Top 10 festivals in Belgium
For a small country, Belgium has an incredible array of quirky and colourful festivals celebrating everything from witches to beer.
If you're living in Belgium or just visiting, there is no better time to explore the quaint Belgian villages than when they burst into festival fever. Here are some of the top Belgian festivals, from the most colourful to the most bizarre festivals in Belgium. Click for a full list of top Belgian festivals.
1. Carnival de Binche
UNESCO describes this festival as ‘a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity’. That aside, where else would you be pelted with oranges by a thousand parading masked Gilles figures during an impressive, if a little bizarre, three day folklore extravaganza? It is held in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday (the start of Lent), which is usually around February. Carnival is widely celebrated around Belgium, upholding many unique – often quirky – local traditions: read the top carnival parties in Belgium.
2. Beselare Witch parade
Beselare looks much like any other quiet Belgian town but its innocent appearance belies its reputation for witchcraft. Once every two years (on the odd years) around July the place runs wild with a thousand witches (see thumbnail image), gnomes, giants, victims of plague and pestilence and other spooky creatures. The parade through the town culminates in a witch hunt. Bring your own broomstick.
3. Zythos Beer Festival, Leuven
Head to one of the best beer festivals in Belgium in April: the Zythos Beer Festival in the country’s beer capital, Leuven. You can sample over 500 delicious beers using a specially designed 10cl tasting glass which you get to keep as a souvenir.
4. The Battle of Waterloo
Each June, witness a massive re-enactment of the historic Battle of Waterloo exactly where it took place. The battle, between the French under Napoleon Bonaparte and the British under the Duke of Wellington, ended 23 years of war and was Napoleon’s last stand. Belgium will celebrate the 200th anniversary in 2015.
5. Gentse Feesten, Ghent
Around two million people attend Ghent’s city 10-day music and theatre festival during July, making it one of the biggest street carnivals in the world. There are music tents on the city’s squares, street performers, buskers and puppeteers, almost all of which is free to watch. But remember to bring your wallet, as there are food stalls and copious amounts of beer.
6. Anima, Brussels
Belgium has produced some of the world’s most famous cartoons (think Tintin, the Smurfs, and Nero) so it’s no surprise that Anima, one of the world’s best animated film festivals, is held here in Brussels, usually sometime late February to March. It showcases over 300 of the world’s very best cartoons and animated films from around the world.
7. Ommegang Festival, Brussels
Medieval pageantry at its best can be seen during the Ommegang Festival in Brussels’ opulent Grand Place in July. Watch as actors in historic costume, horses, huge banners, giants and carriages re-enact the medieval festival put on to welcome Charles V to Brussels in 1549.
8. Procession of the Holy Blood, Bruges
The centrepiece of the largest religious pageant in Belgium (held on Ascension Day) is said to be the blood of Christ, brought back from the Holy Land in the 12th century, which is now contained within a rock crystal vial. Drag your eyes away from the blood and you’ll also see citizens of Bruges in carts, on foot and horseback, re-enacting stories from the Bible and the history of Bruges.
9. Tomorrowland, Boom
In the summer, join the thousands of dance fanatics, DJs and electronic producers partying around 15 music stages, explosive butterflies, huge waterfalls, erupting volcanoes and giant glittering disco balls at Tomorrowland, the world’s largest electronic music festival.
10. Belgium Pride
Belgium legalised same-sex relationships in 1795, was the second country in the world to legalise gay marriage (in 2003), and has always been regarded as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world – it has even had an openly gay prime minister. The annual Belgium Gay and Lesbian Pride around May is a huge must-see event – last year there were around 100,000 participants.
Read Expatica's full list of festivals to see in Belgium and public holidays in Belgium.
Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.