In summer, the Benelux turns into one big festival ground. Whether it is music, food, books, theatre or something totally different you crave: the region hosts events galore. Furthermore, it is also game season for royalty watchers. Pay the Belgian royal palace a visit and spot the monarch himself as part of the national holiday celebrations.
TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS | TOP PHOTO © VISIT FLANDERS, TOMORROWLAND
Over het IJ Festival
5 – 14 July, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
The era in which theatre only happened in empty and sterile black boxes lies behind us. On the riverside of the IJ, the Over het IJ Festival gathers the best location theatre pieces from the Netherlands and beyond. Enjoy performances at improvised stages on the docks, at the beach or even inside an industrial container.
Over Het IJ Festival. Photo: Moon Saris
European Championship Sand Sculpting
9 July – 31 October, Zandvoort, the Netherlands
Where we, already, struggle while constructing a simple sandcastle, some are able to curve the wildest shapes out of a pile of sand. At the European Championship Sand Sculpting, the continents’ finest artists compete in moulding the most impressive statue of sand. This year, Leonardo Da Vinci’s work is their source of inspiration, raising the bar sky-high. The contest itself only lasts for a week, yet, the creations stay afoot until the end of October.
European Championship Sand Sculpting. Photo: Zandvoort
10 – 14 July, Dour, Belgium
Despite its alternative line-up with metal, reggae, ska and post-rock, Dour is Belgium’s fourth-largest festival. Spread over nine stages, you can see your most obscure heroes in action and discover tomorrow’s underground icons. Surrender yourself to the beats of Europe’s warmest mega festival.
Dour. Photo: Olivier Bourgi
Nuit des Merveilles
13 July, Bettembourg, Luxembourg
For one night a year, the usually quiet streets of Bettembourg turn into an enchanting open-air theatre. Europe’s finest clowns, acrobats and entertainers of all sorts gather to spruce up the night. Don’t come prepared! Just arrive and let the madness guide you through the rabbit hole.
Dour. Photo: Caroline Coolen
19-21 & 26-28 July, Boom, Belgium
Who hasn’t heard of Tomorrowland?! Just 14 years ago, the festival organised its humble first edition. Today, they sell the most desired festival tickets in the world. Spread over two weekends, the globe’s best DJs give it their all on no less than 17 jaw-dropping stages.
Tomorrowland. Photo: Visit Flanders, Tomorrowland
19 – 28 July, Ghent, Belgium
Alongside München’s Oktoberfest and Valencia’s Las Fallas, de Gentse Feesten is one of the biggest city festivals in Europe. For ten days, international gastronomy, a myriad of musical genres and no less than 900 theatrical performances find their spot in Ghent’s city centre. Discover how well the Flemish can party during this celebratory marathon.
Gentse Feesten. Photo: Stad Gent
Belgian National Holiday
21 July, Brussels, Belgium
On 21 July, the Belgians celebrate the 188th anniversary of their nation. In Brussels, that means military parades, celebrations on all the squares and streets and a mesmerising firework show. The national parliament will also open its doors to the public and the entire royal family leaves the palace for the day to celebrate along with the rest of the nation.
Belgian National Holiday. Photo: visit.brussels, Eric Danhier
Visit the Royal Palace
22 July – 3 September, Brussels, Belgium
Although its heavy wooden doors usually remain closed to the public, the king, traditionally, invites the nation to his palace for one month each summer. The entrance is free and allows you into the lush salons and lavish rooms of the estate. The monarch’s bedroom, you won’t spot, given that the palace is only a working space for the Royals. They reside in another palace right outside of the city.
Royal Palace. Photo: visit.brussels, Jean Paul Remy
27 July – 4 August, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
What is Amsterdam Pride if not a celebration of equality and tolerance? Waving their rainbow banners, the Dutch LGBT+ community takes over the city while partying and parading. On 3 August, the canal parade floats through the city’s liquid arteries. The long procession of colourful boats always manages to bring thousands of spectators to the quayside.
Pride. Photo: Jeroen Ploeger
Deventer book market
4 August, Deventer, the Netherlands
Whoever says that print is dead, has never been in Deventer. At the waters of this historic city, they host the biggest book market in Europe. 850 stalls sell their paper treasures, good for a literary shopping spree of over six kilometres. The fair opens at half past nine, yet, at seven in the morning, the first book junkies already roam through the market, hoping to lay their hands on a hidden pearl before the day’s book craze kicks in.
Deventer Book Market. Photo: NBTC