©Rock Werchter

During the summer, Flanders is bubbling and sparkling even more than ever. Every year, our summer festivals conquer all hearts. From mega-events to more modest festivities, from niche genres to things the whole family will enjoy, with an appreciation of Mother Nature and in the most beautiful surroundings.

Our festival culture began back in the 1970s, when the very first Torhout-Werchter music festival took place.This iconic event – now known as Rock Werchter – remains one of the continent’s biggest, most renowned and most important festivals today. It has earned itself the title of world’s best festival more than once and has served as the foundation for an entirely new aspect of Flemish culture. This event has since inspired many others, with great success. Tomorrowland – another Belgian invention – is currently a global phenomenon. Pukkelpop, for youngsters of more alternative tastes, has also gained a name for itself on the European scene. Still, Flanders has so much more to offer beyond these three iconic events. Throughout the summer months, there is always something going on. There are innumerable festivals of all sizes, each with its own unique identity.

From 9 months old to 99 years young

Traditionally, festivals target the young and energetic. They are the ultimate temples to youth, music, togetherness and friendship, after all. Why shouldn’t other age groups enjoy them as well though? There are also numerous festivals that cater to people of all ages.

The Cactus festival in the heart of Bruges is a great example. The enchanting Minnewater Park welcomes families into its embrace, time after time. Yes, there are large stages to enjoy, but there are also plenty of quiet corners with tables and seating, food stands and entertainment for kids. If you’re in need of a break from the music, just seek out a hammock and let your kids work off their energy on the play equipment.

Another excellent option is Dranouter, a Festival of New Traditions that builds on a long history of folk music. It continues to offer countless examples of folk genres that are otherwise hard to find. And on top of that, all ages are welcome. 9 months old? Welcome! 99 years young? You too! Everyone in between? Welcome to cosy Dranouter, where everyone is valued: the young, the not-so-young and Mother Earth. Because at festivals too, we care about the environment.

Cactusfestival ©Kasper Vandermaesen

Long live Mother Earth

This brings us seamlessly to sustainability. Dranouter was already a trendsetter in this regard, implementing a range of eco-friendly practices. Many of these practices have now become mainstream. The old spectre of a meadow covered in plastic cups has been banished for good. These days, reusable cups are the norm, food stands’ vegetarian options grow every year, and increasing thought is given to mobility, water consumption and waste processing.

Paradise City delivers a particularly excellent performance in this regard. This electronic music festival is a sustainability pioneer, which has already garnered it several awards. It is held on the De Ribaucourt Castle grounds. Even during the festival, those grounds remain sacred (and splendidly clean). Cardboard tents, vacuum toilets, electric shuttle buses, renewable energy, etc. At Paradise City, a shrinking ecological footprint produces increasing amounts of enjoyment.

©Dranouter

Dreamy surroundings everywhere

Paradise City takes place on gorgeous castle grounds. Urban music mecca Couleur Café is held in the shadow of the iconic Atomium. Doel Festival enlivens the abandoned ‘ghost village’ of Doel. The brand-new Live is Live has the North Sea beach as its backdrop. Flanders knows a thing or two about unique festival locations.

And then there’s the Ghent Festivities. This unique city festival engulfs the lovely Ghent’s entire historic city centre. For ten days, the city is transformed into one big festival area, with dozens, even hundreds of stages and a programme overflowing with music, dance, theatre, opera, buskers, performance art and – perhaps most importantly – plenty of entertainment for all. It’s a textbook example of ‘something for everyone’.

©Gentse Feesten

Is dancing allowed?

Dancing? Yes please. Summer festivals have long been dominated by pop, rock and alternative music, but that is definitely no longer the case. There’s also reggae, folk, jazz and latin, ballads and hip-hop. Flanders’ many festivals offer something to every music lover’s taste. This includes those of us who like to move to the rhythm. Ever since Tomorrowland took over the world, dance festivals have been popping up everywhere. WECANDANCE, The Qontinent, Extrema Outdoor, Voodoo Village… The selection keeps growing. Headbanging is no longer king and fancy dance moves are now equally appreciated.

©Tomorrowland

In fact, you needn’t be capable of either to enjoy the splendours of Flanders' festival summer. The long list above serves as ample proof. These festivals have something to offer each and every one of us. What truly matters can be summed up in two words. Have fun!

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