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Art and about: The best culture this summer is outside

Villers Abbey (c) G Debognies/Wikipedia
00:44 01/05/2021
Discover a wealth of outdoor culture and public art around every corner, from street art to free poetry to performances in a ruined abbey

Everyone who visits the abbey ruins at Villers (pictured above) wonders how they have never been before. What’s left of the massive 12th-century abbey that was once home to monks of the Cistercian Order makes for one of the most hauntingly beautiful sites in Belgium. Check the calendar for special events and activities this summer.

The Parcours Street Art is a great art activity for sunny days you’d rather spend outside. The Brussels tour lets you discover tons of spray-paint frescos under the open sky, and there’s a handy map for planning your own itinerary.

Sart Tilman (c) Dominique Houcmant

Combine contemporary art with nature at the free outdoor Sart Tilman Museum in the grounds of Liège University. Its collection of monumental sculptures and large-scale paintings shows the depth and diversity of contemporary artists in French-speaking Belgium.

Jazz in the Woods is an initiative by cosy park bar Le Kiosque. Every Wednesday in summer, it turns its large wooden terrace in Brussels’ Bois de la Cambre into an open-air stage, inviting jazz combos to provide a fitting soundscape to an enchanting setting.

Verbeke Foundation (c) Tinneke Schuurmans

Industrial art and heritage welcome you at the entrance of the Verbeke Foundation, an open-air contemporary art museum in East Flanders. Head in a bit further, and you’ll find some fantastic large-scale art around this green, overgrown property. Some of the eyebrow-raising pieces – like a giant digestive tract – double as accommodation.

Vrijbroek Park in Mechelen is a lovely place, with 65 hectares of paths, a lake and ponds, an off-lead area for dogs and extensive gardens, including one of Belgium’s nicest rose gardens. Fairly new to the park is the Mechelen Tipi, a beautiful wooden hut that offers poetry to those who step inside. It’s an ode to Mechelen’s international community, with poems in all the languages spoken in the city.

Middelheim (c) Ans Brys

Middelheim is Flanders’ most famous open-air art museum, with modern and contemporary sculptures at one with the nature that surround them. The permanent collection is regularly complemented with temporary exhibitions. The strikingly modern Braem Pavilion – a work of art in itself – houses some of the museum’s more vulnerable pieces.

Bokrijk (c) Museum Pass

Unique in Belgium, the Bokrijk open-air heritage museum was created by moving historical homes, farms and mills to this site in Limburg. Complete with costumed actors, a bakery, playgrounds, arboretum, fishing lake and workshops on traditional crafts and trades, it’s a paradise of a family day out.

More from The Bulletin's summer travel guide

  1. Walk this way: Discover Belgium on foot
  2. Get your green fix at our favourite parks, woodlands and gardens
  3. Top spots for spectacular scenery
  4. The best culture this summer is outside
  5. Monuments and memorials to remember the fallen
  6. Delve into Belgium’s rich industrial past
  7. Local food at its finest
  8. Come on in, the water’s lovely
  9. The finest spots for a summer apero
  10. Big days out for all the family
  11. Seven cycling experiences to discover
  12. Top heritage sites for a fine day out
  13. Don't miss out this summer thanks to our agenda of events in Belgium
Written by The Bulletin