Bruges light trail shuts during weekend because of crowds


With little entertainment on offer this month, light festivals drew far too many people to city centres at the weekend

‘No need to hurry’

Both Bruges and Brussels had trouble controlling crowds at the weekend because of the popularity of their light festivals. The Winter Glow trail of light installations in Bruges shut down after 10,000 people showed up on Saturday evening (picture), and police were tasked with controlling the flow onto Grand Place in Brussels on Sunday.

Following a crowded Saturday evening, Bruges’s Winter Glow light festival shut down on Sunday. It will launch again this evening but will not be on display this Friday or Saturday, 4-5 December.

While mayor Dirk De fauw (CD&V) said that the parcours could handle up to 4,000 people at a time, more than twice that showed up on Saturday, the first weekend Winter Glow was open. The city is now working on making adjustment to the trail, creating a one-way flow and limited access to traffic.

But the installations will stay dark next Friday and Saturday, the mayor told VRT, as it coincides with the first weekend that shops are open since the current lockdown began on 1 November. “We are worried that the two events together will create too much of a surge of people,” he said. “We will monitor the situation and see what we can do after next weekend.”

De fauw reminded the public that Winter Glow runs until 10 January, “so there’s no need to hurry and come this week or next week”.

The same can be said for Brussels by Lights, which is spread out enough to prevent crowding – except for on the Grand Place (pictured). Part of the problem was that some people were expecting a sound and light show as in years past and so lingered in the square waiting for it.

There is no sound and light show this year, though ever-changing lights are projected on the square’s historical buildings. The 18-metre-high Nordmann fir is in its rightful place, as is the traditional nativity scene, and in the inner courtyard is a tree made of origami birds.

Police were sent to the scene on Saturday evening to ensure that everyone was wearing a facemask and practicing social distancing. On Sunday, police monitored access to the square so they could turn people away if it looked like it was becoming too crowded.

“For the coming days and weeks, we are planning to take additional measures,” said police spokesperson Olivier Slosse. “We are looking at ways to control the flow of the crowd and thereby ensure that there is enough space to practice social distancing.” Brussels by Lights lasts until 3 January.

Photos, from top: ©Maaike Tijssens/BELGA, courtesy Brussels-City