Ommegang: The Grand Walkabout

Festival Essentials

Where: Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium
When: First Thursday in July
What happens: A grand Medieval-style processions with jesters, courtiers, nobles, solders, fire eaters, stilt-fighters, and a horse-parade and jousting tournament
Remember to bring: A sharpened lance will ensure you don’t get bumped in the crowd!

History of Ommegang

Ommegang means walkabout in Flemish and it is a medieval-style procession across Brussels to the Grand Place. It originated in the fourteenth century as a religious event to celebrate the safe arrival of a statue of the Virgin Mary from Antwerp. Over the years it became more secular and grew in stature when Charles V and his family watched it in 1549.

What Happens at Ommegang

On the first Thursday of every July, over 2000 people dressed up and participate as flag throwers, jesters, courtiers, nobles, solders, fire eaters, stilt-fighters, or take part in the horse-parade and the jousting tournament. The procession ends with a dance from 9 pm until midnight in the Grand Place.

Tickets are expensive and get booked up very quickly indeed so it is imperative to book early. The spectators do not actually take part in the festival but watch from the tiered seating erected in the square. The most entertaining part of the evening is the stilt walker battle where each tries to knock another of their stilts. The last left standing wins. After the official close, the party continues well into the night in the city’s bars and pubs.

More Information

Official website for the Ommegang of Brussels

By Kate Griffiths

Related Content