges, to the old port town of Damme and Oostkerke by the sea, while enjoying beautiful classical music concerts performed at various venues along the way. 

More information on the Vélo Baroque website.

jodi savall
Conductor and composer, Jodi Savall | Image courtesy MA Festival

Music | Musica Antiqua

1 – 10 August

For serious lovers of early music, and those simply seeking to sample something totally traditional by way of musical entertainment in Bruges, the ten-day Musica Antiqua Festival is one of the world’s most important of its genre. Specialist music minds gather from around the globe, delivering lectures, with exhibitions, as well as concerts and competitions for the best performers of antique instruments, including the organ, harpsichord, basso continuo, fortepiano, and the recorder. Metamorphoses by Roman poet Ovid, published in 8AD and considered one of the most influential works of Western literature, is the main source of inspiration for the summer 2014 festival, with Jordi Savall as one of the highlights.

Various venues around the city

Culture | Day Trip to the Coast

All year round

Bruges city centre is no more than a 30-minute bus ride from the coast, with Belgium’s seaside resort of Knokke within easy reach. This is where the high society flocks during the summer to escape city life, typically from Brussels and Antwerp. It is possible to walk or hire a bicycle to venture beyond the crowds and north of the broad sandy beach, to discover a vast nature reserve of salt marshes and watch wader birds, such as storks and herons. Unique silt compositions provide fertile conditions for rare flora and fauna, such as sea lavender, which paints the coastline purple in summer. The seaside is also a perfect place for the country’s signature dish of moules-frites (fresh mussels served with chips).

Music | Benenwerk Festival Ballroom Brugeoise

9 August

The Benenwerk Festival is a great treat to surprise and delight visitors every August, as organisers offer a vast selection of musical styles to dance to, with extra emphasis on audience participation.  The Koningin Astridpark, where the event is hosted this year, is usually a relaxing space to spend any summer’s afternoon: it’s a picturesque English garden of luscious lawns and grove trees, with a pond and a pavillion.  However, for this special occasion, it lends itself to ten stages of concerts and DJs, showcasing salsa, cumbia, tango, rock n roll, drum n bass, electro, dubstep and much more, to a crowd of 20,000, with artists hailing from countries as diverse as the United Kingdom, Holland and Cuba. No tickets are necessary as this event is absolutely free.

Koningin Astridpark, Bruges, Belgium

Art | Warhol In Bruges

Until 2 November

Summer 2014 at the Oud Sint-Jan welcomes a collection of nearly 100 original works by leading pop artist Andy Warhol, brought together to highlight and complement the gallery’s permanent collection of works by Pablo Picasso, one of the 20th century’s most influential artists. The exhibition displays Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, prints of Marilyn Monroe and his superstars, exploring the themes of advertising, the birth of pop art, and art as a commercial tool. Oud Sint-Jan also permanently houses a considerable collection of works including some from the impressionists, as well as surrealists Joan Miró,  André Breton and René Magritte.

Oud Sint Jan, Mariastraat 38, Bruges, Belgium, +32 50 47 61 00

Culture | Lissewege’s Lichtfeest: Festival of Light

22 – 23 August

Lichtfeest is a unique, enchanting festival of fire installations, light, music, art, and street performances, illuminating two summer nights in August every year in Lissewege, an otherwise sleepy, yet quintessentially quaint town of whitewashed houses, tucked away in West Flanders. Lissewege is still one of the most bijou of Belgium’s communities, steeped in history, and preserved in the past. In fact, the town was once a stop-off point for pilgrims from the north, on the road to Santiago de Compostela where they would stay at St. Jakob House, still in existence. Lissewege is easily accessible to visitors with a 20-minute train journey from the city of Bruges.

Festival Of Light (Lichtfeest), Lissewege, Belgium

History | First World War Tour

All year round

With 2014 marking exactly 100 years after the German invasion of Bruges, there are many events and tours that bring history closer to the public, from visiting the trenches and bunkers, to exploring the battlefields and cemeteries of the Great War. A variety of tours head off from Bruges city centre, taking in the In Flanders Fields Museum or the battlefield site of Ypres; Langemark, the largest First World War German cemetery; and the museum in Passchendale, a village which has become an international symbol of the most cruel and senseless military violence – during the British attack of 1917, there were 500,000 casualties in 100 days to gain territory of just 5 miles.

More information on tours is available on the official Bruges tourism website

By Sally Pidgeon