A rich history of art and architecture, opulent culinary traditions, scenic towns, picturesque canals – Belgium's best bits can be enjoyed in any season, so long as you bring a raincoat along.
The best times to visit this small corner of Europe are spring and fall, when the weather is mild, and the sights are not overcrowded. These are also the perfect times for nature lovers, who will appreciate spring’s flower fields and fall colors in the forests of the Ardennes.
Here's a monthly guide to what to expect from Belgium throughout the year, and the best things to do, helping you choose the best time for your visit.
The high season (July–August) is the best time for music festivals, beach days, and summer bars
As the hottest months of the year, July and August see locals flock to the coast to escape the summer heat, which can get quite intense in densely-packed cities such as Brussels, where temperatures can rise to 38°C (100°F). Tourists still fill the historic centers of Ghent, Antwerp, and Bruges which are more bearable during the warmest months with rivers, canals, and harbors to keep them cool.
In peak season, Belgium's North Sea beaches come to life, while cities see the opening of guinguettes (summer bars) galore, and parks brim with outdoor cultural programs. A jam-packed music festival calendar sees events take place all over the country.
The shoulder seasons (April–June & September–October) are the best times for lovers of nature's colors
During the shoulder seasons, crowds and prices plummet. With mild days and cool nights, spring and fall are the best times to visit Belgium. In spring, cities wake up from their winter sleep and cafés and restaurant owners start putting chairs on the sidewalks to greet the first sun rays. The masses take over restaurant terraces, parks fill up, and the concert season is in full swing. There’s promise in the air as the countryside bursts into bloom, and magnolia and cherry trees beautify urban scenes.
The fall foliage shows its best side in the rolling hills of the Ardennes, where the receding summer heat provides perfect conditions for hiking and mushroom hunting. September, when the art season restarts after the summer break, is a perfect month for culture vultures to visit.
The low season (November–March) is the time for foodies and Christmas lights
The winter months are relatively cold, quiet and grey, but snow and freezing temperatures are rare in Belgium. Crowds and prices drop again, except during the Binche carnival in February, and December, when cities lure in travelers with Christmas markets, mulled wine and lovely light decorations. Despite the sometimes unpleasant and rainy weather, the off-season is a great time for low-budget city trips, museum visits without waiting in line, cozy restaurant meals, and warming mugs of Belgian hot chocolate.
January is quiet and budget-friendly
January is probably the quietest month of the year, as the country recovers from Christmas and New Year’s festivities and life slowly gets back to normal. It's a perfect time if you’re traveling on a budget and want to avoid the tourist masses.
Key events: BRAFA (Brussels), New Year's Dive (Ostend), Brussels Jazz Festival
Carnival arrives in February
February is carnival season, especially in the Belgian countryside. The most famous celebrations take place in Binche near Charleroi, which is home to one of Europe’s oldest street carnivals, with roots in the Middle Ages. Expect over-the-top parades and costumes paired with boozy party vibes.
Key events: Carnival in Binche, Bright Brussels
March brings people out into the streets
Prices and visitor numbers are low, and travelers get to witness Belgium waking up from hibernation at the first signs of spring. Locals come out en masse to soak up the sun, even at low temperatures. Cafés and restaurants take over the sidewalks again, and giant bonfires all over Wallonia celebrate the end of winter.
Key events: Giant fire of Bouge (Namur), Festival Anima (Brussels), Klarafestival (Brussels)
April brings plenty of culture and blooms
April is a busy month in Belgium and a fantastic time to visit. The magical Hallerbos forest beams with fields of bluebells, the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken open their doors to the public for a limited amount of time, and the international art world meets at the annual Art Brussels fair (hotel rates rise that weekend). At Easter, you’ll find a lot of locals at the seaside or staging outdoor egg hunts.
Key events: Art Brussels, Tour of Flanders, Bruges Beer Festival, Floralia (Groot-Bijgaarden Castle)
May is the start of the summer bar season
France’s culture of guinguettes – wooden drinks stalls in city parks – has taken Belgium by storm, and with summer just around the corner, these refreshment stands open up again in May, making for a convivial holiday atmosphere. In picturesque Bruges, the impressive Procession of the Holy Blood attracts history buffs with a parade that goes back to the 14th century.
Key events: Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels), Brussels Jazz Weekend, 20km of Brussels, Procession of the Holy Blood (Bruges)
Summer warms things up in June
With the summer heat not yet at its peak, sunny June is a good choice for hikers, cyclists and fans of canal cruises and other outdoor activities. The cultural calendar is crammed with open-air events from the Fête de la Musique, held at various venues, to a reenactment of the battle of Waterloo featuring up to 800 actors.
Key events: Fête de la Musique, Ommegang of Brussels, Ducasse de Mons, BRIFF (Brussels)
July is peak season in Belgium
While it’s the high season for tourists, Belgians go on vacation too, resulting in more parking spaces and a refreshing lack of traffic jams in the cities. The coast will be swarming with sunbathers and kite surfers during the hottest month of the year, which also constitutes the pinnacle of the internationally famous Belgian music festival season.
Key events: Tomorrowland (Boom), Dour Festival, Belgian National Day, Rock Werchter, Cactus Festival (Bruge), Gentse Feesten (Ghent), Les Ardentes (Liège)
August sees busy beaches and boisterous festivals
The festival season continues, and seaside towns and tourist attractions remain extremely busy. A popular water-based activity away from the coast is a kayak tour down the Lesse River, leading you through the lush green forests of the Ardennes.
Key events: Jazz Middelheim (Antwerp), Procession of the Giants (Ath), Pukkelpop (Hasselt), Medieval Festival of Bouillon, Outremeuse festival
September sees a calmer vibe across the country
Back to school vibes pervade as the country wakes up from its summer daze and slowly goes back to normal. Brussels Gallery Weekend kicks off the art season with a bang as the festival season lingers.
Key events: Brussels Gallery Weekend, Festival of Wallonia, Belgian Beer Weekend (Brussels), Brussels Design September
Fall colors shine in October
If you’re lucky, you'll get a golden October, a time to marvel at the Ardennes’ fall foliage drenched in sunlight and shimmering in reds and yellows. This is the perfect time for mushroom hunting, or enjoying seasonal hearty dishes in one of Belgium's many high-quality restaurants.
Key events: Ghent Film festival; La Foire de Liège
November is quiet and cold, and people stay indoors
Mostly cold and grey, November is a quiet month, best enjoyed indoors. Go museum-hopping, take in a live gig, or enjoy a craft beer in one of Belgium's countless breweries. A bowl of carbonade, a Flemish stew with beef and beer, or a cup of hot Belgian chocolate will always warm you up!
Key events: Armistice Day in Ypres
December sees spirits pick up for Christmas
Cold and wet December is brightened up by Christmas markets galore, plus ice skating rinks and mulled wine. Although it’s off-season, the streets are buzzing, and Bruges appears especially magical at this time of year.
Key events: Plaisirs d’hiver (Brussels), The Christmas Village (Liège), New Year's Eve