Good reasons to visit Flanders this Spring
With winter slowly drawing to a close, spring is in the air! It’s the perfect time to enjoy some great local food washed down with a glass or two of excellent Belgian beers. Where else to enjoy them than on one of the many terrace cafes, with one of the region’s iconic spring classic cycle races taking place in the background. We’ve compiled seven of the best things to see in Flanders this spring. Hope to see you here soon!
1. Home of cycling
Hills, cobbles, and duels on two wheels – Flanders is truly, the home of cycling aficionados. Competitions such as Dwars door Vlaanderen, the E3 Prijs and Gent-Wevelgem form an exhilarating rollercoaster of races which culminate in the run up to the most revered race of the Spring season: the Tour of Flanders. It’s a race that is enough to turn ordinary cyclists into immortal heroes. Come and experience the opportunity of living through the making of history, in the bedrock of cycling.
2. Discover the contemporary masters
Art by Flemish masters such as Bruegel and Rubens formed part of the foundation of classic European art history. Indeed, many generations of Flemish artists have followed in their footsteps and contemporary artists continue to be celebrated today. One institution in particular, the Museum for Contemporary Art (S.M.A.K.) in Ghent celebrates its 20th birthday, this year. This excellent museum boasts a collection of more than 2000 works of art and from 16 March 2019, a small selection of the museum’s modern works such as those by Marcel Broodthaers, Luc Tuymans and Rinus Van de Velde, will be on display alongside other contemporary gems. The Collection (1) | Highlights for a Future is a must see for any art lover.
3. Stroll in a Royal garden
Flanders is renowned for its picturesque landscapes: an ideal place to inhale the sweet fragrance of spring. Throughout the region there are plenty of forests, parks and lush green spaces to enjoy. But at this time of year, the Belgian king extends a personal invitation for all to visit his very own garden. From 19 April to 10 May, the annual opening of the Royal Greenhouses is extended to the public. It’s a unique chance to enjoy a royal garden before it goes back into royal hands for another year. Visitors can expect to stroll through greenhouses abundant with dazzling azaleas, rotundas, cupolas and a magnificent collection of exotic plants, trees and flowers.
4. Festivities for Gastronomes
The people of Flanders are quite simply, some of the most avid gastronomes in the world! To celebrate that fact, a whole host of wonderful food festivals take place in spring. In March there’s Antwerp Chocolate Week followed in May by Taste of Antwerp, held in a stunning location next to the river Scheldt. The city of Ghent offers an alternative – or an addition, depending on how you look at it – with Gent Smaakt. And if you have a sweet tooth, make a note in your diary for the 25th of March: World Waffle Day. In the country that invented them, back in the Middle Ages, there’s no better place to celebrate them.
5. The legacy of a Flemish Master painter
Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a master painter who brought his observations of Flanders and Flemish society to life. This year, exactly 450 years after his death, we celebrate this Flemish master’s legacy. Admire his masterpiece Mad Meg (1563), newly restored and on show in Antwerp’s Mayer van den Bergh Museum. Or, visit the world’s second largest Bruegel collection at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels. And if you want to find out more about Bruegel, once you’ve seen his work first hand, you can discover more on ‘Bruegel – Unseen Masterpieces' online. This incredible digital platform allows a view on close examination of twelve Bruegel masterpieces, courtesy of the Royal Museums of Belgium and the Google Cultural Institute in acknowledgment of the 450th anniversary of Bruegel’s death.
6. Belgian Liquid Gold
Belgium is immensely proud of its wonderful beer heritage stretching back centuries! To celebrate this fact and to toast in the spring, there are a couple of fantastic beer festivals that pay homage to our great beer-making traditions. Don’t miss the Leuven Beer Weekends, this April, with a special weekend dedicated to new brewing methods at the Innovation Beer Festival. Or, why not get to find out about some lambic and gueuze (sour) beer specialties at Toer de Geuze near Brussels. Finally, spring hails the return of ‘terrasjesweer’ (loosely translated to mean ‘terrace weather’). Those first rays of warm sunshine are a sign that its time to enjoy a spot of outdoor refreshment in the good company of some fellow beer and sun seekers!
7. Where heritage meets history
Flanders is a region abundant with rich heritage. Bruges is a great example, particularly in the month of May. That’s when the annual The Procession of the Holy Blood is held, a devout remembrance parade to demonstrate the suffering of Jesus Christ. The procession centerpiece displays what is believed to be a relic of the blood of Jesus himself. A visit to this grand event is a great opportunity to combine with a visit to other historic monuments in the city, such as its Cathedral, Belfry and Church of our Lady, home to the beautiful marble Madonna and Child sculpture by Michelangelo.
Story created on March 14, 2019