Winter Wonderland

An enchanting light festival, the chance to catch a breath of fresh air along the Flemish coast, and an avalanche of exhibitions: Flanders in winter is more beautiful and more exquisite than ever! Here are seven heart-warming reasons to visit Flanders during the chilliest months of the year.

Ghent is already the best-kept secret in Europe. In January, however, the city’s Light Festival places Ghent even further in the spotlight. While you wander through the city, you’ll come across dozens of installations and performances all based on the medium of light. You’ll be both moved and amazed, not only by the Historical Centre and the Arts Quarter, but also by a piece of Ghent’s industrial history.

Festival of Lights (c)StadGent

For cycling fans, Flanders is synonymous with the Flandrien: a cyclist with unbreakable perseverance who is not put off by any kind of foul weather. In the winter months, you’ll find this archetypal character out in the field. One weekend after another, the cyclo-cross racers will be ploughing through muddy fields somewhere in Flanders. In Belgium, top-class sport and national festivities go hand in hand.

Flandrien (c)Jowan

Half a century after his death, René Magritte still has a lasting influence. The spiritual father of surrealism has always made us question our perception of things, and he continues to do so today. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels (KMSKB) are now paying tribute to this grandmaster: Magritte, Broodthaers & contemporary art. This exhibition is displaying 150 works of art, not only by Magritte himself, but also reactions to his work by other well-known artists such as Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg.

KMSKB Brussels

Is your artistic appetite still not satisfied? Don’t worry, Flanders still has plenty to offer. The region has an art tradition that goes back centuries. Flemish masters such as Bruegel, Rubens and Van Eyck laid the foundation on which today’s generation of international artists are continuing to build. The recently refurbished Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (M HKA), for instance, is exhibiting work by the influential German artist Joseph Beuys. And the S.M.A.K. in Ghent is holding an exhibition about Gerhard Richter, one of the greatest painters of the last century.

MuHKA Antwerp (c) Stad Antwerpen

Towards the end of the year, various Flemish cities start setting up their Christmas markets. These are well worth a visit. However if you’ve had your fill of Jingle Bells and mulled wine, you can always head to the Flemish coast for an invigorating winter walk. The cool sea air is sure to revive you. Relax and catch your breath in one of the many restaurants along the dyke, where you can enjoy a typical Flemish dish: stewed meat, a delicious plate of freshly-fried frites or – as you would expect – chocolate in any of its possible forms.

Belgian Coast Ostend (c)Daniel De Kievith

When temperatures drop to around freezing point, warm your body and soul with some delicious Belgian beers. Our legendary Trappist beers provide the perfect example. Today, eleven official Trappist breweries are still active in the world, more than half of which can be found in Belgium. The treasure they serve to the world are glasses full of liquid gold. Examples include the dark, reddish-brown Westmalle Dubbel, the chestnut-coloured Zundert and – the most classic of all – the beers of Westvleteren. These nectars of the gods form the very foundation of our rich beer culture. Want to learn more about them? Then pay a visit to the Sint-Bernardus brewery in Watou, where the traditional recipe of the legendary Westvleteren beer is carried in their hearts and chalices.

Sixtus Trappist,West-Vleteren (c)Westtoer

Stroll hand in hand through the winding cobbled streets adjacent to the canals. Or take a carriage ride through the historic city centre, wrapped up warm in a cosy blanket. During the winter months, the idyllic city of Bruges becomes even more romantic and poetic than it already is. The most charming city in Europe is at its very best at the end of the year.

From captivating artwork expressed through twinkling lights, to the many culinary highlights and mouth-watering beers. From the idyllic city of Bruges to the Flandriens ploughing through the mud. Flanders will undoubtedly warm the cockles of your heart, even during the coldest of days.  

Bruges (c)Jan D'Hondt
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