A Summer Guide to Flanders
Spring and summer are fantastic times to visit Flanders, especially when its flowers come into bloom, the sun comes out and the seasons’ music festivals begin. Perfect for that summer getaway, there are exciting cultural events, special art exhibitions and delicious food festivals happening across the whole of Flanders. You’ll soon see that Flanders really is a modern masterpiece.
ART AND DIAMONDS
Summer offers a chance to soak up seaside vibes on Belgium’s wide, white sand beaches. If you want to explore this beautiful coastline and feel cultural at the same time, the Beaufort Triennial (until 30 Sept) is a free-to-visit art project with alfresco artworks dotted along the entire Belgian coast. Start in the ‘City by the Sea’, Ostend, where you can also explore the street art of the Crystal Ship Festival, and take the leisurely coastal tram to discover more. If you’d rather spend your time wandering by canals and medieval architecture, the Bruges Triennial offers a similar concept: a free-to-visit art trail with works by a number of internationally renowned artists. This year’s theme is called ‘Liquid City’ and highlights include StudioKCA’s breaching whale made from waste collected from the ocean. Another essential sight to see is Antwerp’s brand-new DIVA Diamond Museum (opens 7 May), which celebrates the city’s 500-year history as the diamond capital of the world.
CELEBRATE RUBENS IN ANTWERP
In 2018, Antwerp celebrates the famous painter Peter Paul Rubens with the cultural city festival Antwerp Baroque 2018, Rubens Inspires. Get among the cultural happenings at the opening weekend (1-3 June) which includes theatre, dance, music and fireworks. One of the most fascinating events happening in Antwerp will be exhibition: Michaelina, Baroque’s Leading Lady (1 June – 2 Sept) at the MAS (Museum aan de Stroom) which focuses on the incredible legacy of Michaelina Wautier, a Baroque artist who defied convention by painting daring subject matter at a time female painters were a rarity. Top off your exploration of Flemish art with a visit to M HKA contemporary art museum where exhibition Sanguine. Luc Tuymans on Baroque (1 June – 16 Sept) promises a dramatic collection that contrasts modern artists like Ed Kienholz and Takashi Murakami with past masters such as Rubens, Van Dyck and Caravaggio.
CYCLING, BEER AND HISTORY
Travel back to a simpler time by participating in the Retro Ronde of Flanders (10 June), a relaxed Sunday bike ride through the Flemish Ardennes where participants dress in retro costumes and cycle vintage bikes. If you aren’t feeling competitive, don’t worry, it’s not a race and there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy local food and beer along the way. If you want to discover something completely unique, the brand-new Hof van Busleyden museum (opens 17 June) in Mechelen tells the fascinating story of the Burgundian era and is housed in one of Belgium’s finest city palaces. For those looking to discover Belgian heritage through its beer, head to Antwerp’s Beer Passion Weekend (22-24 June) where there are at least 200 beers you can sample.
FLANDERS IS A FESTIVAL
Flanders boasts more than 280 festivals across summer, so if you want to experience the world’s top artists performing live, there’s nowhere better to be. Unwind at chilled out classics such as Ghent Jazz Festival (29 June- 8 July) or Brussels’ urban Colour Café Festival (29 June-1 July). For a bit of everything, the legendary Rock Werchter (5-8 July) boasts some of the biggest headliners in music like Gorillaz, Pearl Jam and Arctic Monkeys. On the smaller scale, Cactus Festival (13-15 July) offers a celebration of music in the medieval city of Bruges’ picturesque Minnewaterpark. For an unforgettable experience, the traditional Ghent Festivities (13-22 July) will see the city transform into one big party, with theatre performances, music and plenty more besides.