Tomorrowland - ©Tomorrowland

There’s music for everyone in Flanders. For years, festivals such as Tomorrowland, Rock Werchter and Pukkelpop have been drawing big-name acts, international crowds and worldwide attention. But what if you’re interested in something outside mainstream music? Flanders’ festivals cover every musical genre, to satisfy every musical taste and deliver unique, unforgettable experiences.

A little bit of everything

Why not extend your stay in Ghent a little longer? You’ll be able to experience the unique, unforgettable and unimaginable joys of the Ghent Festival. The streets of the city are brought to life with a mixture of music and theatre, although you’ll also see buskers, mimes and impromptu parties suddenly materialising over the ten-day period in which the city is turned upside down. With about two million visitors every year, it’s one of the biggest festivals in Europe.

Ghent Festivities - ©Stad Gent

Free family fun

A free four-day, family-fun festival? Only in Flanders! And only at the Sfinks Mixed in Boechout, just a short distance from Antwerp. For over 40 years, Sfinks has delighted audiences of all ages with an adventurous line-up that includes intimate concerts, the best modern DJs and tunes that are destined to have everyone dancing. Wrap all this in a blanket of sustainability, add a market full of unique treasures and treats from around the world and top it off with the Kidz Village dedicated to engaging the younger festival goers and you’ll know exactly what to expect!

Sfinks Mixed - © Jordi Bover

All that jazz

Renowned around the world, the Ghent Jazz Festival is a treat for jazz enthusiasts and music lovers looking for something different. Every July, the best jazz performers from around the globe amaze audiences with their unrestrained, improvised performances that let loose raw energy and unbridled excitement. Enjoy everything from mainstream jazz to the avant-garde, fusion to big band and even jazz-influenced musical genres as diverse as soul and electronica

Ghent Jazz - © Maarten Mellemans

Short on time?

Is a ten-day festival a bit much for you? Make the most of your time by hitting the TW Classic. One day. One stage. One awesome line-up of big-name rock acts from days gone by. Although there’s a reason for this sense of nostalgia: as Rock Werchter developed into a four-day behemoth, the original organisers still wanted to deliver its original supporters the single day of musical bliss they had first enjoyed. With that, the TW Classic was born.

Rock Werchter 2016 ©Rock Werchter - copyright always obligatory

New traditions and folk music for all ages

If you’re after something a little fresher? Festival Dranouter—The Festival of New Traditions—should hit the spot. Held in the countryside surrounding the town of Dranouter since 1975, it used to be dedicated to folk music. More recently, international acts from genres such as rock, punk and country have been added to the line-up, while ecological concerns and sustainability have resulted in environmentally friendly operations. It’s a great festival for families too: newspapers have even described it as a children’s paradise.

Joss Stone singing on Dranouter Festival

A different paradise

Are you looking for DJs, energetic crowds and electronic dance music? Imagine finding them converging for three days in the shadow of the Castle of Ribaucourt in Perk! It probably sounds like paradise ... And Paradise City wants to make sure it stays that way. This festival goes to every length to educate attendees about the potential environmental impact of a major gathering and makes every effort to minimalise any impact. It ditches the negatives to explore a future filled with diversity, energy, creativity and impromptu encounters in a surreally beautiful setting.

Paradise City Festival - © Marie Claire

MAfestival

Of course, Flanders has settings for different types of musical festivals. The perfect setting for experiencing centuries-old music is undoubtedly centuries-old Bruges. This theory gave birth to the Musica Antiqua Festival—MAfestival for short. It doesn’t just focus on the music but ties it in with highlights from the city’s past using master classes, competitions, lectures and even excursions. The focus on lesser-known music makes it even more of a unique experience.

MAfestival

The cactus Festival

Still in Bruges, The Cactus Festival takes place in one of the many beautiful parks: the Minnewater. For three days, local and international acts provide audiences with incredible live music against a beautiful backdrop. An excellent line-up, natural setting and chilled-out atmosphere make it one of Bruges’ many musical highlights.

Cactus Festival - ©Tom Leentjes

Couleur Café: the urban festival

Brussels makes the most of its urban location with the incredible Couleur Café which takes place at the foot of the Atomium. With a focus on presenting a variety of world music, the line-up features performers from a variety of styles and genres, including DJs, hip-hop, pop, soul, blues, reggae, funk and other artists. The international theme continues through to the stalls with cuisine from 50 different countries.

Couleur Café Festival - © Sergine Laloux

Beats on the beach

Couleur Café isn’t the only festival to offer a smörgåsbord of cultural delicacies. But WECANDANCE, may be the only one to successfully combine a dance festival with glittery fashion, gastronomy, fairy dust and a location on the sea. Head to Zeebrugge to find your zing somewhere between the sandy beaches and the worlds of endless musical possibilities or to move to the beats and bangers that stream forth from five different stages.

And now for something completely different …

Theatrical, symphonic and black. The Graspop Metal Meeting has featured bands from every genre and sub-genre of metal. And no wonder: it’s one of the biggest metal festivals in the world, with over 150,000 visitors descending on Dessel every year to blast ears and blow minds. But what should you do if moshing to the biggest acts from the heavier side of music isn’t quite your cup of tea? The stalls where you attempt to catch plastic fish, the bumper cars and perhaps the Ferris wheel will keep you amused!

Sepultura @ Graspop Metal Meeting 2017 in Dessel - ©Hughes Van Houcke

Chill. Relax. Enjoy.

However, for a real feeling of peace and relaxation, you might try a different type of music. And Flanders has the perfect festival: Reggae Geel. For one weekend every summer, the best that Jamaica has to offer descends on the town of Geel. Whether it’s roots reggae, dancehall, ska or any other sub-genre, you can be sure you’ll hear nothing but positive vibes.

Reggae Geel

Investigate a theme

There’s no saying quite what you’ll hear at the Laus Polyphoniae, held at the St Augustine church in Antwerp. Every year, the festival picks a specific theme or composer around which the ensemble in residence plays a series of concerts. Examples include 16th-century Antwerp Music Printers, the first polyphonists and Antwerp Baroque—inspired by Rubens. Everything from Gregorian chanting to secular operas have been part of the programme, so you can be sure of a memorable experience.

Whatever your music taste, there’s a festival in Flanders that will cover it. You might find yourself in front of an international superstar or an up-and-comer who’s set to conquer the world. It’s time to treat your ears to something truly spectacular this summer. It’s time to visit Flanders!

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