It has been a summer to remember thanks to gorgeous weather and glorious football. And it’s not over yet. The city keeps the summer beat going right up until the end of August. Here are six ways you can end the long hot summer like a local.
HIDDEN CONCERTS ONLY LOCALS KNOW ABOUT
It’s easy to miss those little events in Brussels that only locals know about, like the Hide and Seek Festival organised by Muziekpublique. Held in unknown, astonishing venues, this under-the-radar festival features a cosmopolitan mix of world music world.
During the day, you can sign up for a guided tour through a strange, forgotten place in the city. It could be a museum no one visits or an abandoned sculpture workshop where gravestones were once carved.
The programme this year includes an experimental Czech clarinet quartet performing in a 1940s university lab for testing high-tension cables, a band from Madagascar playing inside the Brussels Royal Yacht Club, and an acoustic concert by Ethiopian singer and dancer Minyeshu Kifle Tedla in the lounge of the abandoned Art Nouveau Hotel Hannon.
The Hide and Seek Festival also features a concert of Caribbean music performed during a tram journey, and an acoustic guitar concert in a hidden gin distillery in the heart of Brussels.
DISCOVER THE VAUXHALL VIBES
It used to be a car park. Now Vauxhall is slowly being rediscovered by locals. Hidden in a corner of the Brussels Park, this romantic open-air concert venue was built in the early 20th century. Abandoned for many years, it was recently restored to its original state by Brussels municipality.
It is still looking for a purpose, but several creative groups are taking over the place on summer weekends to show what can be done. The programme includes brunches, art workshops for kids, piano concerts, open-air films and board games festivals. Held on weekends until 19 August.
WHERE TO TAKE YOUR KIDS BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS AGAIN
Brussels can be a fun place to do things with kids in the summer. The city has some great parks with playgrounds, like little Parc Tenbosch in Ixelles, Parc Josaphat in Schaerbeek and the Abbaye de Rouge Cloître site on the edge of the forest.
You don’t even need to panic if the weather turns bad because the city has several child-friendly museums, like the Natural Science Museum with its thrilling dinosaur collection, and the charming Musée du Jouet.
It’s also fun to take your kids on a hunt for the best waffle or the tastiest ice cream in town. As you walk the streets, you may well come across a street musician or a roaming performer to hold their attention for a while.
You can find dozens of ideas in Kidsgazette, a fun magazine for parents living in Brussels. Published in French, Dutch and English, it’s full of inspiring ideas for activities you can do with children, with information on festivals, workshops, exhibitions and even urban farms.
ELECTRIC BUSES CREATE A BUZZ
The city transport authority has introduced seven new electric mini buses to link the lower town to the upper town. The new bus 33 is designed to hum silently through the city’s narrow cobbled streets so you can get all the way from Dansaert to Avenue Louise in just 20 minutes. Try it out when you have guests in town to show them some of the city’s sites, like the Bourse and the Sablon.
ESCAPE THE ASPHALT JUNGLE
As Brussels slowly gets to grips with its traffic madness, the radical folk at Cinema Nova have decided to take over several urban spaces blighted by cars. This month, they are hosting a short season of open-air films in spots that are still plagued by car traffic.
The plan is to take over Place Lehon in Schaerbeek to screen the Algerian film La Place, followed by an event under the Herrmann-Debroux viaduct. Here film fans can gather to watch Ursula Meier’s Home, which shows the disruption to family life caused by a new motorway.
SUMMER CONCERTS UNDER THE TREES
Launched almost 30 years ago, Boterhammen in het Park and Feeërieen are two festivals that somehow slip under the radar. Maybe it’s the Dutch names that put some people off – the first means “Sandwiches in the Park” and the second means “Fairy Tales”.
It’s worth catching these week-long festivals of free concerts that mark the end of the summer season. Held in the Brussels Park, Boterhammen offers lunchtime concerts put together by the Flemish music venue Ancienne Belgique while Feeërieen concerts are held in the evening under trees lit with strings of lights.
The eclectic mix of Belgian and international music includes London keyboard musician Kamaal Williams playing cool electronic jazz on the same evening as British jazz trio Mammal Hands. No booking necessary. Just turn up on the day.
By Derek Blyth
The Brussels Times