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Saturday, 23 September 2017

What to Do in Belgium Every Month: Top Places to Visit and Best Things to Do in Belgium

Timeless Monthly Affairs

Top Places to Visit and Best Things to Do in Belgium

What are the top places to visit and the best things to do in Belgium? Are you are a resident or a tourist coming to Belgium to spend a memorable holiday? The Timeless Monthly Affairs is a recurrence of events, activities and exhibition for one to do in Belgium every month. Here is a listing of over 20 places to visit and things to do in Belgium.

Most of these activities take place yearly or bi-yearly. Therefore, no matter which month a tourist arrives in Belgium, there are always places to visit, things to do and which occur only on specific dates. I have also included rare events that may not occur yearly (one so far).

So, it is not a typical article on places of interests which are available 365 days of the year. Locals and tourists can refer to the proposed events no matter which year they are travelling to Belgium. Since they are repetitive in nature and so it will always be valid.

Due to the four seasons in Belgium, these exceptional events materialise for certain weeks of each year. For locals or tourists coming to Belgium, this list of compilation will be useful monthly. I will add more attractions to the growing list of things to do in Belgium with more discovery. Click on the individual highlights to see more information.


January

Winter Sales

Location: All Belgian Cities

Stadsfeestzaal Shopping Centre at Meir in Antwerp

There are two proclaimed sales annually in Belgium, January and July for the whole month. The law determines the sales period. It is prohibited to have a sales one month before the commencement of the actual sales in the clothing, footwear and leather retail.

In another word, the retailers cannot misuse the term “sales”. People can be sure that when there are sales taking place in January and July, the price reduction is genuine. Hence, for shopaholics, the best time for shopping is no doubt the sales period.


April

April is the beginning of spring. It is the best time to see gorgeous flowers bloom everywhere. There are many flowery events inspired by flowers and nature theme. Therefore, it would be a pity not to visit one of these places of interest below. Here are a few highlights of the top places to visit that have received good responses from the visitors.


Hallerbos

  • Location: Halle
  • Date: April to Mid-May

Top Places to Visit in Belgium: Hallerbos

For nature lovers, this is a highly recommended top place to visit in Belgium between mid-April to May. The wild hyacinth flowers would carpet the Halle forest and transform it into a purple-blue magical land. The enchanting sight attracts many tourists and photographers all over the world to experience the fairytale comes alive.

Also known as bluebells, forests with such flowers are peculiar in the world. Moreover, the captivating moment only lasts for about two weeks before the leaves from the beech tree block the sunlight from reaching the flowers. Check out the Hallerbos article for more information.


Japanese Garden Hasselt

Best Place to Visit in April: Japanese Garden Hasselt
Photo: Stephen Gosden / Flickr

One does not have to travel to Japan to watch the symbolic spring flower, Cherry Blossom (aka Sakura). After all, one can see the flowers in the iconic Japanese Garden in Hasselt. However, the cherry blossom bloom usually lasts for only two weeks. Therefore, you may also need some luck to catch the full bloom.

The Japanese Garden was a gift from Itami, a city in Japan. Back then, it was a symbol to foster cultural relations in 1992. The lush greenery is the largest Japanese Garden in Europe covering 2.5 hectares. Shipment of the material used for constructing the traditional ceremonial house and Japanese tea house were from Japan. Even the craftsmen came from Japan.


Tulpenpluk

Best Things to Do in Belgium: Tulpenpluk (Tulip Picking)
Photo: Gellinger / Pixabay

Every year, 160,000 tulips are planted in the meadow during autumn. In spring, the tulips bloom and ready for picking in a large field of Berendrecht. Thus, Tulpenpluk means ‘tulip picking.’ At least 13,000 people attend this event yearly. Additionally, the visitors can bring 10 tulips home from the 47 colourful species.

Stad Antwerpen organises the yearly event which occurs around mid-April since 2012. Furthermore, the number of visitors is growing due to more public awareness and publicity. Since the tulip picking date is not the same every year, one has to search it on Stad Antwerpen website. Begin your search with the keyword “tulpenpluk” after the event publicity in March. Isn’t tulip picking a pleasurable thing to do in Belgium when the activity comes free?


Floralia Brussels

Floralia Brussels Groot @ Bijgaarden
Photo: VisitFlanders / Flickr

The 17th century Flemish Renaissance style castle in Bijgaarden awaits you with their annual spring flower exhibition – Floralia Brussels. More than half a million of colourful flowers in a 14 hectares park engulf the visitors. The floral providers came mainly from major Dutch bulb producers and exporters. There are 500 varieties of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils. Besides, just the tulips alone command nearly 400 varieties.

Another remarkable attraction of the Bijgaarden Castle is the labyrinth designed in 1748. It gives the flower path an unparalleled flowery experience that one must not miss. It is less than 10 km away from Brussels as well. Tickets cost €12 for adults, €5 for children, €10 for groups and senior citizens. Hence, date the flowers in Spring as it would be the best places to go in Belgium.


Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

  • Location: Laeken
  • 2018 Date: 13 April to 4 May

Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

For three weeks starting from mid-April, visitors can visit the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken. This has always been following a century-old tradition to allow the public to view. Despite that, as the Greenhouses are part to the Royal Park, the private garden is usually not accessible to the public. Many people were left disappointed when they visited the place at different months. This 19th-century magnificent monument built of glass dome is not a 365 days typical tourist attraction due to its royalty.

King Leopold II initialised the brilliant concept of using steel and glass as a bold design. Finally, he constructed his ideal glass palace and his botanical garden which is famous worldwide till date. The Royal Greenhouses still behold some plants belonging to the original plantations of King Leopold II. The entrance fee is merely €2.50 and free for those under 18 years. Furthermore, it is only 2 km of walking distance away from the famous Atomium. Both are the top places to visit concurrently in Belgium.

Add this event to your 2018 calendar 


May

Brussels Food Truck Festival

Fun things to do in Belgium: Brussels Food Truck Festival
Photo: Miguel Discart / Flickr

Brussels Food Truck Festival is the biggest food fair in Europe with more than 101 food trucks on site. Started not many years ago, the event takes place during the first weekend of May yearly. It runs from Friday to Sunday, from noon to midnight for the first two days and ends at 9 pm on Sunday. Entrance is free.

The international food festival has 35% of food trucks coming from abroad. Among the Belgian food trucks, 35% comes from Flanders, 43% from Wallonia and 22% from Brussels. Other than the famous Belgian beers, with a splendid array of food assortment from different countries, there would surely be something that titillates your taste buds. Just remember to bring along an empty stomach!


Zwemvijver Boekenberg

Swim at Zwemvijver Boekenberg in Antwerp / Deurne during summer for FREE!

Zwemvijver’ means ‘swimming pond’. During summer every year, the two outdoor swimming pools in Antwerp are opened for visitors to swim. The unique feature of this swimming pool is that the water is purified by plants and stones. No chlorine or harmful chemical in the water which would dry up the skin. During peak hours, the swimming is restricted to a 15-minutes block for 150 people.

There is also a lawn outside the swimming pool where people picnic or lie there for a suntan or a gathering with their family and friends. Zwemvijver Boekenberg is accessible by bus and city bike. Come and soak in the atmosphere with the locals! Check out the post for more detail and what to take note if you are going to Zwemvijver Boekenberg for the first time.


Medieval Market of Etterbeek

Medieval Market Etterbeek
Photo: youpla / Flickr

The Medieval Market of Etterbeek (Marché Médiéval d’Etterbeek) usually happens three days before a Christian holiday, Pinkstermaandag (Whit Monday or Pentecost Monday). Pinkstermaandag can take place either in May or June every year which affects the event date. Coming to its 26th years in 2018, you can see a lot of folkloristic characters performing and mending the stalls. No less than 180 exhibitors from all over Belgium and throughout Europe will present their artisan products. There will be lots of game booths for the children.

Fun thing to do in Belgium. Remember to add this event to your 2018 calendar


June

Rock Werchter

  • Location: Werchter
  • 2017 Date: 29 June to 2 July
Best Place to Go in Belgium: Rock Werchter Rock Music Festival
Photo: Antonio Zugaldia / Flickr

One of the best things to do during summer is to attend one of the long-standing pop and rock music festivals in Belgium. Rock Werchter started in 1975. Over the years, it has become one of the largest music festivals in Belgium. Furthermore, Rock Werchter has also received several years of awards from the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) for ‘Best Music Festival in the World’. The event venue can host up to 88,000 guests. Expect about 150,000 people during the four-day event. The performance starts as early as 12 noon up to midnight.

A one-day ticket costs €100 and usually sold out fast for Saturday and Sunday events. The purchase of the e-festival ticket allows you to download one free e-train ticket for public transport (train/festival bus) in Belgium. You can buy the food and drink coupons in advance which costs €2.50 each. The presale tickets come in sets of €20, €40, €60 or €80. Camping sites and mobile homes are available for booking too.


July

Summer Sales

  • Location: All Cities in Belgium
  • 2017 Date: 1 to 31 July

Brussels Rue Joseph Stevens

The beginning of July is the second sales period in Belgium which is the ‘Summer Sales’. As opposed, the first sales period of the year is the ‘Winter Sales’ in January as mentioned above. Shop during the first few days of the sales due to the overwhelming response from people looking forward to it. If a shopper goes shopping on a later date, many of the good stuff will be snapped up. On the other hand, expect a huge crowd and long queue at the cashier.


Zomer van Antwerpen

  • Location: Antwerp
  • Date: July and August

Every year during Summer, Zomer van Antwerpen (Summer of Antwerp) organise various fun-filled activities. Participants can look forward to events such as Theatre, Summer Bar, Music and Evening Dance Parties. One noteworthy event is the Cinema Urbana since it was an unforgettable experience which I recommend as one of the best things to do in Belgium.

Film lovers watch their chosen film on a specific day in an unusual and open atmosphere near to the Schelde River. Furthermore, moviegoers can experience sitting on two sand mounds in front of a big screen. At the same time, you can grab some drinks anytime from the bar while watching the movie. A gentle reminder to bring along some blankets, carpets or shawl for sitting or wearing when the weather turns cold. Moviegoers can expect to get free soup during the event which is definitely a plus!


Summerfestival

Best Things to Do in Belgium Antwerp Summer Festival beside River Schelde
Photo: Summerfestival

Located on the left bank left bank of the river Schelde in Antwerp, Summerfestival (aka. Middenvijver) is a summer camp filled with fun activities for people from 16 years and above. Moreover, it is wheelchair-friendly too. Other than music performance, festival goers can expect activities to do like the beach, swimming pools, shops, sports and delicious food. One more advantage to attend the Summerfestival is cashless payment where the festival goers pay by tapping with their wristband.

There are two exciting highlights not to miss in 2017. Firstly, you have ‘The Beast’ which is the world’s largest and longest inflatable obstacle course of 272 m! Secondly, also expect to ride the waves with ‘The Wavesurfer’ for this year. Lockers are available for a small fee. Go there early if you want to use the locker as they are always full. You can get free earplugs from the bar too. A ticket starts from €52 per person. Lastly, remembers to bring your camping tent and choose your preferred spot there. Campers can enter into the Summer Festival site on 30 June from 10:00h onwards.


Ommegang

Best Things to Do in Belgium: Ommegang
Photo: fabonthemoon / Flickr

Ommegang festival is a parade of folklore appearing right in front of your eyes originating from a religious procession in 1348. The modern procession of saints and horses dress in fanciful costume march from the Sablon to the Grand Place since 1930. As a result, it is the biggest and the most medieval culture celebrated in Brussels historically. In 2017, the organiser has added more than 1400 participants in this festival.

Ticket price starts from €40 onwards for a 2-km Cortège and a 2-hours procession. However, do not let the cost deter you from watching the performance. Interested folks can still watch Ommegang for free at Village Renaissance in  Parc Royal (Brussels Park). The park entrance is facing opposite the Royal Palace of Brussels along the street “Place des Palais“. Therefore, the location is not that difficult to find for a whimsical evening.


Dour Music Festival

  • Location: Dour
  • 2018 Date: 11 to 15 July

Dour Music Festival

Dour Festival is the biggest music event in the southern part of Belgium. In the Wallonia region is the French-speaking community. Dubbed itself as the ‘European Alternative Music Event’, the Dour Festival has more than 100 performers from Belgium and overseas every year. More than 200,000 supporters turn up from all over Europe the past few years.

Camping site, food and drinks are available to facilitate the spectacular performance affair. Despite that, please note that the visitors are not allowed to enter the Dour festival site with alcohol. Ticket prices range from €55 per day to €155 for a Combi ticket for all the 5-days event.


Gentse Feesten

  • Location: Ghent
  • 2017 Date: 14 to 23 July
July Event: Ghent is one of the best cities and places to visit in Belgium: Gentse Feesten
Photo: Gentse Feesten / Facebook

If you are planning to go to Ghent, the best time to visit the vibrant city is in July. For over 170 years over a duration of 10 days, Ghent is celebrating the Gentse Feesten (Ghent Festival) in the heart of the city. Every year, it has been a tradition that the Ghent Carnival starts on a Friday and ends on a Sunday. The scale of Ghent Festival covers almost all the inner city of Gent.

About 2 million visitors attend the festival every year, making it one of the biggest cultural festivals in Europe alongside with Oktoberfest in Munich and Las Fallas in Valencia. What you can expect this festival over the ten days are markets, street performances and music concerts at night. Go and immerse in the liveliness of the Ghent party all day long in July. The best part is good things always come free.


Tomorrowland

  • Location: Boom
  • 2017 Date: 21 to 23 July and 28 to 30 July
Top Things to Do in Belgium: Tomorrowland
Photo: Global Stomping / Flickr

Tomorrowland is one of the biggest and most famous electronic music festivals in the world. The event venue lies in the Flanders region of Belgium which is the Dutch speaking community. Ticket prices range from €100 per day to over €1,500 on the high side. Still, the astonishing fact is that over 100,000 tickets are snapped up within 1 hour on their release date.

Not only the Belgians are crazy over the event. International hardcore fans of Tomorrowland flock to Belgium from all over the world to attend this stupendous music festival too. Yes, that is the madness and enchantment of this event. Ever since its first debut in 2005 and spanning 15 stages, Tomorrowland has peaked its recognition in the realm of the dance music. Overall, it is one of the best things to do in Belgium for music fanatics.


Royal Palace of Brussels

  • Location: Brussels
  • 2017 Date: 22 July to 15 September
Where to Go in Belgium: Royal Palace of Belgium
Photo: Frank Friedrichs / Flickr

Since 1965, it is a tradition that the public can visit the Palais Royal de Bruxelles (Royal Palace of Brussels) every summer. The opening date starts from 22 July to 15 September 2017 from 10.30 am to 3.45 pm daily and close on Monday. It is always opened one day after the Belgian National Holiday on 21 July. The Royal Palace of Brussels was supposed to be a royal residence for the king and his family.

The Royal Palace of Brussels was supposed to be a royal residence for the king and his family. Instead, they live in the Royal Palace of Laeken. As for the Royal Palace tour, the visitors can expect to see the imperial halls and rooms embellished with exquisite ornaments like the chandeliers. Additionally, have some moments of vivid imagination living luxuriously like a king! For sure, Royal Palace of Belgium is one of the best places to visit in Belgium during summer.


August

Brussels Summer Festival

  • Location: Brussels
  • 2017 Date: 6 to 15 August
Interesting Things to do in Belgium: Brussels Summer Festival 2017
Photo: Brussels Summer Festival

For concert lovers, Brussels Summer Festival has traditionally organised a 10-day event every August in the evening since 2002. There are a few concert venues to convey a different mood. A few music groups would perform each day in every location.The concert venues are La Madeleine, Place des Palais and Mont des Arts. Pet Shop Boys is performing during this summer in 2017!

Tickets available for a one-day event start from €15 and €58 for 10-day events. For every 10 tickets purchased, the 11th ticket comes free. It sounds practical to buy the drink coupons online to avoid the long queue on the spot. The minimum cost is €10.50 for 10 drinks. Have you spotted any artistes that you would like to support


Pukkelpop Festival

Pukkelpop at Hasselt: July - Top Things to Do in Belgium for Alternative Music Goers
Photo: Thomas Willemsen | Flickr

Ever since its existence in 1985, Pukkelpop Festival is one of Europe’s best-known alternative music festivals after Rock Werchter in term of size. Various camping sites are available depending on the selection together with the types of tickets purchased. Campers are restricted to access only to the camping site that they stay.

Pukkelpop offers a range of food from vegetarian, biological, fast food and others varieties which you pay over there. One-day event tickets cost €99 and combi tickets are €199. The tickets are inclusive of public transport – train and bus. Camping vehicles of all sorts and motor vehicles are not allowed in the campsites. There is no separate camp site for such vehicles.


Flower Carpet

A bi-yearly renowned event in Brussels where an immense flower carpet stuns thousands of visitors. They flock to the heart of Brussels to witness the incredible formation of the Begonia plants. Decorated with 600,000 Begonias which are weather resistant, the majestic flower carpet measures 75 m long by 24 m wide. What’s more, the mind-boggling sight attests the fact that Belgium is the largest world supplier for 60 million Begonias.

The credit goes to the nurseries in Ghent who cultivate predominantly 80% of these plants. 100 volunteer gardeners use less than 4 hours to do up the impressive floral presentation. An amazing feat that no one should miss when travelling to Brussels in August since the inaugural display in 1971. But, sorry folks. This grand event does not happen in 2017. The schedule of the next four days affair is in 2018. Indisputably, it is a top place to visit in Belgium once every two years.


Flower Time

Fun Things to Do in Belgium: Flower Time
Photo: Emma Dangi / Flickr

Another bi-yearly event. Flower Time is another lovely affair organised by the City of Brussels and Flower Carpet. It showcases the trend of the flowers in alternate years when the Flower Carpet event does not take place.

Based on an entirely different concept, well-known architects and floral designers decorate Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) with flowers. Started since 2013, the first flower time attracts more than 20,000 visitors each year. The entrance fee is €5 and free for children under the age of 10 years. Dogs are not allowed inside the heritage building.


September

Gitannekesfoor

  • Location: Herselt
  • 2017 Date: 1 to 3 September

Gitannekesfoor is a local Belgian funfair happening over the weekend during the first week of September. During the day, the theme is a family fun-filled activities with circus, food and games. In the evening, the party goers can anticipate music, concerts and campfire too. Each year, more than 300 volunteers contribute their time for this event. Furthermore, several of them are old-timers who volunteer out of dedication and sense of attachment for this event. I am honoured to have the opportunity to become a volunteer for them in 2016.

I was honoured to have the opportunity to become a volunteer for them in 2016 which was why I could snap photos from the top restricted to only staffs. Since 2008, Gitannekesfoor started with a small number of volunteers and participants. Today, it has increased its scale of operation over the years to cater to the overwhelming response. Visitors can only purchase the tickets at the site entrance. Therefore, expect a long queue during peak hours especially noon time. Experience and immerse in the Belgian energetic vibe if you have not done it before.


October

Forest Week

  • Location: Various
  • 2017 Date: 8 to 15 October

Things to Do in Belgium: Forest Week

The Agency for Nature and Forest organises the Forest Week every October. If you are a nature lover, you can take part in different activities at different locations. The Organiser invites people to submit proposals for their ideas online if they can come up with interesting activities. The event date in 2017 is from 8 to 15 October. The information for the current year will be released at a later date closer to the event. Otherwise, you would only see activities of the previous year’s event.


November

Durbuy Christmas Market

  • Location: Durbuy
  • Date: 23 November 2017 to 8 January 2018 

Durbuy Christmas Market in Belgium

Although the Christmas markets are abundant in Belgium (and all over Europe), grasp the opportunity to visit the Christmas market in Durbuy. Pride itself for being the smallest city in the world other than the even tiniest Vatican City which is an independent country, indeed, it remains as one of the prettiest for its old charm. Due to Durbuy small surface area of 156.61 km², one might be able to walk around Durbuy in less than four hours. The most fruitful way to spend more time in the medieval Durbuy town is to visit the Christmas market concurrently.

Due to Durbuy small surface area of 156.61 km², one might be able to walk around Durbuy in less than four hours. The most fruitful way to spend more time in the medieval Durbuy town is to visit the Christmas market concurrently.

The Durbuy Christmas Market starts on 23 November until 18 December 2017. It operates from Thursday to Monday only. From 21 December to 8 January 2018, Durbuy Christmas Market opens daily from 11 am to 8 pm. On 24 and 31 December, it closes at 6 pm.


December

China Light Zoo

Every year from December to January, many locals look forward to the China Light at Zoo Antwerpen. As the name suggests, the Chinese decorates the zoo in Antwerp with creative lights. Consequently, visitors can experience the luminous conception in the form and shapes of animals and flowers. The lightings enliven the zoo with a magical touch at night too. The cost of the tickets is €15 for adults and €12 for children.


Unknown Occurrence

Corpse Flower

Top Place to Visit: Corpse Flower at Meise Botanica Garden
Photo: Jungle Rebel / Flickr

The corpse flower is one type of flowers that defies the stereotype of what a typical flower should be. The technical name is Amorphophallus Titanum. Moreover, the pungent stench turns you off and smells like a decomposed object. So, what is the draw factor here? Because the corpse flower only blooms every three to eight years.

Each time when it blooms, it lasts for only 72 hours approximately. It is a pride of Meise Botanical Garden located 10 to 15 km away from Brussels. The corpse flower is also an endangered plant in the world. The latest record for the bloom in Meise Botanical Garden is in April 2017. So well, are you lucky enough to catch the fatal attraction in Belgium?


From the list of activities above, have you spotted any things or places that is on your priority list that you would like to visit in Belgium very much?


About Live in Belgium

Hello, my name is MissSJ. I am a Singaporean. I am living with my Belgian partner since July 2016 in a cosmopolitan city, Antwerp. However, I had been travelling to and fro Belgium since 2011 as a tourist. The creation of this blog is to document my new journey in Belgium which I would like to call 'home'. Join me in discovering the fascinating Belgium from the eyes of an expat.

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