News from Flanders

Green and leafy Flanders is beginning to turn distinctly Autumnal, as the cooler weather brings a vibrant red and orange flush to foliage in the region

With the festive season nearly before us, we take a short look at what is happening for the winter season. For cycling fans, there’s a wealth of cyclo-cross races poised at the ready this Autumn and not forgetting the poignant setting of Flanders Fields, as it remembers the end of the centenary of the Great War with a sombre but fitting memorial, as we honour the memory of this moving anniversary.

General News

Teseum Archeological Site – Tongeren, Limburg

For the first time, the Teseum Archeological Site in Tongeren, Limburg, will reveal 2,000 years of archaeology. Visitors can head underground to discover artefacts from no less than seven churches that lay buried below the earth of the Basilica of Our Lady. Tongeren was the first town of Belgium, and this unique new experience gives you a chance to glimpse its incredible history – dating back to ancient Roman constructions.

Africa Museum re-opens in Brussels Tevuren 9 December 2019

Originally inaugurated for the Brussels International Exhibition of 1897, Charles Girault, architect of the Petit Palais in Paris was called upon to design the Africa Museum, completed in 1910. In 2013, the Museum closed for an extensive renovation and rebuild. Some 5 years later, the building now has a new contemporary feel with the preservation of its original features. Access to the museum is now through a new visitor centre, which hosts a ticket office, shop, restaurant, picnic area for children and cloakrooms. Access to the original building is via an underground gallery where its permanent exhibition is housed. Its basement looks at the past, the present and the future prospects of the institution and the ground floor is divided up into five thematic zones, for the most part, dedicated to Central Africa. Its introduction of contemporary art is an important element in the renovation process. The total surface area accessible to the public has increased from 6,000 to 11,000m².

Winter Season in Flanders

Antwerp 8 December 2018 – 6 January 2019

Christmas market and ice-skating rink. Look out for the big wheel located on Steenplein too. Other winter seasons activities are detailed here.

Bruges 23 November 2018- 1 January 2019

Christmas market and ice-skating rink in the Markt square and Simon Stevinsplein. The city’s Ice Sculpture festival also takes place 24 November 2018 -6 January 2019.

Brussels 30 November 2018 – 6 January 2019

Brussels Christmas market, Ice skating rink and fairground rides.

Ghent 7 December 2018- 6 January 2019

Ghent’s winter season includes the usual Christmas market and ice-skating ring.

Leuven Winter Season 5 December 2018 – 5 January 2019

Leuven’s Christmas markets starts 12-23 December however, the festival offering includes food trucks, a winter garden, concerts, walks and some impressive lighting on its beautiful city hall.

Ostend 30 November 2018 – 6 January 2019

With the celebrations lasting over a month, Ostend offers an impressive array of festive cheer including its Winter in the Park, Ice Rink, Late Night Shopping, Christmas Village, and Fireworks. There’s even a bracing New Year swim in the north sea!

Mechelen 14-23 December 2018

Mechelen’s Christmas markets take place for a limited period (14-16 and 21-23 December 2018) only.

Ypres 23 December 2018- 2 January 2019

Ypres Christmas Market and its indoor ice rink will be located the main Market Square. Some 30 stalls and a fairground will dominate the beautiful illuminations of this small town by Flanders Fields

Art Culture and Heritage

The Ladies of the Baroque. Women Painters in 16th and 17th century Italy Museum of Fine Art – Ghent 20 October-20 January 2018

This special exhibition features around 50 paintings which shed light on the critical role of female painters in Italy from 1580-1680. Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1652) is probably one of the most well-known and famous female painters known at this time. Her work and those of her female contemporaries in Venice, Rome, Naples and Bologna competed admirably with their male counterparts. Many were the daughters, wives or sisters of well known male artists, and in some cases were actually nuns. Considering the strict rules imposed on women at the time, used their talents to display “female power” in its early stages. Many of the subjects of the paintings depicted characters which were in fact self portraits. Artemisia was probably the most successful of her female counterparts. This exhibition comes just after the closure of the Belgian female baroque artist Michaelina Wautier’s retrospective in Antwerp.

Jazz Bruges 16-18 November 2018

Jazz Bruges is a three-day jazz festival,. This year’s theme is entitled Crossing Cultures, Jazz Brugge will concentrate on a beautiful mix of influences from West and East and North and South, with big names as well as emerging talent. The festival opens with a W.E.R.F. label night, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this unique jazz label.

December Dance

Concertgebouw – Bruges 6-16 December 2018

‘Dancing Down Under’, is the theme of December Dance this year. During the festival, the best of the antipodian dance scene is featured, including new creations by internationally renowned choreographers (Garry Stewart, Lucy Guerin, Anouk van Dijk, Meryl Tankard, Ross McCormack, KIM Jae Duk en Stephanie Lake), but also projects and artists that have a unique voice (Chunky Move, Dancenorth, Serge Aimé Coulibaly, Marrugeku and The New Zealand Dance Company). Up-and-coming creators are also featured. (Nicola Gunn, Melanie Lane, James Batchelor, Luke George and Daniel Kok).

Gastronomy & Beer

Christmas Beer Festival 2018 Essen Heuvelhal 15-16 December 2018

A special festival which celebrates Christmas and Winter beers. Over the course of two days, visitors can taste over 200 different varieties. On arrival taster glasses are given to visitors. Entry is free but drink tokens need to be purchased at the event. Visitors can also purchase simple but delicious local food at the show. Essen is a small village, 35 miles north of Antwerp.


Autumn is the start of Belgian Cyclo cross season. With plenty of races to choose from here’s a short list of some of the best. The Sven Nys Classic, on New Year’s Day, is one of the highlights but for cycle cross fans eager to get to Flanders before then, here is a short list of what is coming up.

Koppenberg Cyclocross Melden – Oudenaarde 1 Nov 2018

The climbs of the Koppenberg form part of the exhilaration experienced each spring at the Tour of Flanders but with the start of the cyclocross season, these slopes are soon to provide the perfect venue for the initial stages of the Koppenberg cyclocross race. Attracting thousands of crowds, this uphill race, combined with often, inclement weather conditions, make this a slippery, cold assault course. Whether you’re a rider enduring this punishing route, or a spectator, this is one of the most popular cyclocross races in Belgium!

Cyclocross Koksijde, Koksijde – On the Belgian Coast 25 November 2018

Located in the popular seaside town of Koksijde, close to the French border by the town of De Panne, this cyclocross route offers lengthy stretches on the sand, Wide expansive beaches provide some flat terrain, whilst the nearby sand dunes provide much needed elevation.

Overijse – South East of Brussels, Overijse Cyclocross 9 December 2018

Famous for its particularly gruelling course, this cyclocross is known for its numerous crashes and bumps! It’s a race recently dominated by wins from its Dutch neighbours and was first held, as far back, as 1960.

Zonhoven Cyclocross, Zonhoven – Near Hasselt 16 December 2018

Usually held in October or November, the Zonhoven cyclocross race takes place later this year. For the last two years, the race has been won by a Dutchman and so all eyes will be on whether a Belgian victory will be able to be achieved this year.

Lotto 6 Days of Ghent race Citadel Park 13-18 November 2018

This cycling track event is literally exactly what it says in its title, namely, six days of cycling in Ghent! The perfect gathering of cycling enthusiasts with a varied programme, of cycling sport & entertainment in a great atmosphere.

The Great War

The Centenary of the Armistice in Flanders Fields

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the First World War officially came to an end with the signing of the Armistice. The guns fell silent and a war that lasted four years and four months, finally came to an end. This year, Flanders remembers the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice with a series of special events as well as permanent memorials in Flanders Fields.

Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate

Since 1928, buglers have sounded the Last Post under the arches of the Menin Gate memorial in remembrance of the fallen, at precisely 8 p.m. every evening. This moving ceremony has become part of the local daily life in Ypres, however to mark the Armistice, there will be a special Last Post on Sunday 11 November at 11 a.m. The ceremony will also be screened live from the Market Square.

Poppy Waterfall

The poppy will forever be an iconic symbol of remembrance. on 11 November St. Georges’ Memorial Church in Ypres will be inaugurating an impressive waterfall installation of 8,000 handmade poppies which will flow from the church tower into the garden. Built in 1927 to honour fallen British and Commonwealth soldiers, this Anglican church is itself a unique memorial to visit, providing a place of quiet reflection.

Field of Remembrance

In the build up to the Armistice remembrance events, The Royal British Legion has been planting thousands of artificial poppies in green spaces above the ramparts, next to the Menin Gate. Each bears a personal message of gratitude to the First World War generation. For those looking to leave their own message, there are poppies available to plant at The Royal British Legion shop on the Market Square.

To End all Wars, In Flanders Fields Museum – Ypres 27 October – 15 November 2019

Timed with the end of the centenary of the Great War approaching, the In Flanders Fields Museum takes a look at the real consequences of this great battle. The peace that ensued after the war finished ended up creating the cause of many later conflicts and so this exhibition, using unique objects and images tells that story. Drawing upon personal stories and factual documents, the temporary exhibition is both thought provoking and informative in its presentation.

Winter in Ypres Promotion 15 November 2018 – 30 March 2019

During the winter months, Visit Ypres will be offering a special overnight discount package for visitors staying in selected hotels Ypres at this time. A special discount booklet offering the following concessions will be offered:

  • A complementary drink on arrival in their hotel as well as a free aperitif in selected restaurants ordering a meal.
  • A complementary “nightwatch” walking tour.
  • A complementary coffee or local beer at the In Flanders Fields Museum cafe.

Discounts on the following attractions and museums:

  • In Flanders Fields entrance fee
  • The Hooge Crater Museum entrance fee
  • The Ypers Museum entrance fee
  • Saturday tours of the” De Kazematten’ Brewery for Saturday
  • A selection of participating shops and chocolatiers will also apply.

Hill 80 – Debrief and Findings Ypres 10 December 2019

In 2015 a team of archaeologists discovered an extraordinarily well-preserved trench fortress near the village of Wijtschate in Belgium. Wijtschate had been captured by the Germans at the end of 1914, and they built a formidable fortress on a ridge top known as ‘Hill 80’. In 1917, it was breached by the Allies during the Battle of Messines. Together with Peter Doyle, a leading British military historian, Simon Verdegem, lead archaeologist and German history expert, Robin Schäfer initiated a crowd-funded project with support from historian Dan Snow and comedian Al Murray. The aim of the project was to excavate the site and expose the battlefield that had remained virtually untouched since the end of the war. The secrets of this dig are due to be revealed in a special presentation of findings in London and Ypres.

To find out more about this, join us in London on Monday 12 November 2018 for a special press conference to discuss the Hill 80 project with Dr Peter Doyle, Simon Verdegem and two of the volunteers who contributed to the Crowd-funded project and joined the Dig. VISITFLANDERS will also be looking at how this and other remembrance events in the region, will continue to preserve the memory of this important period in our history. Buglers will continue to play the Last Post at Menin Gate for ‘in perpetuity’ whilst cemeteries and memorials will continue to be visited by thousands. Battlefield walks started in the region in 1919 with Talbot House creator, Tubby Clayton and this interest in the region, will continue to live on. Hill 80′s findings help impart the story about the importance of ​preserving history ‘for future generations’ as well as preaching a message of peace and reconciliation and Visit Flanders looks forward to sustain this interest beyond the end of the current centenary commemorations.

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