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What’s on this week: 14-20 July

Brussels' Foire de Midi, Belgium
10:44 13/07/2023
All the fun of the fair as Belgium continues its holiday vibes with activities and festivals for all ages

It’s long, it’s loud, and it’s the only one in town: Foire du Midi is back on Boulevard du Midi. The annual event has everything you want from a fun fair – stomach-churning rides, greasy, sugary “food”, games of chance and shooting galleries. The website offers a helpful map to find all of this and also splits the attractions up by “for thrillseekers” and “for the whole family”. 15 July to 20 August

Playcation (c)Sil De Boeck

Brussels has set up more than 20 special attractions as part of the free summer programme Playcation. They are largely located in densely populated neighbourhoods with little in the way of parks and playgrounds. There is, for instance, a three-story treehouse in Schaerbeek, a “pump park” with specialised cycle track in Laeken and sidewalk chalking in Saint-Gilles. Sometimes spaces are manned by assistants to help you learn circus tricks or build a kite. All ages are invited to join in the fun. Until 31 August, across Brussels

Walden Festival

Take a musical journey around the world from a grassy spot in Leopold park thanks to the Walden Festival. The environment-friendly summer event returns to the capital with a series of delightfully short concerts in a relaxed family setting. Its name honours transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau’s work Walden, which encouraged people to live sustainably in natural surroundings. A varied programme mixes world and classical music: from Joep Beving, Meskerem Mees and the Joubran Trio to Collegium Vocale Gent, a symphony section of Brussels Philharmonic and Belgium’s Queen Elisabeth violin competition finalist Lorenzo Gatto. The team behind the Klarafestival is responsible for top-notch event and it can be followed live on Klara radio. 15 & 16 July, Leopold park, Brussels


Beyond the concerts, cultural activities, children’s village, artisan stands and African cuisine, the Afrodisiac festival is all about solidarity for the continent. The event aims to raise awareness and highlight pressing issues in Africa under the banner "Together, let's make more noise against the scourges that affect Africa”. 15-16 July, Carrefour des Attelages, Bois de la Cambre

Brussels Challenge gaming

No fewer than 1,000 participants are warming up to compete in Belgium’s biggest Versus Fighting esport event. The Brussels Challenge Major Edition is an international fighting tournament boasting multiple streams and stages at Tour & Taxis. On the agenda are: Street Fighter 6, Tekken 7, Guilty Gear Strive, Dragon Ball Fighterz, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, The King of Fighters XV, among others. On-site catering ensures all fighters and pop culture enthusiasts remain well-fuelled. 14-16 July, Tour & Taxis, Avenue du Port 86C


Families can immerse themselves in medieval fantasy at the adventure nature park Sortilège. Located in Bois des Beguines on the edge of the capital, the three-hour game for children and their parents - or groups of friends - involves a mission by a prince who is in search of knights. During the urban forest trail, participants will meet various fantasy characters. Situated opposite the Ferme nos Pilifs; reservation necessary. Until 5 November, Trassersweg 345 (Neder-over-Hembeek)


Not everyone is able to escape the city over the summer. That’s why Brussels has launched a new seasonal initiative that provides citizens as well as tourists with a free urban vacation. Summer Wonders offers a programme of live music, DJ sets, afterwork events, sports activities and a large-scale art installation in bamboo, Lean on Me, in Place Fontainas that evokes an exotic garden. A range of food and drinks options, including bars, barbecues and brunches are an additional attraction. The event opens its doors on 14 July at midday before an official inauguration at 17.30 with music by Early Voices (Semaine du Son/De Week van de Klank). A concert follows with a performance by the singer Santa from French electronic pop rock group Hyphen Hyphen. 14 July to 6 August, Place De Brouckère and Place Fontainas

15_ O.N. & M.C.O.

After 40 years of filling the Minimes church with the strains of classical music, the summer festival Été de l'Orgue 2023 has moved beyond the old city walls to Saint-Joseph church in Square Frère-Orban. Run by non-profit Organum Novum, Saturday’s concert (15 July) sees Aline Hopchet performing on Baroque wind instruments accompanied by organist Ben Van Nespen. Each performance is followed by a convivial post-concert drink. Entrance: €6; reservations: or tel: 0497.88.42.55. Until 27 August, every Saturday 19.00, Square Frère-Orban

English Comedy Brussels

The amiable Dutch comedian Ed Berger headlines the next edition of English Comedy Brussels. Short on gimmicks, he simply relies on his personable wit – and enviable improv skills – to elicit laughs. He is joined by fellow Dutch comedian Tim Hill. Fans of English Comedy Brussels should check out the new multi-show passes: six shows for the price of five or 12 shows for the price of 10. 18 July 20.00-22.00, The Black Sheep, Chaussée de Boondael 8 (Ixelles)


Belgium celebrates its national day on 21 July with colourful activities around the country. In the capital, the popular evening National Ball on 20 July in Place du Jeu de Balle is a double celebration: the 20th anniversary of the ball and King Philippe's 10th anniversary of his reign. The traditional civil and military parade begins on 21 July at 16.00 opposite the royal palace. From 19.30, the public will also be able to enjoy music in the company of the royal couple with the Resto National in the Marolles (pictured) that serves mussels and chips from 17.00. The festivities continue in Cinquantenaire park with a “Happy Belgium” concert at 21.00. At midnight, a laser light show and fireworks display from the site’s esplanade and arcades bring the festivities to a close. 20 & 21 July, multiple locations in the city centre

Cirque (c)Mathew Tsang

Get tix now: Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios  It’s been six years since the Cirque du Soleil big top made an appearance in Belgium, so the Canadian circus/theatre phenomenon is bringing its show Kurios to both Knokke and Brussels. Not yet seen in Belgium, Kurios is the story of a man who is certain that a secret universe is hidden in his cabinet of curiosities. Soon characters from this fictional world reveal themselves, and his curiosities come to life. They offer up the funny antics and mind-boggling acrobatics that come with any Cirque show. Tickets are flying out the door. 27 July to 27 August, Leerwerkerstraat, Knokke; 7 September to 5 November, next to Paleis 12


FoMu (c)Oxiea Villamonte

The FoMu photography museum in Antwerp presents its annual Emerging Belgian Photography show as well as a film by Meggy Rustamova. Her work follows a group of children as they learn Dutch. She draws on her own experience of being an eight-year-old refugee and using sounds she knew from cartoons to help her with difficult pronunciations. The Emerging show, meanwhile, features 10 up-and-coming artists with a Belgian connection. Rustamova until 27 August, Emerging until 8 October, Waalsekaai 47, Antwerp

Anna BOCH (c)Lucien Arkas Collection. photo by Hadiye Cangokce.

Anna Boch had everything she needed to become a marketable painter in the 19th century: Wealth, determination and an independent spirit. She often travelled alone and bought her own car – both practically unheard of. A Belgian impressionist, she earned an international reputation among contemporaries such as Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Signac. Their work also features in this exhibition on Boch’s life and work, held on the 175th anniversary of her birth. Until 5 November, Mu.Zee, Romestraat 11, Ostend

Dour Festival  (1)

Get ready for some of the best artists on the alternative music scene at Dour Festival, an established event with a history stretching back to 1989 – just five artists were booked for the first edition! For 2023, it offers the chance to see over 250 artists on eight different stages over five full days. The 20,000 capacity main stage, known as The Last Arena is where the main acts play ; this year’s Sunday headliner is Aphex Twin. From rock to rap, disco to dance and including  both new artists and established acts it’s all there to discover at Dour. As well as the campsite, a festival village with tipis, tribes and huts – with set-up bedding –provide overnight accommodation. 12-16 July, Rue d’Elouges 106, Dour (Hainaut)


Drop by the daily parties at Antwerp’s biggest graffiti space, drink cocktails under trees, catch some “circus tango” or head to the docks for a bit of theatre. Everything is possible at Zomer van Antwerpen, a summer-long festival of endless activities. Some things require a ticket, but most of it is free of charge, so just set out whenever you want and start exploring. Until 3 September, across Antwerp


Visit all your favourite fairy tale characters at this year’s Sand Sculpture Festival at the Belgian coast. Artists the world over fly in to create these massive sculptures every summer, with Puss in Boots, the Little Mermaid, Tom Thumb, Snow White, fire-breathing dragons and the castles and forests in which they live all taking centre stage this year. Kids obviously love this event, but adults are also suitably impressed at the level of skill involved in the tiniest of details. Until 10 September, Middelkerke

Louvain la Plage

There’s a holiday air in the centre of Louvain-la-Neuve. Instead of throngs of students, the university town is home to Louvain-la-Plage, ideal for lazy summer days. Discover the sandy stretch with its palm trees, parasols, deckchairs, beach games, a bouncy castle and plenty of other outdoor activities for all ages. Until 30 July 10.00-midnight (beach games end at 20.00), Grand Place, Louvain-la-Neuve

Photos:  ©Courtesy Foire du Midi; Playcation ©Sil De Boeck; Cirque ©Mathew Tsang; Anna BOCH ©Lucien Arkas Collection, photo by Hadiye Cangokce.

Written by Sarah Crew and Lisa Bradshaw