What’s on in Brussels over the Month of August.
If you’re thinking about a city break in Brussels during the month of August, there’s a few big events happening both in the city and a short distance away.
First and foremost, if you’re a fan of royal palaces, then make your way to Brussels’ Palais Royal, open daily from 10.30am until 4.30pm until 7 September (except Mondays). One of the most beautiful buildings in the Belgian capital, commissioned by King Leopold II, the palace stands opposite the Parliament building in the Parc Royal and serves as the principal offices of the Belgian King and Queen. Over the summer months, visitors are able to visit a number of rooms within the palace, including the Mirror Room with its famous Heaven of Delight ceiling covered by the wing cases of 1.4 million Thai jewel beetles. Entrance is free.
Running between 8 – 17 August is the Brussels Summer Festival, 10 days of music taking place on the Place des Palais, Place du Musée and Mont des Arts. First launched in 2002, this event has seen a wealth of big names take to the stage in Brussels, and this year’s event proves to be no different with well-known artists and bands such as Suede, Texas, James Arthur and Eddie and the Hot Rods headlining the bill. What’s more, festival goers will benefit from reduced entrance prices at many of the city’s top attractions including the Musée Royaux des Beaux Arts and the Musical Instruments Museum, housed in the former Old England department store. See http://www.bsf.be/en/ for more details.
Over the weekend of 15 – 17 August meanwhile, Brussels’ Grand Place plays host to the magnificent biennial flower carpet that will cover the cobbles of this magnificent square. The celebratory theme of this edition (its 19th) is the 50th anniversary of Turkish immigration into Belgium for in July 1964, Belgium and Turkey signed a bilateral convention, shortly followed by the arrival of the first Turkish workers. And paying homage to the Turkish tradition of carpet making, this year’s carpet will comprise 1800 square metres of begonias arranged to reflect the geometric patterns of Turkey’s famous ‘kilims’.
Meticulously designed and planned in advance, the begonias will be pre-packed into square metres of rolled turf (approximately 300 flowers in each), then slotted into place like a jigsaw puzzle in a process that takes less than four hours to complete. The arranging of the flowers will take place during the afternoon and evening of Thursday, 14 August, with the grand unveiling at 10pm that evening. From then on, the flower carpet (tapis de fleurs) will be available to view from 9am until 11pm on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with special sound and light shows taking place at 10pm, 10.30pm and 11pm.
The following weekend (22 – 24 August) sees the Formula One juggernaut come to town with the annual Belgian Grand Prix taking place at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, a 1½-hour drive southeast of Brussels set amidst the Ardennes forest. Accessible by rail from Brussels (with a change in Verviers), the historic town of Spa dates back to Roman times and is renowned for its hot mineral springs and healing waters, its very name today eponymous with modern-day health resorts promoting relaxation and general wellbeing. Boosted in the early 16th century with a visit by Henry VIII, by the 18th and 19th centuries, members of European royalty, statesmen and the aristocracy flocked to Spa to take the waters, earning the town its ‘Café of Europe’ nickname.
Thanks to a steady stream of British visitors, including the Duke of Wellington, Benjamin Disraeli and James Joyce, the town took on a distinctly British feel, with street names such as the Route de Balmoral and the Hotel Britannique (which became the German headquarters during World War I) paying homage to its British guests. With its beautiful and grand 19th-century architecture, together with its famous pouchons or springs dotted about the town, Spa retains a very special and unique feel of yesteryear as you wander through its streets and parks. Today, Spa is equally famed for its thermes as it is the birthplace of fictional character Hercule Poirot and the home of the Belgian Grand Prix.
Be sure to enjoy a stroll through the lovely 18th-century Parc des Sept Heures, so named after the many visitors to Spa who took an evening stroll through the tree-lined paths after taking the waters. Here, you’ll find the tourist office and the iron and glass walkway known as the Galerie Leopold, beautifully decorated with glass lanterns. Other must-sees include the many pouhons, including the most famous named after Peter the Great following his visit in the 16th century; the casino, considered the oldest in Europe, if not the world; and the Villa de la Reine Marie-Henriette, wife of King Leopold II, today housing the police station, local law court and two museums.