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Holiday warmers: Festivals, shows and family activities light up the season

10:13 10/12/2023
The Bulletin’s guide to festive entertainment for all the family across Belgium

Hibernation is on hold while this jolly medley of festivities is being staged around the country. Designed to entertain all ages, here’s our pick’n’mix selection of fiery festivals, light spectacles, musical capers and circus thrills that will ward off the winter blues.


Voices of ChristmasIt promises to be the biggest show of the holiday season in Belgium. Voices of Christmas at the ING Arena invites over 70 musicians and singers on stage for a singalong extravaganza Join in a mix of old and new classics, from favourites like Silent Night and Jingle Bells to Santa Baby and We Wish you a Merry Christmas. The European Philharmonia, joined by soprano Elise Cauluwaerts and Sterling Children’s Choir Antwerp, is conducted by Walter Proost. 26 December 20.00, Avenue de l’Esplanade (Laeken)

Cirque Bouglione

The circus is in town for the holiday season. Alexandre Bouglione is setting up his big top in Flagey and inviting audiences to two shows a day. The new programme –  completely without animals – is designed to thrill and entertain all ages. 21 December to 14 January, Place Sainte-Croix (Ixelles)

Noel au theatre

Noël au Théâtre is a longstanding theatre festival for the whole family. The title of the event refers to the time of year, not the themes of some 20 shows, which are simply excellent productions by theatre and dance companies for all ages. On the ambitious programme is a show without dialogue, POp (pictured) by L’Anneau Théâtre, all about creating one’s own image. And there’s much more to come... 26-30 December, across Brussels

Panto season enlivens the post-holiday season with Jack & the Beanstalk staged by the ECC theatre group. The classic tale of hero Jack Trott’s journey up the beanstalk to an enchanted land is especially adapted for Belgian audiences. It’s full of laughs, songs and hilarious entertainment. 26-28 JanuaryAuderghem Cultural CentreBoulevard du Souverain 183 (Auderghem)



The brand new Flow Winter programme brings a theatrical touch to festivities in the city centre of Namur. The two promenade shows by Nicolas Buysse include Walking Thérapie (Until 29 December) and Le Dernier Salut (Until 23 December), which invite audiences to enjoy live storytelling and acoustic entertainment. Moving from one illuminated historic spot to another, everyone is fitted with individual headsets. Starting point and information at the chalet Flow Winter. 30 November to 30 December 19.00, Place du Théâtre 2, Namur

In Mons, circus show Les Rêveurs de Noël gathers artists from around the world to perform acrobatics, magic, juggling and other thrilling acts. No animals are used in the show, which combines elements of street theatre and traditional circus feats. Until 31 December, Place Léopold, Mons

Magie de Noel

With the festivities fast approaching, Father Christmas is prepping his reindeers for their busiest time of year. Magie de Noël (Kerstmagie in Flanders) includes two castles in the south of the country: Corroy-le-Château near Gembloux (Namur province) and Louvignies at Soignies (Hainaut province). Families will uncover this Christmas mystery on a tour through rooms filled with Christmas decorations and live actors. A winter bar awaits after the visit. Until 26 December, across Belgium


The amusement park Walibi Winter opens for the first time over the Christmas holiday season with four themed zones at the Wavre site. All the usual attractions will be open, except those involving water (Radja River and Flash Back) and the Vampire ride. Otherwise, an alpine village, Frozen Land, Christmas market and Polar Playground await for the amusement of all ages. A traditional tree, decorations, illuminations and shows add to the sparkle. Until 7 January, Boulevard de l’Europe 100, Wavre

Mons en limières (c) Magic Monkey

The first festival of lights in Wallonia is set to illuminate Mons during the midwinter season. Mons en lumières celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Surrealism movement with a free 3km light trail evoking art and poetry. The itinerary includes 25 light installations and projections, designed in collaboration with local artists and businesses (Beffroi pictured). It also features guest artist, Scot Robert Montgomery, who is also a poet and sculptor. 25-28 January & 1-4 February 18.30-midnight, Mons city centre



It’s hard to imagine a better place for WonderLights than the grounds of Groot-Bijgaarden Castle, a lovely place year round. It’s a trail of light installations similar to last year’s Lightopia, but the emphasis is more on nature and wildlife, including some spectacular undersea creatures. A special winter garden includes fairies and unicorns, and there is even a Christmas Express train. There’s no hurry either: WonderLights runs for more than two months. Until 16 February, Isidoor van Beverenstraat 5, Groot-Bijgaarden

Puttekke Winter (c)Provincie Antwerpen

There’s a pagan feel to Putteke Winter, evening festivals of light installations, music, fire performances and mysterious forest figures. While they all have this in common, they take place in recreation parks, and each has its own character. Food and drinks are available as well. Buy tickets to your chosen location ahead of time; they regularly sell out. Until 12 January, across Flanders

Christmas Full of Love

Pop in to Knokke’s tourist office to pick up a map of A Christmas Full of Love, a walking trail along majestic light installations with a Scandi touch. The whole family will enjoy the larger-than-life moose, Wolves bears a fairytale deer gate and metres-high balloons. The tourist office can also supply you with an activity book for kids. Knokke also has a covered ice skating rink and winter walks in the Zwin nature reserve. There’s even one that serves mulled wine. Until 7 January, tourist office at Zeedijk-Knokke 660

Dragons & unicorns (c)Mathias Roelants

Planckendael animal park’s annual light festival features Dragons & Unicorns this year. The mythical creatures are brought back to life in colourful, glowing installations dotted around the park or perched above the entryway. There are also giant flowers, mushrooms, treehouses, funky light tunnels and bursting lights that look like fireworks. Until 7 January, Leuvensesteenweg 582, Mechelen

Ghent Castle

While Ghent’s castle isn’t wholly authentic, it certainly makes for a good atmosphere at Christmas with enchanting lighting, festive decoration and merry music. Inside is an incredibly cosy winter bar and funny audio stories told by stand-up comedian Wouter Deprez. Until 7 January, Sint-Veerleplein 11


The Meise Botanical Garden is beautiful in every season, but it has an especially enchanting look in the weeks bridging the new year. Winter Floridylle is a trail of site-specific light installations glowing against a backdrop of original music composed by Belgian musician Ozark Henry. Stroll through the illuminated Island Garden and the bamboo forest and don’t miss the Plant Palace greenhouse by night. There is also a convivial winter village with food and drinks. Until 8 January, Nieuwelaan 38, Meise


Bokrijk open-air museum in Limburg throws quite a party between Christmas and New Year, with fire performers, light installations, theatre, music and acrobatics. Winterlicht also features Contios, created in Kontich about 10 years ago in the tradition of Belgian giants paraded through the streets during festival. Contios has the look of a wicker man, but never fear, he is also fitted with twinkly lights and tells stories. Finally, don’t miss the historical holiday village with craftspeople and vintage attractions. 26-30 December, Bokrijklaan 1, Genk

Winter Solstice (c)Barry Underwood

The Concertgebouw in Bruges celebrates the longest day of the year with the music festival Winter Solstice: The Birth of Light. Through poetry and music from ancient Persian and Scandinavian traditions to Bach and medieval Christmas music, it is a reminder that this day has always been celebrated as a giver of life, the transition to longer, brighter days. Until 23 December, ’t Zand 34, Bruges


See a Christmas story acted out as you slip from one room to another in one of Belgium’s many castles. The castle halls are abundantly decorated, and elves flit about getting ready for Christmas. Kids can visit with Santa when they finally happen upon him. Kerstmagie is a burst of sights, sounds and lights, fun for children and adults alike. Until 26 December, across Belgium

Feux D’Hiver (2)

Be blown away by the show put on by Karnavires in Kortrijk, where music, circus and particularly fire come together in creative, exciting ways. Their free event Feux D’Hiver begins with the Night of Light fire spectacle in Albert Park, after which visitors are invited to take a cycle route lined with fire installations and video projections to the Bolwork grounds for a winter festival. 23 December 18.30, Koning Albertpark, Kortrijk

For more information about holiday festivities in Belgium, see Christmas cheer: The traditional market season kicks off across Belgium

Photos: (main image) ©Meise Botanic Garden: Suzuki Masaaki ©Marco Borggreve; Mons en lumières ©Magic Monkey; Puttekke Winter ©Provincie Antwerpen; Dragons & unicorns ©Mathias Roelants; Winter Solstice ©Barry Underwood

Written by Sarah Crew and Lisa Bradshaw