Flowertime – a festival in Brussels centre – brought around 18,000 visitors to the city’s Grand Place and city hall over the mid-August Bank Holiday weekend, reports Belgian news agency Belga.
This 5th edition of the festival was themed around Belgium’s Surrealist artists. Nearly 25 teams of florists from Belgium and all over the world, including Indonesia, Portugal, and Ukraine, decorated rooms in the city hall with displays celebrating the city’s association with famous proponents of the avant-garde movement, such as Magritte, whose works merge dream and reality.
The juxtaposition of flowers, strange objects and dreamlike images created “a captivating and enchanting atmosphere,” explains Pieter Toebaert, General Manager of Floraliën and Artistic Director of Flowertime.
2. Visitor numbers down?
Though visitor numbers were not as great as the last edition of the festival in 2019, organisers stated they were satisfied with the turnout. Notably, 80% of tickets were purchased by people who do not live in Belgium, which is in line with recent figures released by Brussels Airport showing a mass exodus of Brussels residents from the city during the summer.
The Brussels tourist board has pointed out that the city welcomed close to its 2019 record number of foreign guests, with the Belgian capital proving a particular hit with Spanish and Italian tourists.
Commenting on his group’s earnings figures, Tui chief executive Sebastian Ebel has recently said he expects heatwaves and wildfires to push tourists towards northern European destinations going forward, including the Nordic countries, the Netherlands and Belgium.
3. Free flower trail
In addition to the paid-for Flowertime entry to the city hall’s exhibits (and the chance to climb its tower for a panoramic view over the European capital), a free flower trail around central Brussels was also available for the first two weeks of August.
“Brussels in Bloom” first blossomed during the pandemic and was so successful it is now in its third season. A giant pipe-shaped object blooming not with smoke but with flowers and recalling Magritte’s famous “non-pipe” was placed in city hall’s courtyard. In another nod to the father of Belgian surrealism, the festival’s strapline was “This is not a city hall”.
4. Elephant convoy
Among the other elements of the trail, a group of nine colossal decorated wooden elephants, complete with floral skin and footprints could be viewed in Grand Place itself – on loan from the Verbeke Foundation’s contemporary art collection in East Flanders.
Due to the scale of the gigantic elephant figures, after being dismantled on Tuesday they would need to be “brought back in a special convoy at night, when the streets of Brussels are empty,” said Richard Pontin, one of the directors of the organisation responsible for the Flower Carpet and Flowertime, which alternate on even and odd-numbered years respectively.