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What’s on this week: 19-25 July

13:45 18/07/2019
Our top picks of cultural events and activities in and around Brussels

Religious services, parades and a street fair dot the centre of Brussels on 21 July, Belgian National Day. It was on this day in 1831 that Leopold I was sworn in as the new country’s first king. Festivities begin the evening before, in fact, at Place du Jeu de Balle, with the free Bal National. Live music and dance lessons are at the heart of this family-friendly affair. The next day, take to Brussels Park, where you can find an array of free activities, stretching from the palace to the parliament. Civil defence and police also mingle with the public, setting up villages here and in the nearby Place Poelaert. Fireworks bring the holiday to a close at 23.00; take to Place des Palais for the best view. 21 July, across central Brussels

Chill to afterwork sets, play a bit of ping-pong, toss a pétanque ball, catch some open-air cinema and eat your way around the world at Tour & Taxis Summer Edition. New activities and workshops every week. Thursday to Saturday until 29 September, Avenue du Port 86C

Family Brews, a Belgian beer shop just off Grand Place, hosts regular beer tastings. Coming up are Aged Belgian beers and Into the Darkness, an exploration of porters, stouts and black ales. The fee isn’t exactly cheap, but hard-to-find brews are guaranteed. 20 & 25 July, Rue des Harengs 2

Professional Women International invites everyone to its Brussels Summer PicNic at Cinquantenaire. Pack your own food & drinks and register here. 20 July 12.00-14.00, Parc du Cinquantenaire

Royal Palace

While they live on the royal grounds in Laeken, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde sometimes work in the more centrally located palace, as do many of their staff. For two months every year, you, too, can wander its formidable halls, reception salons and ballrooms. Dating from the 18th to the 20th centuries, the Royal Palace is an architectural beauty, with rooms decorated in different historical styles. During the public opening, you gain access to many of them, including the famous Mirror Hall with its ceiling and chandelier covered in iridescent beetle wings by Belgian artist Jan Fabre. There are also exhibitions of fine art and a family-friendly science discovery room. Entry is free. 23 July to 25 August, Place des Palais

South Korean cinema is hot, and the country is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the industry this  year. Brussels gets in on the act with L’Heure D’ete Seoul: In & Outdoor Film Festival, a look at both classic and contemporary film shot in the country’s fascinating capital. The open-air screenings are free, and so is the related exhibition. Until 11 August, across Brussels

Get into the swing of summer during Brussels Meets Europe in Parc Léopold. Family-friendly games, fresh lemonade and weekly open-air film screenings, complete with pillows and blankets. Movies are shown with English subtitles. Wednesdays & Saturdays, enter from Rue Belliard (Etterbeek)

L’Une chante, l’autre pas

The recent death of Agnès Varda hit the Belgian film community hard. A pioneer of the French New Wave and one of very few women directors involved in the game-changing genre, the Brussels-born Varda influenced many a Belgian filmmaker to come. Cinematek is in the middle of a retrospective of her work, with L’Une chante, l’autre pas (pictured) and Sans toit ni loi both screening this week. Until 23 August, Cinematek, Rue Baron Horta 9

It’s hard to know who will get more out of An Orchestral Rendition of Dr Dre: Fans or those not remotely interested in the genre hearing it in a whole new light. In any case, a 16-piece orchestra’s interpretation of gangsta rap, accompanied by DJs and singers, is sure to be entertaining. 20 July 20.00, La Madeleine, 1 Rue Dequesnoy

Gentse Feesten

OUTSIDE BRUSSELS

People often struggle to describe Gentse Feesten. Depending on your preference, it’s a music festival or a theatre festival or a folk festival. All of Ghent’s squares are full of music, day and night, for 10 days, all for free. The parks are full of street theatre and circus acts, most of that for free, too. But there are also ticketed concerts and plays – from cabaret to Shakespeare. And then there are tours, boat trips, openings of monuments normally closed, open-air dance clubs, an abundance of food and drink, a parade of frivolity and a parade of solemnity, as barefoot men shuffle across the cobblestones with nooses around their necks. And there are festivals within festivals. It’s one big mash-up, and everyone well tell you a different story. Go, and create your own. 19-28 July, across Ghent

Amsterdam-based artist Fiona Tan considers looking and watching a creative act in itself. Her extensive research into how humans experience photographs and moving images have led to fascinating exhibitions exploring memory and identity in the context of the gaze. In the exhibition Shadow Archive, she also explores what we keep and collect and why. Until 1 September, Mac’s/Grand-Hornu, Rue Sainte-Louise 82, Boussu (Hainaut)

What’s better than seeing a Josephine Baker review, inspired by her legendary 1968 concert at the Olympia in Paris? Seeing it at a place called Wild Boar Farm. It’s just one of dozens of musical interludes in glorious abbeys, imposing castles and other idyllic locations in the Meuse valley, all part of Festival Eté Mosane. Until 31 August, across Wallonia & northern France

Photos: National Day ©Laurie Dieffembacq/BELGA, Royal Palace ©Jean-Paul Remy

Written by Lisa Bradshaw