Most shops close and families gather for huge feasts to celebrate Easter in Belgium. But there’s plenty to do for those looking for an active Belgian Easter, including public Easter egg hunts.
Easter is an important celebration in Belgium in remembrance of Christ’s resurrection. Besides that, as one of the world’s tastiest chocolate producers, Belgium is also where you can find some of the world’s best chocolate eggs. Forget empty chocolate eggs: in Belgium you can find gourmet Easter eggs with fillings such as pistachio and marzipan or crunchy hazelnut cream.
Following the boisterous period of carnival in Belgium, some Belgians observe the 40 days of Lent cutting out meat or other items, so Easter feast is a typically grand affair. Easter in Belgium, like most Belgian celebrations, is time for family, including an hours-long feast on Easter Sunday with hearty foods such as lamb, ham, asparagus, potato dishes, pancakes and sweet breads with coloured, sugared fruit. Many families also attend Mass on Easter Sunday, marking the resurrection of Christ, and organise family egg hunts in their gardens for their children.
But there are also plenty of Easter activities in Belgium beyond the traditional Easter feast. Churches around Belgium are also beautifully decorated with flowers and other icons.
Easter egg hunts in Belgium
If you’re looking for a family friendly Easter egg hunt (eierjacht/chasse aux oeufs) in Belgium, the best place to check is the website of your local municipality. Some Belgian municipalities organise Easter egg hunts on Sunday, such as Uccle’s free egg hunt in Wolvendael park at 3pm, while others are held on Easter Monday.
There are also larger-scale hunts organised in specificed locations or by cultural sites, including massive egg hunts are held in parks around Belgium, such as Chlorophylle Park or Walibi Parc for those looking to get out of Brussels. There are some quirkier egg hunts to be found, too, such as the helicopter egg-drops in Thumaide, near Beloeil. Prizes are sometimes offered if you find a special chocolate egg or rabbit.
Belgian Easter parades
The best Easter parade in Belgium is arguably the horse-led parade Cavalcade de Herve. While the city of Herve in Wallonia is better known for its cheese, its parade on horseback attracts around 50,000 visitors each year. Due to a lack of popularity when it originally started as a Carnival horse-led procession in 1867, it was later moved to Easter weekend. Today’s Easter parade in Cavalcade in Herve combines old and new traditions, with music, sporting and cultural events held alongside the main parade on Easter Monday, which includes everything from decorated carriages with Belgian draft horses to army tanks, clowns and children sporting egg-shaped paper mache heads. Like every good Belgian event, it ends with a spectacular fireworks show.
An old legend in Belgium, the Netherlands and France tells the story that church bells disappear in the days before Easter and only return on Easter morning bringing chocolate and eggs. In Flanders, the bells are believed to leave the night before Easter, whereas French-speaking Belgium believes the bells fly to Rome on Thursday. Around Belgium, especially on ‘Silent Saturday’, you won’t hear bells ringing before Easter, in mourning for the crucified. Easter eggs and rabiits are symbols of fertility, while Easter trees may also been seen in Belgium where trees are decorated with colourful eggs and other decorations.
Spring festivals held over Easter
As spring and Easter coincide, several festivals welcome the ‘springtij’ (spring tride) around Belgium over the Easter holidays. Ostend’s SpringTij Festival provides cultural entertainment for all ages from 10am–6pm (1–17 April): kids can choose activities from treasure hunts and cooking to water sports, drawing and architecture workshops; adults can browse a book fair, visit art exhibitions or attend a chocolate drawing course. If you want to avoid Easter crowds, the Floralia festival in Groot-Bijgaarden opens over Easter (7 April to 7 May) so you can explore 14 hectares of more than 400 varities of tulips (including a ‘tulip labyrinth’) and a variety of other blooms. Every Friday, the floral arrangements in the park’s 1,000m greenhouses are changed under the direction of Dutch artist Hans Danko.
Belgian Easter celebrations – from the Middle Ages
The Bruges Historium museum takes visitors to the Middle Ages with its display of medieval Easter decorations, alongside special Easter animations every day, including arts, crafts, quizzes and Easter plays. Families can also attend presentations by historians explaining medieval religious beliefs and Easter experiences, or taste samples of delicacies historically eaten during the Easter holiday.
A flowery Easter in Belgium
The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken in Brussels typically close on Mondays but make an exception for Easter Monday. Being open just three weeks of the year (14 April to 5 May), it can be a great opportunity to explore its seven greenhouses and stunning castle.
Closed shops over Easter
Many shops close on the Easter national holiday in Belgium, although some supermarkets stay open till noon (such as Delhaize) or even all day (such as Carrefour Express and Market stores). Public transport in Belgium typically follows its Sunday schedule on Easter Monday.