The Bruges summer festival season promises to be a hot one this year, with a line-up of events –including music, dance, light installations, and film – that will once again prove this unique medieval city of entertainment knows how to get into the sunshine groove. Whether its discovering a neighbourhood bar, the city’s seaside vibes, or a formal event at Concertgebouw, Bruges has you covered this holiday.
1. Feest in ‘t Park
The season’s overture is completely free and takes place on 24 June in the beautiful oasis that is Minnewater Park, near Bruges station. Partnered by global sustainability NGOs, this year’s festival in the park focuses on the importance of the planet’s water. As well as a market, a language carousel and a cook-off, among the daytime acts and events are performances from Los Guantanameros and Balinese dancers Dwi Bhumi. The evening will welcome the London Afrobeat Collective, and French reggae act Jahneration will headline.
2. MA Festival
The MA Festival (3-13 August) has already got people talking and it’s no wonder. The smartly curated programme blows the stuffiness out of the idea of classical music, bringing together musical bike rides, rare outings of early music at the magnificent Concertgebouw, and contemporary re-imaginings. My pick of the festival will be on 12 August at the barn Ter Doest Abbey Bar, where music from the Middle Ages played live by the Rubens Rosa ensemble will be transformed into a contemporary remix on the spot. Make sure you investigate different ticketing options such as day passes, as well as making a note of the free events.
3. Pub Sounds
On Wednesdays from early July through August, the “Pub Sounds” or Klinkende Kroegen programme will be bringing Bruges’s café scene to life with a series of performances and DJ nights. It’s a chance to experience some upcoming musicians as well as get to know some less obvious locations in Bruges, such as popular village café In de Reisduif, where DJ Harm and a group of young musicians who met at MUDA art school will be playing on 26 July. See the calendar.
4. Move your legs at Benenwerk
The return of the “Legwork” or Benenfest means a marathon of music events taking place at 12 different locations across the city on Saturday 12 August. A fantastic range of dance initiation sessions mean there’s no excuse not to give it a go. Strong South-American and West Indian vibes will be at play, with latino and dancehall stages at Astridpark, and tango at the old Belfort cattlemarket. Echoes of Belgian popcorn sounds will be heard at Owla, a former Church turned event space where you can soak up blues, soul and rock ’n roll. Check out the full programme.
5. Lichtfeest at Lissewege
One of the best things about summer in northern Europe is the chance at last to enjoy sultry evenings as the sun goes down and on Friday 19 and Saturday 20 August, you can do so against a magical backdrop of sound and light. Lissewege is a northern neighbourhood of Bruges and a typical ‘polder’ village on reclaimed land. Its Lichtfeest programme of installations and performances takes in nine locations over a 1.7 km trail.
6. Films on the Beach
The “Film op het Strand” program offers eight Thursdays full of great open-air movies, starting on July 6 and ending on August 24. The programme has something for all tastes, from family-friendly Minions 2 to heist movie The Duke and the Tina Turner biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It?. The kids’ showings happen at 2 and 4 pm, while the evening film starts at 8 pm.
In the words of Franky Demon, chairman of Brugge Plus: “Film on the Beach has been an unmissable part of Bruges’ summer culture for more than 15 years. This year, together with Youth Film in Bruges and The Republic, we have put together a fascinating selection. An excellent mix that builds a bridge between culture and nature on the beautiful beach of Zeebrugge.”