People that live in Brussels will tell you; they have a superb music scene! There are music festivals all year-round, and we’re here to share our favourites with you. Even better, city festivals have all the joys of a regular festival without the mud.
Listen! Festival takes place annually on the first weekend of the Easter holidays and is a 5-day festival spread over 15 locations in Brussels. It’s a key part of the city’s thriving underground scene and has been instrumental in pushing forward local talent.
Unfortunately, the 2020 edition was cancelled due to COVID-19. The festival was supposed to be in collaboration with See U, a venue defined by its wooden velodrome and barracks that existed as the Royal School of Gendarmerie in a previous life.
Keep an eye out for the 2021 edition!
2) Afropolitan Festival
Afropolitan Festival is the brainchild of Congolese artist Pitcho Womba Konga, a Brussels-based rapper and theatre actor. And it’s been going strong since it started in 2015. Hosted by Bozar, the festival celebrates local and European Afro-descendant art scenes.
This year’s music programme included R.A.P. Party Inua Ellams. It was a mix of hip-hop-inspired poems and songs about the legacy of Fela Kuti.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s most famous orchestra also celebrated its 50th birthday with a concert in Brussels. The Zaïko Langa Langa party was a flurry of hyper-beat rumba and funk.
This isn’t just a music festival, though; dance, fashion, agoras and cinema pack the programme too. We loved the NAW fashion pop-up, a gathering of collectives from Africa and the diaspora active in the design and fashion industries.
Want to take this Belgian music festival home? We haven’t stopped listening to this mix by DJ Jo Kitoko dedicated to African music of the 60s and 70s.
And if that isn’t enough, you’re in luck. Keep the 9th-11th July 2021 in your diaries free for the next edition of Afropolitan!
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3) Atomium Electronic Festival
At the foot of one of Brussels most impressive monuments, Atomium Electronic Festival is a treat for the eyes and the ears. It’s short and sweet, lasting just 12 hours. Best of all, it’s free!
Deep in House organises the festival. Last year’s performers included Efdemin & Marco Shuttle, Phara, A. Brehme, Neila, and Kafim. We’re eagerly waiting for next year’s line up already!
Don’t forget the Atomium and ADAM (Brussels Design Museum) will open for free during the day too if you need a break from the music!
4) Klara Festival
Klara Festival hangs its hat at different cultural temples in Brussels such as Paleis voor Schone Kunsten (BOZAR), Flagey, and De Munt.
The programme is eclectic, to say the least. You could be listening to one of the world’s most famous orchestras one moment and discovering the next big thing in the next. Incorporating dance, voice and instrumentals, the programme covers classic Baroque to the cutting edge.
It’s a festival that tries to be more than music. It is known to dive into theatre, dancing and visual art. The Klarafestival foundation is built around a socially relevant theme each year.
5) Couleur Café
This festival has been going strong since 1990 and has taken residence in Osseghempark since 2017.
Couleur Café takes place at Heysel Plateau near the Atomium. The three-day festival celebrates world music; listen to funk, hip-hop, reggae, dance, dub, soul, Latin, blues and rock across four stages. Internationally famous acts, as well as less known talent and local musicians, are represented.
More than the music, there’s also an art exposition, a market featuring young designers, dance workshops, cocktail bars, and food stands. Festival visitors can camp nearby at Camping Zen.
6) Brussels Electronic Marathon
229 artists, 66 collectives, 65 events in 33 venues, and 100% Brussels: Brussels Electronic Marathon is three days full of parties, live concerts, DJ sets, workshops & films and local electronic music.
This annual event has played a big part in establishing Brussels as a hotspot for electronic music tourism. In its 5th year, it still prefers to focus on collaborations between collective groups than big names.
But it’s not just for the enthusiasts. It’s for anyone curious, for people young and old. Remember it’s not just music – throw yourself into the workshops, documentary screenings, art installations and talks!
7) Brussels Summer Festival
The focus of the Brussels Summer Festival is pop music and good fun. And it works – the festival has been going strong since 2002.
Over the years huge names such as the Pet Shop Boys, Pete Docherty, Rudimental, Iggy Pop, The Stranglers, The Dandy Warhols, Amy MacDonald, Madness and Karl Bartos from Kraftwerk have made it to Brussels for the festival.
BSF will take place at the Place des Palais and the Mont des Arts.
8) Nuit Sorones
This festival is another BOZAR presentation taking place in November. Joining forces with Arty Farty, they’ve hosted three editions of Nuits Sonores & European Lab Brussels.
It’s 30 artists and 30 speakers, spread out across five venues and four days. You can expect performers such as Laurent Garnier, Paula Temple Hybrid and Dasha Rush.
9) Les Nuits Festival at La Botanique
Their objectives are clear: a festival that makes discovering and reinforcing musical careers a priority. Les Nuits boldly go about their business. This is for those looking for the best culture Brussels music scene has to offer!
Les Nuits takes place at the stunning Botanique. A cultural complex and music venue in Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Brussels. The building was previously the main orangery of the National Botanic Garden of Belgium. Since 1984, Le Botanique has been the cultural centre for the French Community of Belgium.
The lineups are totally eclectic, with everything from pop, rock, electronic and chanson (lyric-driven French songs). Its recent lineups have included Luke Howard, Martin Kohlstedt, Angèle and more.
Schiev is a festival that discovers the next breakthrough acts. Showcasing Avante-Garde pop music of all styles, this year’s theme is simple: songs to enhance life’s mundane tasks.
The music programme is listed in alphabetical order, proving there are no egos at the Schieve festival.
Schiev normally takes place at Beursschouwburg. This year’s edition, however, is all online.
You can listen to this year’s program for free on Mixcloud!
11) Brussels Jazz Weekend
As any jazz head knows, there’s so much depth to this genre. Whether you prefer traditional New Orleans, or you are into electronic experiments, you need to get to Brussels for this festival.
The programme for 2021 hasn’t been released yet. But check out last year’s performers to get a taste of what’s in store.
Locations are throughout the city with stages on the Grand Place, Sablon, Place Sainte Catherine, Place Fernand Cocq and Luxembourg Square.
If you miss it, you can still get your fill by following their Youtube series.
As a treat, we have a bonus festival for you. This festival isn’t in the city, but it’s absolutely worth the journey! Horst takes place in an old military field, with two brooding cooling towers in the backdrop.
Horts’s mission is to create a movement dedicated to developing talent, cities & spaces; blending & celebrating the worlds of arts, architecture & music.
Previously featured at the festival were artists such as Marcel Dettmann, Motor City Drum Ensemble, and Wizard.
It’s an ambitious affair, with inventive dance areas, art, community projects, refreshing architecture and immersive music. After all that, the half-hour car journey doesn’t feel so long!
And there you have it, our pick of the best festivals Brussels has to offer. If you’re looking for somewhere to start the evening, you could try one of these cocktails bars in Brussels.
Is there a hidden gem out there we’ve missed? Educate us, we’d love to hear from you!
Featured image: Brussels Summer Festival via brussel