Belgium is home to dozens and dozens of festivals which take on everything from EDM and jazz to carnival to – of course – chocolate and beer! It should come as no surprise then that its capital city, Brussels, has a vibrant selection of festivals all year long to satisfy everyone’s interests. And since there are so many to choose from, we’ve rounded up a list of 10 of our favourites for every season and every person.
1. Anima – February
The Brussels Animation Film Festival is an annual event showcasing animated films from around the world. Not just for children, this film festival is perfect for people of all ages, and they even categorise each film as best for the kiddos and best for the adults. Plus, they’ve taken care of the grownups by providing cocktails, and hold workshops for kids, allowing them to create their own, simple animations.
2. Salon du Chocolat – February
What kind of list of Belgian festivals would this be without at least one celebration of CHOCOLATE? (A weak list, that’s what kind.) For five days at the end of February, more than 130 pastry chefs, chocolatiers, and other culinary masters of the good stuff will bring you chocolate creations in every form imaginable. Check out the chocolate fashion show, where yes, the clothes are made out of chocolate by Belgian designers, try the workshops in which aspiring chefs can learn about working with chocolate, and whet your whistle with the granddaddy of all combinations: beer and chocolate pairings.
3. Zinneke – May
Started in 2000, this biennial festival is a celebration of the art, culture, and people of Brussels, with the purpose of building bridges between residents from all parts of the city. Each year focuses on a different theme, with past themes including Disorder, Water, and Temptation, while this year’s theme is Illegal. This festival is guaranteed to bring you the interesting, strange, unusual, and quirky, with a serious dose of fun.
4.. SWAFF! – May
The first beer festival on this list takes place in the second half of May, and features more than 20 craft Belgian brews and guest appearances from breweries around Europe, in all of their refreshing, hoppy glory, plus food vendors to make sure you can last all day. 5€ is all it’ll cost you to get in, and that includes your drinking glass for the weekend. The best part? The entire event takes place in a castle, so you can sip down those cold ones while you image you’re royalty. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday and Sunday.
5. Brussels Jazz Marathon – May
This free music festival takes place in both outdoor spaces like the Grand Place, as well as in clubs and cozy cafes, all throughout the city, offering music lovers a taste of jazz from Belgium as well as other parts of the world. And if jazz isn’t your jam, don’t worry! This diverse festival includes swing, rock, blues, and world music as part of the lineup.
6. Tomorrowland – July
This annual EDM festival is actually a 30 minute drive outside of Brussels, but over the course of its 13 year lifetime, it’s become one of the biggest music festivals in the world, making it well worth the short journey out of the city. Taking place over two weekends, this festival is a visual wonderland with 16 incredibly designed stages, fireworks, and a lineup that in 2018 includes Steve Aioki, Alesso, Dua Lipa, and Alan Walker. This festival is truly a feast for the senses.
7. Flower Carpet – August
Taking place every other summer in the city’s main square, the Grand Place, is one of the most whimsical events out there – the Flower Carpet. Does what it says on the box, this festival celebrates an enormous carpet made from more than half a million(!) flowers. Breathe in deep, as the intoxicating scent of flowers wafts through the air, and head up to the balcony of the Town Hall for the best views. Plus, each night includes a concert with a light show to complete the experience.
8. BXL BeerFest – August
Not only is there a bounty of excellent beer to be had at BXL BeerFest, there’s a whole smorgasbord of delectable bites, from the usual food trucks as well as some of Brussels’ best restaurants! Bringing together a hand-picked selection of 60 independent breweries offering up 350 beers. Only in its second year, this festival is determined to become the premier beer festival in not only Belgium, but in the world. Buy your tickets in advance to avoid the markup at the door, and don’t forget to pace yourself.
9. Eat! Brussels – September
This one’s for the foodies. Savour the tastiest dishes from around 20 of Brussels’ best chefs in pop-up kitchens showcasing the best of Brussels’ culinary scene. Up your kitchen game by taking one of the cooking workshops, or head to the International Village to sample flavours from around the globe. To compliment all of the delicious food, Bordeaux’s wine festivalBordeaux Fête le Vin takes up residence with winemakers from the region sampling some of their best vintages. For those looking to improve their wine knowledge, take the Masterclasses to learn more about Bordeaux wine.
Winter (the season that keeps on giving)
10. Christmas Market – December
If you’re looking for a truly magical Christmas experience, look no further. Get into the holiday spirit at the large, festive, and fabulous Christmas market! Grab your loved ones for ice skating, do your seasonal shopping at the more than 250 wooden chalets, stroll through the brightly lit Christmas village, enjoy the view from above with a ride on the ferris wheel, and fill up on the delicious food and warm beverages.