Tis the season: Brighten up the winter with one of these holiday events

Summary

Looking to get into the spirit of things? Check out one – or several – of these events, which will make your days merry and your nights bright

Winter Floridylle

Meise Botanic Garden is beautiful year round, but for a few choice evenings every year it turns into a fanciful forest bathed in a soft glow of lights.

During Winter Floridylle, trails of glittering bulbs lead you through an audio-visual experience, peppered with live music. Part of the Botanic Garden is an old farmstead, and here you’ll find a winter village with food trucks. 20 December to 4 January, Nieuwelaan 38, Meise


BACH'S CHRISTMAS ORATORIO

“Shout for joy, exult!” insists Weihnachtsoratorium, Bach’s famous piece that tells the story of the birth of Jesus. The Collegium Vocale Gent’s choir and orchestra provides the complex polyphony, resounding arias and soft chorales for this seasonal masterpiece. If you’ve never heard it, don’t hesitate to catch one of these performances in Antwerp, Brussels, or Ghent. 12-20 December


WINTER GLOW

Flanders offers an endless number of Christmas markets from which to choose, but Bruges has laid on some new additions this year. Winter Glow comes with the traditional Christmas markets on Markt and Simon Stevinplein as well as illuminated trails and a cosy hub in Minnewater park. Two light trails start, most conveniently, at the train station. One heads in the direction of ’t Zand, home to the Concertgebouw, and the other towards Minnewater. Atmospheric lighting and patterns shining on facades and trees make Bruges even more magical, if such a thing were possible. At Minnewater is a new lakeside bar and a synthetic skating rink. Indeed, synthetic rinks are a thing, an eco-friendly alternative to ice. Until 5 January, across Bruges


LIGHT FESTIVAL KNOKKE-HEIST

The coast’s northernmost city introduced a new light festival last year to the delight of 140,000 visitors. It was centred around the story of The Little Prince, who returns this year to lead visitors through the next part of his story. A three-kilometre parcours of magnificent planetary light installations should appeal to all ages. The breath-taking installations have been created by Belgian and international artists. The city’s shopping district also gets in on the act, with holiday décor featuring glittering celestial objects. 7-8 & 14-15 December, 21 December to 5 January 17.00-21.00


ANTWERP FOREST

Along with its annual Christmas Market – spread across the entire city centre – its spectacular Hanging Winter Garden, the interactive Wish Wall and Joe Christmas House’s rooftop concerts, Winter in Antwerp throws a couple of new attractions into the mix. So take to Handschoenmarkt (yes, that’s the actual name of this square) in front of the city’s majestic cathedral to walk through a fairy-tale forest, complete with tree sculptures. Mystical lights, atmospheric music and the smell of pine make this a must-do during Antwerp’s year-end festivities. The port city has also added a VR dome and an Escape Room (save Antwerp from a deadly cold front) on Steenplein. 7 December to 5 January, across Antwerp


WINTER WONDERS

Brussels’ Christmas market just gives and gives and gives. Winter Wonders has hundreds of stalls with food and gifts, street after street of light displays, an ice skating rink and fun fair. A light show plays off the Grote Markt’s glorious architecture and 22 metre-high Christmas tree every 30 minutes. A high-tech dome features audio-visual performances, films and concerts. Parades are a regular occurrence, some of them quite spectacular. Submergence is an immersive walk-through light experience on Kunstberg. There’s a Dream Space, an Ice Monster and a Kindness Machine. And Winter Pop sees smaller versions of all this sprouting up in other neighbourhoods in the capital. Phew. 29 November to 5 January, across Brussels


BPHO CHRISTMAS CONCERT

It isn’t Christmas without a Christmas concert, and what better orchestra to provide it than the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra? The programme includes Tschaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no 1, operettas by Strauss, Brahms, Verdi and Rossini and El Golpe by Flanders’ own composer Dirk Brossé. The concert is conducted by David Navarro Turres and features pianist Daniel Blumenthal. 14 December 20.00, Brussels Conservatory, Regentschapsstraat 30


JUNGLE BOOK LIGHT FESTIVAL

One of Flanders’ most popular holiday entertainments, this event sees larger-than-life light installations at Antwerp Zoo. From the makers of the previous China Light Zoo comes a brand new theme this year: The Jungle Book. The story of Mowgli, Baloe, Bagheera and the rest of the familiar characters is told through colourful, monolithic installations, all fantastically lit from within. Added bonus: In this version, Mowgli is a girl. Artists from China have created the entire thing. While inspiration was taken from that country’s light festivals, there’s nothing like this in China, making it unique in the world. Fire pits, food stands and of course the zoo’s usual residents complete the atmospheric picture. 29 November to 12 January, Antwerp Zoo, Koningin Astridplein 20


WINTER IN OSTEND

A light tunnel encases shoppers in Ostend’s Adolf Buylstraat, but it gets really wild four times a day when a spectacular light show with music takes over the street. If you’re in the coastal city, don’t miss it, even if you have to tear yourself away from the rest of what Ostend has to offer: A sublimely located Christmas market in Leopoldpark (with twinkly lights lining the picturesque fountain pond), Santa’s House (where the man himself will be on hand to hear kids’ wish lists), a Christmas Village in the lovely Vissersplein (with free shows and music) and the Montmartre Winter Kick-Off, a free DJ street party to welcome the official Christmas vacation period. 29 November to 5 January, light show daily at 16.30, 17.30, 18.30 & 19.30


SCALA CHRISTMAS CONCERT

No less hip now than when it became world famous 18 years ago for covering alt-rock classics like “Creep” and “I Think I’m Paranoid”, Scala is on stage this month. The all-female choir from Aarschot puts on, as you might imagine, an unforgettable Christmas concert, complete with its new string orchestra and soloist Free Souffriau. 21-29 December, across Flanders


KERSTMAGIE

The people behind the Historalia musical productions that take place at Merode castle in the summer have concocted a brilliant plan: Kit out historical castles in Christmas cheer and ensure that children will want to visit them with their parents by putting on a family holiday show. It’s called Kerstmagie and is a parcours through castles and their grounds across Flanders, where a jovial cast of characters play out the exploits of Santa, elves and families of yesteryear. There are five different shows in six castles, and Christmas cookies are guaranteed at all of them. Head’s up: dialogue is all in Dutch. 7-23 December, across Flanders


WINTERVUUR

Antwerp’s brilliant nomadic winter festival is in Dam this year, a very diverse neighbourhood in the north of the port city. Festivities are centred at the Lobroek dock this year, host to circus acts, theatre, live music and fire, lots of fire. Wintervuur is free to access, but some of the shows require a ticket. The goal behind Wintervuur is to get residents to explore parts of the city they don’t know very well – and it works. 28 December to 4 January, Lobroekdok, Denderstraat & Slachthuislaan, Antwerp

Photos, from top: Courtesy Botanic Garden Meise; ©Foppe Schut; ©Matthias Desmet/Visit Bruges; ©Light Art Festival Knokke-Heist, Light Art Collection; Courtesy Stad Antwerpen; Courtesy Winter Wonders; ©Liliboas/GETTY; ©Jonas Verhult/Antwerp Zoo; Courtesy Stad Oostende; ©Gert Daemen/Scala; ©Wim Smets/Kerstmagie; ©Jasper Leonard/Wintervuur