Quality of life
There is a lot to experience in Flanders
Whether you love classical music, rock, world music, jazz, the visual arts or performing arts, there is constantly something to experience in many parts of Flanders. Here is a selection from the many annual or biennial events.
For more than 30 years, the big names in the national and international rock and dance scene have shook up the sleepy village of Werchter in Flemish Brabant for four days at the beginning of July with the Rock Werchter festival. Some specialists consider this the best festival in the world.
The Zomer van Antwerpen (Summer of Antwerp) holds tourists and Antwerpen’s inhabitants spellbound for two months with the best circus acts in the world, musical performances in every district of the city and open-air film projections near the Scheldt River.
In the second half of July, Gent is turned upside down during the Gentse Feesten. You can enjoy music, street theatre and puppet theatre all over the city for ten days.
Sfinks. For three days in July, world music lovers come to Boechout near Antwerpen to dance to African, Asian and Caribbean rhythms and to enjoy exotic snacks and beverages at the very enjoyable Sfinks family festival.
Theater aan Zee (Theatre by the Sea) is a ten-day theatre and music festival held at unexpected locations in Ostend at the beginning of August. You’ll discover young theatre makers, great street theatre, comedy, and theatre productions for children.
Every two years Bruges hosts European jazz greats with several concerts, jam sessions, film screenings and lots of atmosphere
Visual Arts Flanders is a cluster of five prominent events: Beaufort at the Belgian coast, from March to September, Track in Ghent from May to September, the renovation of the Middelheim Museum in Antwerp in May, Manifesta in Ghent from June to September, and Newtopia in Mechelen from September to December.
The city of Bruges celebrates its age-old connection with lace during MarKANT with exhibitions at various locations and an extensive music programme.
Food & beverages
Epicureans feel right at home in Flanders. The more than 11,000 pubs, from village pubs serving Flemish beers under church steeples to trendy lounge bars in the cities, prove this.
Flemings love their traditions but also like culinary voyages of discovery in one of the 16,000 restaurants and brasseries. From “stoemp” or stew with chips to sushi or sashimi, everything is available in Flanders. If you want an enjoyable evening out, to celebrate with friends, or to spoil your partner, the offerings are numerous and diverse in Flanders and they suit every pocketbook.
Gourmets feel very much at home in one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants. Peter Goossens from 't Hof van Cleve in Kruishoutem (East Flanders), Geert Van Hecke from De Karmeliet in Bruges (West Flanders) or Wouter Keersmaekers from De Schone van Boskoop in Boechout (Antwerp) are only a few chefs who make the Michelin stars on Flanders' firmament shine.
What’s more delicious on a night out than a bag of chips from a chip stand? Unfortunately, the survival of small, free-standing chip stands is threatened, but you still find a few under church steeples.
Shop till you drop
In the historic city centres of larger cities in Flanders, you can find everything that your heart desires: from shopping centres and international chain stores to haute couture and clothing designed by Flemish designers. Pedestrian shopping areas like the Meir in Antwerp, the Nieuwstraat and Louisalaan in Brussels, the Veldstraat in Ghent or the Bruul in Malines are completely overrun by convivial shoppers on Saturdays.
The numerous markets in Flanders have great allure as well. On Sundays, you may imagine yourself near the Mediterranean at the South Market in Brussels. Those who love antiques must visit the Zavel in Brussels, the Kloosterstraat and the Lijnwaadmarkt in Antwerp, the area around St-Jacobs in Ghent and the antique market in Tongeren. It’s possible to rummage through flea markets all year long in diverse cities. There is a jumble sale every day on the Vossenplein in Brussels. The Zwarte Markt in Tessenderlo is one of the biggest covered markets in Europe where you can snap up fantastic second-hand stuff.
The majestic St. Hubert Galleries between the Central Station and the Grand Place in Brussels are also very special. The three neoclassical galleries with their eight-metre high glass roof make you dream about the rich life of the 19th century bourgeoisie. When this architectural marvel opened in 1846, it was the first covered shopping street in the world. It is also a place of pilgrimage for chocolate fanatics. In 1912 Jean Neuhaus created the first 'praline' on this spot.
Maasmechelen is located near the place where Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany meet. In this beautiful piece of Flanders, the city came up with the concept Maasmechelen Leisure Valley: a leisure location for people that love fashion, culture, sports and nature. The commercial heart of Maasmechelen Leisure Valley is Maasmechelen Village, a city within a city so to speak, where the big names in fashion hold clearance sales at competitive prices.
Fun without borders
Flanders produces top-class sportsmen in several disciplines. They are actively supported in Flanders. In order to dedicate themselves to their sport, BLOSO (Advancement of Physical Development, Sport and Outdoor Recreation) offers them a toplevel sports contract. In addition, every Fleming is motivated to participate in sports at his or her level in one of the 20,000 Flemish sports clubs. Walking and cycling are sports most frequently pursued, followed by fitness classes and swimming. The positive effects of sports – increasingly practised by women and the elderly – are seen in the average Fleming’s rising life expectancy.
Flat Flanders is ideal to explore by bicycle. The node points system allows you to map out a cycling itinerary according to your own abilities. The node points guide you safely along the most beautiful places in Flanders. Depending on your desires and budget, you can stay in a cabin, hotel or at a campground. Some of the accommodations have bicycle sheds and repair kits for cycling fanatics with bad luck.