Seven tips for a magical winter in Flanders

Winter - Mechelen Sneeuw-Haverwerf ©Visit Mechelen
Even in winter temperatures, Flanders radiates a wonderful glow. Warm to an impressive trio of art events, our delicious winter beers, whirlwind cycling races, the reopening of a Bruges icon and activities for the whole family.
M Leuven

A tribute to Dieric Bouts

As temperatures are dropping towards freezing point, the winter coat is never far away. But there are other ways to warm up during these dark months. Consider the warming glow of the arts, for example, Leuven is paying tribute to its Flemish masterDieric Bouts. The New Horizons city festival takes you into the universe of the Flemish Primitive. Bouts was at home in this city five centuries ago, and he still is. New Horizons celebrates him with a collection of performances, exhibitions, club nights, and more. The international top exhibitionDieric Bouts. Creator of images in city museum M Leuven is the figurehead of it all. You can see some of his absolute masterpieces. That oeuvre engages in dialogue with our contemporary visual culture. For example, Eddy Merckx, Kim Kardashian and Star Wars also take a bow. Intrigued? Then hurry to Leuven, where New Horizons is on until 14 January 2024.

Het James Ensorhuis

Long live James Ensor!

From one grandmaster to another: James Ensor. This pioneer of the modern arts is also being honoured in his hometown, Ostend. In 2024, it will be exactly 75 years since Ensor died, and the Ensor Year puts him in the spotlight. Ostend presents five major exhibitions that highlight the various aspects of his oeuvre. This includes Ensor's self-portraits and his typical humour, satire and caricatures. This artful quintet is complemented by a wide range of music, theatre, dance, themed walks and much more. Antwerp takes over the baton in the autumn. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp(KMSKA) is showcasing its Ensor collection – the largest in the world.

Turning Heads - Gilr with the red hat Vermeer - (c) Washington Gallery of Art - KMSKA

Turning Heads in KSMKA

But first, the KMSKA is still focusing on a series of extraordinary heads from art history. In the 17th century, a new art genre developed: the ‘tronie’, an archaic word for face. Various grandmasters such as Bruegel, Rubens and Rembrandt poured their talent into painting faces. This resulted in a wealth of mainly small pieces, stunningly painted, drawn or engraved. The Turning Heads exhibition puts that movement in the spotlight. It brings together 76 national and international eloquent masterpieces, until 21 January 2024. 

Belgian Beer World - De Beurs Brussel

Winter Belgian beers

There is nothing quite like the Belgian beer culture. Indeed, this uniqueness has been recognised as UNESCO World Heritage. It also has a tasty wintry side, as proven by our Christmas and winter beers. These are often robust beers with a high alcohol content and a sweet or sometimes spicy character. Well-known examples are Gouden Carolus Christmas, St.  Bernardus Christmas Ale and Grimbergen Winter. An unusual but delicious oddity is the Winter Lambic from Gueuze brewery Oud Beersel. This mild but complex Lambic beer is infused with pine buds. A wintry twist you have never tasted before. You can discover all this wealth at the amazing Christmas beer festival, just north of Antwerp. Once winter is on its last legs, get ready for The Beer Experience, a festival full of beer, lectures, tasting sessions, delicious food and live music in a historic setting. What’s not to love?

contour cyclocross Flanders

Numerous cycling assets

When you hear ‘Flanders’ and ‘cycling’, it soon conjures up thoughts of our iconic spring classics, such as the Tour of Flanders. But in winter too, there is plenty to enjoy about cycling. It is when the riders take to the field. Our weekends are full of races on muddy, sandy or frozen fields and forests. Pull on your wellington boots and experience a unique mix of top-class sport and ambience. If you prefer to be indoors, pay a visit to Koers, Museum of Cycle Racing. This museum reveals the rich history of cycle racing and the bicycle. At the same time, you can also start counting down to the cycling spring. At the end of February, the Flemish cycle racing season traditionally reopens with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. In the autumn, there is a new highlight: the Gravel World Championships 2024 that will take place in Flanders. So there is more than enough to look forward to.

Familievriendelijk aanbod Vlaanderen

Out and about with the whole family

If you are travelling, it is best to have the weather gods on your side, especially in the winter when they can sometimes show their gloomiest side. But fear not; there are plenty of indoor activities for the whole family all over Flanders. The crazy science museum GUM in Ghent is a great example. Children, teenagers and adults alike marvel at a spectacular collection of science: from biology to archaeology, from psychology to medicine. In Meise Botanical Garden you will discover all about fauna and flora, cosy and warm with a roof over your head. Is your thirst to discover not yet satisfied? Technopolis in Mechelen is an interactive hands-on centre full of technological, scientific and, above all, fun experiments. Need even more inspiration? Discover Flanders here with the whole family.

Sint-Janshospitaal © Sarah Bauwens

St. John’s Hospital: a festive reopening

Culture-loving Bruges is celebrating this winter. The Museum St. John’s Hospital is reopening its doors. Over the past year, a new museum has been created within the walls of this 12th-century hospital. It will be a place that speaks to the heart. There is the world-famous collection of works by Hans Memling, a fascinating collection of old art, but also contemporary work by sculptor Berlinde de Bruyckere. The artistic part is nicely complemented by the history of this place: many stories and testimonies about hospitality, empathy, what it meant to be sick in the past and how we deal with farewell and mourning. Once again, the renewed St. John’s Hospital presents itself as a cultural beating heart, in the middle of historic Bruges.

Our winter attractions can’t be counted on the fingers of one hand because there is so much more than just the above. The art cities of Flanders welcome you with open arms for an inspiring and heart-warming visit. Welcome!

You may also like these stories