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Cinquantenaire Park: Four-month culture festival kicks off on 13 April ahead of Belgian bicentenary

15:00 09/04/2024

Belgium gears up for its 2030 bicentenary by launching a new festival that aims to elevate Cinquantenaire Park to the capital’s “place to be”.

Horizon 2030 kicks off on 13 April with urban activities, including workshops, talks and mini-exhibitions, as well as evening concerts by Mentissa and Puggy.

The free festival runs until 25 August and is intended to serve as a taster to Belgium’s 200th birthday festivities. This flagship anniversary project encompasses a major overhaul of the park and museum quarter as well as its integration with the European district.

Cinquantenaire has been chosen to spearhead of the project because the 30-hectare green space and museum complex was opened in 1880 to mark the country’s 50th anniversary. The emblematic triumphal arc was added later in 1905. Reflecting its goal to echo the site’s history while metamorphosing into a destination in its own right, Horizon 2030 has adopted the slogan: Enjoy the past - Explore the future.


New cultural spot in the park

The festival is equally ambitious. Its centrepiece is a new space called The Peristyle that is carved out of the existing covered curved gallery that stretches to the right of the triumphal arch. Positioned eight metres above the ground, scaffolded staircases now provide access to the exterior passageway with its grand collonades and adornment with wall frescoes.

The panoramic spot overlooking the park and the EU quarter will host a summer bar as well as other activities. Tipi Cinquantenaire is a guinguette-style pop-up affair, which opens daily from 9 April. It’s inauguration coincides with the Festival of the New European Bauhaus from 9 to 13 April.

Pastille horizon with Outline

Otherwise, Horizon 2020 kicks off this Saturday with a day of urban culture from 11.00 to 22.00. It includes dance battles, a live rap/afro soul show, a dancehall and hip-hop DJ set, a beat making session, a skateboarding initiation and a street art workshop.

The festival aims to attract new and diverse audiences to the park while encompassing major events already located in the space, such as the Nocturnes late-night museum openings from 11 April, the Brussels 20km in May and Fête de la Musique concerts in June.

On the upcoming programme are jazz concerts on Tuesdays and stand-up comedy on Thursdays. Beyond the new wall-side spot, activities extend into the park with installations offering teasers for the surrounding museum exhibitions and a photo exhibition displaying archive images of the site. For younger audiences, a geocaching game is an opportunity to explore every nook and cranny of the green space.

Change of management

The announcement of the festival has been a last-minute affair and its full programme has yet to be unveiled on its website. This is due to a change of guard within the committee that has overall responsibility for the bicentenary. Nonprofit organisation Horizon 50-200 launched the project a year ago with Paul Dujardin as director. The former Bozar boss, along with chief operating officer Yasmina Amire, was dismissed three months later due to management problems. With the federal government deciding to replace the board of directors, the nonprofit stalled in its activities.

A new director is to be announced in the next few days, confirmed president Bruno Van Lierde at a press conference on Monday, calling it a “new departure” for the organisation.


Meanwhile, Brussels Major Events (BME) has been placed in charge of running the festival. The wide-scale event has financial support from the National Lottery to the tune of €1m with further funds guaranteed for subsequent years.

Despite the monetary support, challenges involve finalising a master plan for the project and navigating a future route map with the large number of partners involved. They include federal, regional and local governments and agencies as well as the EU institutes. The master plan is to integrate the park within the EU quarter and form an east-west axis with the Royal Park and other city-centre sites and institutions.

Van Lierde said it was also intended to improve signposting in the park and create a museum circuit. Buildings were receiving upgrades to improve their sustainability. Guided tours would feature new and existing features in the park, including the new artistic installation that aimed to recontextualise the colonial monument.

The president added that the new museum pole would become an international socio-cultural and scientific beacon. The Royal Museum of the Army and Military History, the Royal Art and History Museum and Autoworld, as well as the Royal Institute of Artistic Heritage were set to be transformed into two hubs, focused on innovation and heritage.

One previously announced improvement that sparked widespread support was the planned covering of the Avenue de Tervuren traffic tunnel that currently scars the park.

Photos: Cinquantenaire arch ©Belga/Nicolas Maeterlinck; Cinquantenaire 2030

Written by Sarah Crew