The Easter holidays this year officially take place between Saturday 3 and Sunday 18 April, however, they started one week earlier for school pupils, after the Consultative Committee decided to close schools and suspend classes in Belgium from Friday 26 March.
Although the weather isn’t expected to be as nice as during this period last year, the government has imposed fewer restrictions on travel, meeting people outdoors, and various activities.
So, whether you will be enjoying an extended holiday, or you are just taking a few days off, what can (and can’t) you do in the next two weeks (bearing in mind the restrictions and weather)?
The current measures allow people to meet outdoors in a group of a maximum of four people, however, face masks must be worn at all times, and social distancing must be respected if these people do not belong to your close contacts.
This does mean that, unlike last Easter, outdoor picnics and gatherings are permitted with more than one person.
During the Consultative Committee on 19 March, the government decided to postpone relaxations which were expected to offer some relief, and instead put a brake on the re-launch of cultural events with up to 50 people, meaning these will not be taking place during the Easter holidays.
Adults are allowed to exercise outdoors in groups of a maximum of four people. This includes walking or cycling. For those who like inline skating, Belgium’s flat roads are ideal. Or try the first inline skating route in the country, which recently opened between Genk and Hasselt.
A trip to your local swimming pool is also allowed, however, recreational areas will be closed and reservations must be made in advance (either online or by phone).
Subtropical swimming pools, wellness facilities, and fitness centres are closed, but you can book a private sauna for yourself and your cuddle contact, or go with the people from your household.
You can still go shopping during the holidays, but non-essential shops can only receive clients by appointment. If necessary, a maximum of one additional person can join, but only if both are part of the same household. Open-air markets will also remain open, but flea markets are not permitted.
Libraries in Belgium are also still open and do not require an appointment.
The postponement of the April relaxations put the brakes on the re-opening of amusement parks, however open-air attractions such as Mini-Europe in Brussels and Bokrijk in Genk are still opened.
Most zoos in Belgium, including the Zoo of Antwerp and Planckendael in Mechelen, will be open during the Easter Holidays, but only the outdoor parts. A spot must be reserved before visiting zoos.
The Pairi Daiza zoo in Hainaut is also open, as is its resort, where people can book an overnight stay at the park.
Most petting zoos are open to the public, but they have imposed extra measures such as wearing face masks and keeping distance. Check whether you need to reserve a spot before booking.
Museums will also be open during the Easter break, and some are even open on Easter Monday, but they all require people to make a reservation before visiting.
Students in higher education in Belgium will receive free entrance to 22 museums in and around Brussels during the Easter holidays as part of the “Free Museums for Students” project, which was set up in response to the isolation faced by young people during this crisis.
Unlike last Easter, no ban has been imposed on non-essential journeys within the country, which means day-trips or longer stays away from home are possible during this year’s break.
Hotels, holiday parks, and campsites remain open, but the restaurants will be closed, and in the holiday parks, the other common facilities will also remain closed.
In preparation, Belgian rail company SNCB has launched an ‘Easter plan’ to reduce overcrowding of trains, which will reduce the number of passengers on trains to the coast to 50%, will include crowd management at stations and states only window seats can be used on trains to tourist destinations (such as the coast).
A quick trip to France or the Netherlands will not be possible during the holidays due to the non-essential international travel ban.
It has been restricting movement in and out of Belgium since it was imposed on 27 January and was meant to be lifted on 1 April, before the Easter holidays.
Despite receiving criticism from the general public and from the European Commission, the government has extended it until 19 April, after the end of the Easter holidays. The Ministerial Decree published on 21 March confirmed the travel ban would be replaced from that date onwards.
Youth camps and extra-curricular activities for schoolchildren will remain possible exclusively during the Easter holidays, but in limited groups of no more than ten young people and without an overnight stay.
Children up to 13 years of age can train for sports both indoors or outdoors in groups of up to ten.
Outdoor playgrounds and skate parks are still open as well.
Lauren Walker & Lisa Poppe
The Brussels Times