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What’s on this fortnight: 22 December to 5 January

Brussels Mini-Europe
22:59 20/12/2023
The festive season is in full swing. If you’re in Belgium over the holidays, check out our ideas for swapping indoor merrymaking for exhibitions, shows and other Christmas activities.

Mini-Europe is a hoot anytime, but at Christmas it gets brighter and a touch funnier. Santa takes off on an airport runway, elves go for a swim, melting snowmen protest with Greta Thunberg. Miniature artists have spent endless hours perfecting details on tiny European Christmas markets and parades. There are also life-size decors that provide a perfect backdrop for the selfie-inclined and, of course, special holiday lighting. Until 7 January, Bruparck, Boulevard du Centenaire 20


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

A Christmas Carol - A Thriller Musical

Dickens character Ebeneezer Scrooge is at the heart of the ultimate redemption tale. Don’t miss an original retelling of the Christmas Eve story in A Christmas Carol by The New Musical Company. As the ruthless businessman is visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve, he must race against time to save his soul. The production is full of thrilling musical numbers and plot twists and turns. It’s the perfect entertainment for the festive season. 22-23 December, Théâtre Molière, Square du Bastion 3 (Ixelles)


It 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 with soprano Elise Cauluwaerts and Sterling Children’s Choir Antwerp, is conducted by Walter Proost. 26 December 20.00, Avenue de l’Esplanade (Laeken)


The cabaret spirit is alive and kicking in the capital this holiday season with the francophone show Alice au Cabaret. An enchanting mix of magicians, singers, acrobats, mime artists and a pianist await audiences at this end-of-year fairytale spectacle. So dust off your boa, shake off the sequins and get ready to be entertained! Until 7 January, Gare Maritime, Tour & Taxis, Rue Picard 7-11


The World of Mind (WOM) honours the universe of magic over the holiday season. All ages will enjoy this spectacular show by Maxime Mandrake & Friends. Mandrake, Bruno Vairone and Yann Lejeune promise to thrill and astound with their illusion brilliance. 26 December to 7 January 15.00, Tour & Taxis, Avenue du Port 86C

Retable_KBR_museum_11_12_23-16 (C) KBR

Before the Royal Library temporarily closes its doors on 8 January, the exceptional altar piece The Balthazar King is on show. The 15th-century Brussels sculpture – originally from Milan – was recently restored by the Royal Institute of Cultural Heritage. Find it in the library’s Nassau chapel. Meanwhile, the weekend of 6 and 7 January sees other rare works on show, including unique Epiphany manuscripts. A guided tour by curator Ann Kelders is full of insights. The museum will reopen with improved facilities for musical events towards the end of 2024. Until 7 January, Mont des Arts 28


Coudenberg Palace is running its usual family treasure hunt activities over the holidays. The history-themed search for Charles V Golden Fleece collar is for five to eight-year-olds and available in French, Dutch, Spanish and English. Online reservation necessary. 23 December to 7 January, Place des Palais 7


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. Another highlight is Casimir by Cie Arts & Couleurs; object theatre that treats the subject of racism with an extraordinarily accessible touch. Make sure you check out the rest of the inviting programme! 26-30 December, multiple venues

Pool is Cold

You no longer have to head to the sea to be a polar bear: Pool is Cool is opening its Flow swimming pool for winter swimming. Once you get used to the initial chill, cold water swimming can be fun and physically therapeutic. It can provide relief from pain, inflammation and contribute to psychological wellbeing. Pool is Cold launches on 31 December and continues every Sunday morning thereafter. Organisers even offer you a warm drink after your dip! Sundays from 31 December 10.00-12.00, Digue du Canal & Pont Pierre Marchant

ville de bruxelles

The capital’s traditional New Year’s Eve firework display will be lighting up the skies above Place des Palais once again. The annual spectacle includes a laser show. The square is only accessible from 23.00. Public transport services are to be stepped up and extended for the event. The Stib network will be free from midnight until 5.30. 31 December from 23.00, Place des Palais

Jack and the Beanstalk

Book now Jack & the Beanstalk Panto season enlivens the post-holiday season with this show 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. Expect some high energy performances from an enthusiastic and talented multinational cast. 26-28 JanuaryAuderghem Cultural CentreBoulevard du Souverain 183 (Auderghem)


Europa Expo MB Presents

Family Lego experience A World of Bricks is now on display at Liège Guillemins train station. The themed trail takes visitors on a journey featuring sculptures as diverse as red carpet stars and world-famous paintings in an interactive show designed for all ages. Until 21 January, Liège-Guillemins station

Nutcracker (c)Courtesy Prima Donna Events

The Nutcracker ballet is a holiday favourite, and this show brings together dancers from around the world for a 100-strong cast. Alexandre Dumas’s piece set to Tchaikovsky’s music features the now legendary characters of Clara, the Mouse King, the Sugarplum Fairy and of course the Nutcracker/prince who comes to life on Christmas Eve. 1-7 January in Bruges, Hasselt & Ghent

Ballet (c)Filip-Van-Roe

Two new choreographies of 20th-century ballet classics in one evening. Petrushka by Igor Stravinsky has gone wild, focused on the relationship between humans and animals, complete with a dancing donkey. Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s Die sieben Todsünden, meanwhile, see sisters traveling across American in search of money. In seven cities, they are tempted by the respective deadly sins. It’s a unique interpretation of this “ballet chanté”, where dance, opera, the American Dream and social criticism come together. Until 30 December, Opera Gent; 24 January to 4 February, Stadsschouwburg Antwerpen

Doka (c)Lili Dujourie & Argos Centre for audiovisual Arts

Remember the darkroom – that somewhat magical place where film from your camera used to be developed? The group show Doka (Dutch for darkroom) at Museum M celebrates contemporary analogue photography, featuring works from its collection by artists who live and work in Belgium. Each room in the exhibition will be occasionally bathed in only red light for seven minutes – the time it takes a photograph to develop. Until 5 January 2025, Leopold Vanderkelenstraat 28, Leuven

Chroniques digital media

Liège’s major exhibition of video art by US pioneer of the medium Bill Viola sparks a series of digital media exhibitions. In the first, at La Space, La Montagne Liquide artists present the immersive audiovisual creation La Bave Noire. It’s a mystical exploration accompanied by a powerful sound composition.  27-29 December, New Space, Rue Vivegnis, Liège

Les Antiphones

Showcasing a heritage treasures, the exhibition Des siècles de silence. La découverte de l’antiphonaire is an opportunity to delve into the incredible journey of an ancient illuminated manuscript. Originally made for the former abbey in the Namur municipality of Salzinnes, the choir book disappeared during the confiscations of the French revolution. It then resurfaced in Canada in the 19th century. This collaboration with the Museum of Fine Arts in Nova Scotia reveals many of its secrets. Free entrance. Until 11 February, Trem.A, Rue de Fer 24 Namur


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


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

Discover more upcoming events at The Bulletin's events page, our full guide to Christmas markets here, plus other seasonal shows and events here.

Photos: (main image) ©Mini Europe; Alice au Cabaret ©Kiran Wilmotte; Retable ©KBR; fireworks - ville de Bruxelles; The Art of the Brick MB Presents Europa Expo; Nutcracker ©Courtesy Prima Donna Events; Ballet ©Filip-Van-Roe


Written by Sarah Crew and Lisa Bradshaw