Festivals in Belgium range from traditional events based on folklore or religious celebrations, to music and film extravaganzas, national days, sports events, and special occasions for tourists. Most celebrations take place during the warmer months of spring and early summer, with the exception of the Christmas and New Year season, which is celebrated all over the country with love and enthusiasm.
New Year’s Eve and Day
Belgium’s annual festival and event calendar begins late on New Year’s Eve with parties, outdoor and indoor gatherings, street parades, and special events in bars and pubs―all going on before the magic stroke of midnight starts the firework displays put on to welcome in the New Year. Live music is a permanent staple, as is festive food and huge quantities of beer.
The origins of the February Carnival are linked with the Roman Catholic period of Lent. This is traditionally a time of excess and indulgence in food, drink, and fun before the dietary restrictions of religion kick in. Brussels is the best place to experience Carnival, with its colorful street parades, local street parties, live music events, decorated homes and costumed residents, and food and beer extravaganzas.
This international film festival is based in Bruges, Belgium and draws movie professionals from across the world. Held every March, it’s a truly international event featuring full-length and short films, as well as documentaries from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The event lasts 10 full days, with screenings taking place at the Lumière Art House and the Liberty blockbuster cinema.
Festival van Vlaanderen
This massive celebration of theater, music, and dance begins in April, closes in October, and takes place in venues across Brussels and all over Flanders. Fine performances of classical music, theater shows of all kinds, and dance are held in public venues, including historic buildings, abbeys, churches, town halls, theaters, and even outdoors during the summer months.
Procession of the Holy Blood
This stunning Christian pageant was first held in Bruges, Belgium in 1150, and is one of Europe’s most important religious festivals. Every May, the relic of the Holy Blood, donated to the town in 1149 by the Count of Flanders after his return from the Crusades, is paraded through the town’s medieval streets. Its journey takes a mile and the procession holds 1,500 chosen townspeople.
The Zinneke Parade is held in Brussels amid the transformation of the city into a colorful hub of lively activities. Known as Big Z-Day by the locals, every May, the parade includes live music, concerts, dance, street parties, the wearing of costumes by all and sundry. Bar and pubs put on their own events and specials, and everyone has a grand old time.
Ducasse of Mons
This unique annual event is a must for all visitors who’re in Belgium in June. Held in the town of Mons, it’s one of the most ancient festivals in Europe and has its origins in folklore passed down over many centuries. It’s based on a giant re-enactment of the St George and the Dragon legend, with the battle between good and evil taking place in the town square before thousands of spectators. After the dragon has been defeated, the parties run through the night.
Belgian National Day
Although Belgian National Day is celebrated all over the country on July 21, its biggest events take place in Brussels. Firework displays, street performers, costumed characters, and a huge military parade in the Brussels Park commemorate the country’s independence, achieved in 1830 after the Belgian Revolution.
Held in Brussels, Belgium, Meyboom is the oldest traditional festival in the country. Mostly celebrated outdoors in the warm August weather, the event includes brass bands, a display of giant puppets, dancing, traditional folk music, and loads of food and beverages.
Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix
The last week of August is eagerly awaited by residents and visitors to Ardennes alike, as it sees the fabulous Formula 1 Grand Prix race at the city’s Circuit de Francorchamps. The race draws thousands of visitors, with hotels full to capacity and bars, pubs, and restaurants crammed to the brim. Room rates soar and advance booking is essential. Whichever driver wins, it’s an amazing spectacle.
Brussels Beer Weekend
This much loved celebration of Belgium’s most famous product takes place in Brussels three days in September. Held at the grounds of the Grand Palace, it features stands selling almost every variety of the country’s superb craft beers, all at reasonable prices. Entry is free, and live music makes the giant party go with a swing.
Brussels Flower Show
Held every October at the capital’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart, this show is a must for lovers of floral extravaganzas, with the spectacular building filled with water displays, glorious floral arrangements, and rare plants.