From convivial Christmas markets in winter to colorful blossoms come spring, Brussels changes through the seasons. Though many locals herald the coming of the (usually) warm summer months, when beer gardens are at their sunniest and the streets are bustling, there are plenty of pros for skipping the crowds and planning a visit outside of peak season. Here’s our guide to the best time to visit Brussels.

A group of people relax on the floor of the main square in Prague. Many other groups of people sit around them. The sun is shining and historic white buildings line the square.
There's something special about summer in Brussels © Jonathan Smith / Lonely Planet

High Season: June to August

Best time for festivals and events

Summer is many Bruxellois’ favorite season, and it’s clear why: festivals and events every week, 10pm sunsets, and the ability to eat, drink, and make merry on outdoor terraces without a blanket... most of the time.

The downside? Crowds. Though Brussels doesn’t see as many visitors as neighboring capital cities like Paris or Amsterdam, the comparatively small city can feel overwhelmed by tourists, and prices rise accordingly. Either be strategic when deciding which neighborhood to stay in or accept that you have to deal with queues (for attractions and to get to the bar) if you travel to Brussels in the summer.

Crowd gathered at the iconic Grand Place in the centre of Brussels during Christmas evening at dusk. A large Christmas tree stands in the middle of the square.
Brussels' annual Christmas market attracts thousands of revellers each year © Carlos Alkmin / Getty Images

Winter Season: November to January

Best time for Christmas markets

Grey as winter in Belgium can be, the twinkling lights and spiced scents of Christmas markets in Brussels will brighten your spirits. The city hosts one of the biggest festive markets in the country, the Plaisirs d’Hiver (Winter Wonders). Every year from late November to the first week of January, millions of visitors roam among hundreds of stalls, shopping for trinkets as they sip steaming drinks.

Outside of Christmas and New Year, accommodation prices tend to be lower in the city too, making winter a good time for shoestring travelers to visit.

The arcade du Cinquantenaire in Brussels, Belgium, on a sunny day with flowers in the foreground.
Visit Brussels in spring to see the city's parks, like Parc du Cinquantenaire, in full bloom © olrat / Getty Images

Spring Season: April to May

Best time for photography

Spring weather in Belgium is so erratic, Flemish speakers have a name for it: aprilse grillen. But photographers willing to bear swinging temperatures and bursts of rain, heat, and/or snow will be rewarded: spring is one of the most beautiful times to visit Brussels.

Cherry trees blossom with pink, one million flowers color Groot-Bijgaarden castle for the annual Floralia event, and carpets of wild bluebells sprout in forests around the city. Aside from packs of nature photographers and locals on spring breaks, spring is a shoulder season, and a relatively quiet time to visit the city.

A pot of steaming mussels, with black shells and orange inners, stand on a table next to a plate of fries and a pint of beer.
Brussels is famous for its

Fall Season: September to November

Best time for foodies

Travel to Brussels in autumn, and you can literally taste the changing seasons. Wild boar and roast pheasant replace light summer menus, while farmers’ markets proffer baskets of fresh mushrooms picked from local forests. It’s also prime mussels season, making fall an ideal time to try the city’s most famous dish: moules-frites (mussels and fries).

September offers the best chance of good weather (and is generally an excellent time to be in the city), while at the very end of the season, Christmas markets start to stir into life.

January

The lowest of the low season: overcast days and too-long nights blanket muted streets, especially post-Christmas and New Year’s revelry.
Key Events: River Jazz Festival, BRAFA Art Fair

February

Days are still dreary but a bit shorter. Shrove Tuesday (more commonly known as Mardi Gras) sometimes falls at the end of February. Carnival is a big – and UNESCO-listed – celebration in Belgium, but you’ll need to venture to smaller towns near Brussels such as Binche for the most fanatical festivities.
Key Events: Anima: The Brussels International Animation Film Festival

March

Raincoats at the ready: March showers bring April flowers in Belgium, so expect wet conditions in Brussels. Room rates tend to be low before the Easter season kicks in.
Key Events: Museum Night Fever

A person holds out a disposable plate containing a large Belgian waffle. The large sugary snack is smothered in chocolate sauce.
Brussels loves its chocolate, and waffles © agrobacter / Getty Images

April

Brussels’ streets blossom with colors, with few foreign tourists to see them. Belgian families on Easter holidays are the only crowds to expect, who you’ll likely find engaging in an easter-egg hunt or two (a popular Easter tradition in this chocolate-fixated city).
Key Events: Floralia, BIFFF Fantasy Film Festival

May

Warmth brings Brussels to life: the city goes unabashedly rainbow for Pride, thousands of residents march in the musical, car-less Zinneke Parade, and long weekends are the norm during Christian holidays Ascension and Pentecost. A great time to be in the city for those who like a lively city break.
Key Events: Pride, Zinneke Parade, Iris Festival, Brussels Book Fair, Kunsten Festival des Arts

June

Tourists flood into Brussels, locals escape to the city’s best parks, and though it can feel crowded, it’s hard to stay frustrated when the sun finally shines. A number of music and art festivals roll into town, bringing a party atmosphere to the city.
Key Events: Couleur Café, Fête de la Musique, Bruneaf, Guignolet Dans le Parc, Hopla!

July

A sticky start to Belgians’ summer holidays: Brussels’ buildings aren’t designed to handle warm weather, air conditioning is rare, and July is the peak tourist season. Hot food might seem unappetizing in the humidity, but don’t resist – July marks the start of mussels season!
Key Events: Ommegang, Belgian National Day, Bruxelles les Bains, Brosella Festival, Midi Fair, PleinOPENAir

August

Still hot, still busy, and Belgians are out in force to squeeze one more holiday in before schools resume. Don’t miss locals’ favorite Brussels Summer Festival: ten days of live concerts all over the city.
Key Events: Flower Carpet, Brussels Summer Festival, Bruxelles les Bains, Classissimo, Théâtres Nomades, Insifon

September

One of the best times to visit Brussels: tourist crowds are thinner, the weather is slightly cooler (but usually still sunny) and everyone seems a lot more relaxed. Beer takes centre stage in terms of festivals, with the Belgian Beer Weekend a calendar highlight for local hopheads.
Key Events: Belgian Beer Weekend, Comic Strip Festival, Affordable Art Fair, Les Nuits Botanique, 20 km of Brussels, Brussels International Film Festival, Folklore Festival

The main hall of the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts. The white interiors are dotted with artworks, which people walk between and stand to admire.
A visit to Brussels in October offers the chance to explore cultural highlights like the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts without major tourist crowds © Jonathan Smith / Lonely Planet

October

The foliage and temperatures may start to change, but events and festivals carry on. Prices are much easier on the wallet in low season. However, the fear of chilly drizzle tempts few tourists, making this a good time for hardy culture vultures keen to enjoy the city's top sights, like the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts and the cheeky Manneken Pis, without the crowds.
Key Events: Nuit Blanche, Comic Strip Festival, Culinaria, Nuits Sonores

November

Local travel picks up for a week during school breaks. Otherwise, November is cold and quiet as people prepare for the holiday season kicking off at the end of the month.
Key Events: Bright Brussels Festival of Light

December

December marks the best time to visit Belgium in winter. Though the sun sets before 5pm and days are cold, the streets are alive with cockle-warming activity. Stalls specialising in Glühwein (hot spiced wine) pop up in the centre of the city, Place de Brouckere is taken over by an ice skating rink, and a towering tree lights up the Grand Place.
Key Events: Plaisirs d’Hiver

You might also like:
The best of Brussels on a budget
10 alternative Christmas markets in Europe
The 10 best day trips from Brussels

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