The ultimate Belgian festival guide
Summer means festival season – and if Belgium’s not on your radar yet, it should be. It’s home to some of Europe’s finest festivals, including Tomorrowland (think spectacular stages and pyrotechnic excess, soundtracked by the world’s greatest DJs). Old-timers like Pukkelpop and Rock Werchter are still going strong, joined by a host of new arrivals, from Antwerp’s electro-fuelled Elrow Town to the beachfront We Can Dance. The best line-ups, meanwhile, mix global names with hyped, homegrown musical talents: charismatic rapper Roméo Elvis, perhaps, or synth-pop star Oscar and the Wolf.
CactusfestivalMinnewaterpark, 8000, Bruges
Set in Bruges’ leafy Minnewaterpark, this friendly three-day festival’s a deliberately intimate affair. Forget set clashes or squabbles over who to watch next: with just one main stage, catching every act couldn’t be simpler. The line-up leans towards indie-rock, with a healthy mix of new names and big-hitters (past headliners run from Richard Ashcroft to French cool kids Air). Best for: Laidback mates | Headline highlights: Bloc Party, dEUS, Cat Power, Oscar and the Wolf | Dates: 5-7 July 2019 | Ticket prices: Day tickets from €49; free under-13s.
TomorrowlandPRC de Schorre, Schommelei 2850, Boom
Believe the hype when it comes to this world-famous dance festival. The biggest DJs clamour to play here, while the staging’s out of this world: think automated dragons, showers of rose petals, or a stage below a smoking volcano. It’s easy to get to from Brussels or Antwerp, if you manage to score tickets. Last year, rumour has it, they sold out in thirty seconds flat. Best for: Thrill-seeking club kids | Headline highlights: The Chainsmokers, Carl Cox, Martin Garrix, Swedish House Mafia | Dates: 19-21 & 26-28 July 2019 | Ticket prices: Day tickets from €105.
Brussels Summer FestivalBrussels city centre, 1000
Staged in the centre of the city, this annual festival delivers the big names, minus the mud and camping. Its genre-hopping programme spans jazz, pop, electro and more, while – as savvy locals know – the ticket prices are a steal. Iconic headliners have run from the Pet Shop Boys to Iggy and the Stooges, while local talents like Roméo Elvis always get the crowd going wild. Best for: The camping-averse | Headline highlights: Giorgio Moroder, Christine and the Queens, Rudimental, Hooverphonic | Dates: 14-18 August 2019 | Ticket prices: Day tickets from €35; free under-12s.
Couleur CaféAtomiumsquare, 1020 Brussels
Festivals don’t get much more feelgood than this celebration of world music, whose rhythms run from Latin beats to Balkan tunes, dancehall to samba. Set in the Ossegempark, its wooded site is full of surprises, from hammocks strung in the trees to wandering stilt-walkers. Hands-on workshops and a wellness zone add to the mellow vibe, along with some terrific global food. Best for: Woke world-music fans | Headline highlights: Lauryn Hill, Craig David, Joyner Lucas, Wizkid | Dates: 28-30 June 2019 | Ticket prices: Day tickets from €37; free under-11s.
Half an hour from Brussels, this is possibly the perfect all-rounder: if it started out as a 70s rockfest, these days it’s way more eclectic. Around 100 artists play over four frenetic days, from DJs to pop divas, rappers to craggy rock legends (Robert Plant and Paul McCartney both rocked up in 2016). Its camping options are just as varied, from basic pitches to luxury tipis. Best for: Festival first-timers | Headline highlights: Bastille, Florence + the Machine, Muse, Clean Bandit, The Cure | Dates: 27-30 June 2019 | Ticket prices: Day tickets from €105.
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Image credits: © Eric Danhier; © Eric Danhier; © Jokko; © Tomorrowland; © Eric Danhier; © Leen Van Laethem; © Jokko for Rock Werchter; © Eurostar; © les filles; © nanna dis