After the long lazy beach days, parties and excitement that come with the festive period, January can feel like the gloomiest month of the year. With most South Africans by now back at their work desks and kids back to school, 2023 can start to feel a bit daunting. The best way to beat the January blues? Book your next trip.
According to CCO of Air Belgium Emmanuel Menu, Belgium is just the place to be for South Africans looking for holiday inspiration
“Belgium is a great destination to visit regardless of the time of year. Each season offers its own advantages for travellers. Enjoying Belgium is not weather dependant. No matter when you choose to explore the delights of our beautiful country, there will be something unique and memorable to discover in each season,” he says.
Here are some monthly highlights to get some ideas on what activities to do in Belgium all year round. Get your planner out, as it might be time to begin organising your trip!
January – Tap your toes to jazz in Brussels
In Brussels, jazz lovers will be in their element during January. On various stages around the city, jazz fans can experience a range of talent from Belgium and Europe. Between Djangofolllies (the blues festival dedicated to Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt), the classic Flagey’s Brussels Jazz Festival and the River Jazz Festival, there are nearly three weeks packed with cool beats to heat the winter evenings.
February – Infuse your days with art
Although it’s the low season, visiting Belgium in February has its perks. Not only will you escape the crowds of tourists that flock to the country in summer, you can also enjoy the many museums in the country. Explore the Antoine Wiertz Museum, the Constantin Meunier Museum, the Oldmasters Museum, the Magritte Museum, the Fin-de-Siècle Museum and the Modern Museum. Exhibitions on offer to art lovers in February 2023 include Picasso & Abstraction, featuring 140 incredible works by the world’s most famous cubist.
March – Celebrate the end of winter Wallonia style
The month of March is a special time in Wallonia, when citizens gather to celebrate and say goodbye to winter. For centuries, it has been a tradition to drive away the winter spirits with huge bonfires that light up the sky – none more spectacular than the Bouge fire over the Mosane Valley in Namur. The majestic flames serve as a beacon for thousands of people who gather each year to participate in this ancient, culturally rich ceremony.
April – Take a canal tour in Bruges
For an unforgettable trip to Bruges, timing your visit for the driest month of the year is recommended. One of the most beautiful features Bruges has to offer is its canals. A half-hour cruise along these waterways will give you magnificent views and a rich understanding of the city’s history. Five landing points provide access to start your journey, allowing you to witness Bruges’ magical charm from a different perspective.
May – Experience a mediaeval parade
Looking for a taste of life in Europe in the High Middle Ages? On Ascension Day, forty days after Easter, Bruges hosts the Procession of the Holy Blood. Drawing in between 30,000 and 45,000 visitors each year, the pageant dates back to the thirteenth century. An incredible array of 1,700 performers sing and dance through elaborate processions transporting you back centuries.
June – Get ready for the music festival season
Summertime in Beligum means festivals of all kinds! The most popular is certainly Tomorrowland. Every year the music event comes to Boom and brings with it some of the biggest names in electronic music. Vibrant stage sets make this festival extra special – so don’t forget to buy your tickets early before they sell out in July! Other music events not to be missed include the Rock Werchter Festival and the Fête de la Musique. The Rock Werchter Festival is known for its big stars, while the Fête de la Musique takes place in Brussels and is completely free to the public.
July – Join petrol heads at the Belgian Grand Prix
There was speculation that the Belgian Grand Prix would be cancelled and replaced with a race in South Africa. It has since been confirmed that Formula 1 will (sadly for SA) return to Spa-Francorchamps in 2023. Watching on TV can never replicate that sense of atmosphere! Instead join the 350,000 spectators that are expected to watch Max Verstappen compete in the three-day event at this race track.
August – Relax in a seaside village
When August comes, many flock to the North Sea – 68 km of Belgian coastline offer much to discover. Koksijde can be an interesting escape from the sun-hungry beachgoers. Take a boat ride along the coast or admire the architecture of this small town. The Paul Delvaux Museum (in honour of the Belgian surrealist) is housed in a farmhouse and features one of the artist’s oil paintings as well as other earlier works – a great way to lose track of time.
September – Taste the best of Belgian beer
Beer lovers gather annually in Brussels to relish in the Belgian Beer Weekend. In early September, more than 400 Belgian beers are showcased on the Grand Place, along with beer tasting, parades and activities. The event kicks off with the iconic brewery floats and beer-filled wagons, rolling to the Fish Market in Brussels. Don’t be surprised to see many people dressed in traditional brewery costumes. You can also look forward to brass bands playing cheerful tunes echoing through the streets.
October – Go hiking and mushroom hunting in the Ardennes
Autumn brings an abundance of natural beauty to Belgium, especially the lush forests of the Ardennes. Think relaxing walks and bike rides to mushroom picking and watching the deer rut – it’s time to get outdoors. In October, you’ll find the most delicious mushrooms in the East Belgian forests, such as meadow mushrooms, porcini mushrooms and chanterelles. For mushroom novices, joining one of the many organised tours offered locally is recommended.
November – Hit the road for castle hunting
November is a good time to enjoy the remnants of autumn foliage and explore Belgium by car. Since there are more castles per capita than in France (more than 3,000), the country is perfect for a day trip visiting several castles. An excellent place to start is the Castle of Freÿr in Wallonia. It has been in the same family for over 20 generations.
December – Experience the magic of a Christmas market
When December rolls around, Belgium puts on its glad rags and celebrates Christmas in a unique way, thanks to the fusion of French, Dutch and German influences. There is no better place than the Grand Place in Brussels to start the festive season! The heart of the Belgian capital is lit up with countless colourful lights and is accompanied every hour by musical performances that include a nativity scene, food stalls and choirs. As the festival spreads across the historic sites, you can also take advantage of an ice rink, big wheel and 200 market stalls in the magnificent squares. The best thing is that Christmas markets can be found across Belgium from the larger cities to the smaller villages, so you can soak up the Christmas cheer wherever you are in this beautiful country.
From January to December, this is just a glimpse of all the sights and experiences Belgium has to offer. Of course, it can be challenging to even consider booking an international trip in the midst of Janua-worry. Luckily, Air Belgium has a great special that will allow you to get the lowest fare for your trip in 2023. Book your trip before 13 February for travel until 25 October 2023 and you can save up to R1 800. Simply make a booking on airbelgium.com or go to your trusted travel agency to benefit from this great promotion.