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10 reasons to love Summer in Brussels
Brussels adopts a holiday atmosphere over the summer months with festivals and family events flourishing. It’s an ideal time to dip into the contemporary, melting-pot culture that characterises the city. Here are some of our favourite reasons to enjoy Brussels this season.
Opened for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, the Atomium is looking good at the age of 60 and is celebrating the fact with a cavalcade of events and special happenings all summer long. A highlight of the programme is Galaxy 58; a trilogy of exhibitions: Graphic 58 and Podium 58 at the design museum ADAM and People of 58 at the Atomium. Your entrance ticket for the Atomium also gives access to ADAM. Check the full agenda of exhibitions and festivities.
Get ready for five spectacular Friday night firework displays from 27 July to 24 August. And enjoy a special anniversary Atomium beer as the Flobecq brewery, which produced a beer for Expo 58, has recreated the exceptional brew for the duration of the festivities - except this time it’s 100% organic. Take the lift to the Atomium Restaurant at the top of the monument which will be offering a special three-course lunch for €60 with Belgian dishes, produce and wine (Atomium entrance ticket included in the price). While you’re there, catch the People of 58 exhibition, which features a large number of mostly unseen photos and video footage from the World Fair.
Born the same year as the Atomium, the Smurfs are invited to the 60th birthday party. They are the subject of a large exhibition at Brussels Expo offering an unprecedented chance to plunge into the magical world of these little blue elves. The Smurf Experience in a nutshell is nine rooms of immersive and interactive activities for children and adults alike.
The flower carpet on the Grand‘Place is the most reproduced image of Brussels around the world – but you can only see it in person for four days every two years. This summer, it’s back from 16-19 August - 1,800m² filled with more than half a million blooms, mostly begonias. It’s the first Latin American carpet, with Mexico as country of honour.
You, yes you, can be the last Jedi at the exhibition Star Wars: Identities, which has had its run at Brussels Expo extended until 2 September. It’s the last stop on the exhibition’s European tour and includes costumes, props, models and artwork spanning all the films in the Star Wars franchise. You’ll find R2-D2, the Millennium Falcon and BB-8, along with dozens of intergalactic gadgets, most of which are being exhibited for the first time. There are also video fragments and interactive sets to play around with. Visitors even get assignments to carry out as a Star Wars character themselves.
Take a trip around the old continent without leaving the city! Mini-Europe (above)is a fun theme park featuring miniature landmarks from over 80 countries across the EU, from Big Ben to the Eiffel Tower, Vesuvius and the Parthenon. Some 350 monuments have been meticulously reproduced in the finest detail to a scale of 1:25, including thousands of figurines and live action models.
Destroy a section of the Berlin wall, set off the eruption of Vesuvius, launch an attack of legionnaires or scare the Vikings and their chickens by screaming in a microphone. Numerous countries have a live action to offer! Extend your journey around Europe by taking control of boats and cars, while listening to the national anthem of your preferred featured country.
The walk around Europe is entertaining and educational – you’ll learn a thing or two about the EU’s 28 (for now) member states and their common history. On the first three Saturdays in August, the park lights up for late-night opening with musical fireworks.
At Couleur Café (29 June-1 July), the vibe on the festival grounds is just as important as the musical lineup which is as diverse as ever, featuring a broad selection of artists from Ziggy Marley and Gregory Porter to Selah Sue and Coely. Over three days at the foot of the Atomium, acrobats, giants and jugglers weave their way among the crowds. There are also “chill zones”, where festivalgoers can relax in hammocks strung in trees while more than 40 food stalls serve authentic international food.
With its massive open-air stages for international headliners and club stages for local bands, Brussels Summer Festival (14-18 August) is the biggest city music festival. BSF began in 2002 and last year it boasted over 100,000 spectators to a wide range of genres and venues all across the city. This year the festival will feature 61 acts, including Shaka Ponk, Thirty Seconds to Mars and dEUS.
Every year, Brussels hosts a city-wide cultural festival celebrating the time when Charles V, Duke of Burgundy, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, ruled over an empire that stretched from Eastern Europe all the way to distant Spanish colonies in the New World. Brussels was at the very heart of this empire. The Carolus V Festival (until 2 September) has as its highlight the Ommegang, the recreation of a grand procession put on by the city in 1549 to welcome Charles V and his heir, Philip II of Spain. Ommegang, on 4 and 6 July, is one of the highlights of the capital’s cultural calendar and not to be missed if you’re in town.
The Brussels Comic Strip Festival (14-16 September) is the biggest celebration of Belgium’s beloved comic strips, from childhood classics like Tintin and Lucky Luke to modern masters creating edgy graphic novels. Meet the publishers and see the artists at work, or browse the booths and exhibitions. And don’t miss the balloon parade on the Sunday.
Brussels chefs and international guest cooks will team up with wineries from Bordeaux to offer a weekend of wining and dining at Eat! Brussels Drink! Bordeaux in the Royal Park (6-9 September). The chefs will be setting up pop-up kitchens and offering a different dish each day for the fixed price of €9. Additionally, dishes will be paired with Bordeaux wines selected especially for the occasion.
Top photo: Virgine Lefour/Belga