Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. Here are five tips for a winter trip to Flanders

13 December 2022
Saint Rumbold's Cathedral - Sint-Romboutskathedraal © Milo Profi

We often refer to the end-of-year period as the most wonderful time of the year. But is it true? It's hard to say, because you will always have a wonderful time in Flanders. With a newly reopened art institute, our tasty winter beers, a unique encounter with the Flemish Primitives and endless cycling pleasures, Flanders has so much to offer.

KMSKA_2022_Facade © Karin Borghouts

A renewed temple of the arts

Do the dark days sometimes get you down? If so, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (KMSKA) is the perfect remedy. The museum always lifts your spirits. This vast institution reopened its doors at the end of 2022, following a renovation project lasting eleven years. The result is incredible. There is a collection of Peter Paul Rubens’ Baroque paintings and the world’s largest collection of works by the modern master James Ensor. There are the Flemish Primitives as well as the renovated façade reminiscent of a Greek temple. Masterpieces by Fouquet and Memling, Modigliani and Magritte, van Eyck and Alechinsky can be found in the gallery too. The 2.4 kilometres of gallery space boasts more than 600 works of art providing the ideal setting for a more relaxed paced experience.

Belgian Beer Battle - Flanders - September 22, 2015 © Farmboy - Jan op de Kamp

Winter brews

Our beer culture features on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The unparalleled treasure of Belgian beer is immeasurable; take for example our Christmas and winter beers: many are robust beers with a high alcohol content and a sweet or sometimes spicy character. Stunning examples include Gouden Carolus Christmas, St. Bernardus Christmas Ale and Grimbergen Winter. Winter Lambic by the lambic brewery Oud Beersel is an unusual but delicious oddity. This mild but complex Lambic beer is infused with pine buds. A wintry twist you have never tasted before. Once winter is over, you can start preparing for The Beer Experience, a new festival full of beer, lectures, tasting sessions, delicious food and live music in a historic setting. What’s not to love?

Sint-Janshospitaal © Sarah Bauwens

An encounter with the Flemish Primitives

In winter, picturesque Bruges is even more beautiful, and its historic city centre is utterly enchanting. If the winter frost becomes too much for you, just head for St. John’s Hospital, one of the oldest preserved hospital buildings in Europe, where today, it serves as a museum. This winter you can visit Face to Face with Death, an exhibition composed around The Death of the Virgin, the masterpiece by Flemish Primitive Hugo van der Goes. The exhibition explores this special topic in six themes, created using a number of masterpieces by, among others, Hans Memling, Jan Provoost and Albrecht Bouts. An unforgettable encounter with the Flemish Primitives.

Sint-Godelieveabdij (c) Kris Blomme

Winter wonderlands in Flanders

The darkest days of the year shed a different light on our art cities, both literally and figuratively. Winter Glow’s light experience walk is a beautiful trail along green, watery and iconic spots in Bruges’ city centre. In Antwerp, this spherical journey starts at the Central Station, also known as the ‘Railway Cathedral’. From there, a string of lights leads you to the end-of-year celebrations in the heart of the city. In Brussels, Winterpret is putting the spotlight on the Grote Markt. For this occasion, the monumental square becomes the setting for a swirling spectacle of sound and light that takes you on a musical world tour. At the same time, the historic city centres of Ghent, Leuven and Mechelen are havens of warmth this winter. Winter or summer, our spotlights are always focused on heritage.

Cycling © Flanders 2021

Endless cycling pleasure

When you hear ‘Flanders’ and ‘cycling’ it soon conjures up our iconic spring classics, such as the Tour of Flanders. But you can also enjoy cycling here in winter when the riders retreat to the field. Our weekends are filled with races on muddy, sandy or frozen fields and forests. Pull on your wellington boots and discover a unique mix of top-class sport and ambiance. Those who prefer an indoor option can visit Koers, the Museum of Cycle Racing. It recounts the rich history of cycle racing and the bicycle. At the end of February, the Flemish cycle racing season traditionally reopens with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. So there’s more than enough to look forward to.

There’s something for everyone in Flanders, that’s a fact! Especially in winter, so see you soon!

Saint Rumbold's Cathedral - Sint-Romboutskathedraal © Milo Profi

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