Charles V Festival to be held from May to September this year

Brussels during the Renaissance

From May to September, the Charles V Festival is a chance for Brussels to recapture the spirit of the Renaissance. Exhibitions and Ommegang festivities, which are just some of the many activities organised, take visitors back in time to the era of Charles V, the most powerful emperor of the 16th century. This year, in order to mark the 450th anniversary of the death of the great Flemish master painter Bruegel, a number of new exhibitions and activities have been added to the extensive festival programme.

The programme of events for the Charles V Festival is part of the ‘European routes of Emperor Charles V’ cultural network. This itinerary, for tourists and history buffs alike, is recognised by the European Institute of Cultural Routes, an association of the Council of Europe. It brings together the places that characterised the reign of Charles V and the cities that he visited.

A series of festive, cultural and family events organised in various places in the Brussels Capital Region throws the spotlight on European history and the heritage of the 16th century, as a result. Through exhibitions and festivities, visitors can relive different key moments during the reign of Charles V.

This year, in order to mark the 450th anniversary of the death of the great Flemish master painter Bruegel, visitors will be able to enjoy a number of original exhibitions and activities during the festival. This will be a wonderful opportunity to (re)discover the monumental body of work of the greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century.

Here are just some of the exhibitions and Ommegang festivities taking place at this special edition of the festival:


Bernardi Bruxellensi Pictori

Bernard Van Orley was one of the key artists at the court in Brussels in the first half of the 16th century. The principles of the Renaissance were then developed in the Burgundian Netherlands, where the patronage of Margaret of Austria and then Mary of Hungary fostered the talents of Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Pieter Bruegel.

In parallel to the monographic exhibition at BOZAR, the Coudenberg Palace (Palais du Coudenberg) takes you on a journey through time to 16th-century Brussels, through enlargements of drawings and projections.

Dates: 20/2 to 4/8

Meeting point: Coudenberg Palace (underground passageways of place Royale) – Place des Palais, 7 – 1000 Brussels

Price: €5-7

Information and bookings: – + +32 (0)2 500 45 54

Erasmus House (Maison D’Érasme), a home for 500 years

Erasmus House, one of the oldest houses in Brussels (1515), is home to a collection of paintings (Holbein, Bosch, Metsys) within a reconstructed period interior, a library boasting thousands of old publications and a philosophical garden.
Guided tours upon request.

Treasure hunts for children: Travels with Erasmus (6 to 9 years old) – On the trail of Erasmus (10 to 12 years old).

Dates: end of May to end of September

Opening hours: 10:00 to 18:00 (closed on Mondays)

Price: €1.25

Meeting point: Erasmus House – Rue de Formanoir, 31 – 1070 Brussels


Etching in the time of Bruegel

The ‘Etching in the time of Bruegel’ exhibition showcases the production of etchings in the Southern Netherlands in the 16th century. Bruegel’s pictures are just a tiny sample, overshadowing many other images and illustrations on paper which are a real gem to discover. Etching, a flexible and versatile medium, was used in various forms of visual communication, from contemporary newspapers to political propaganda. Therefore, the emergence and growth of the art of engraving during the time of Bruegel is not just an artistic success story. A total mastery over this expert skill, as well as entrepreneurial boldness, also played a major role.

Dates: until 23/06 – closed on Monday

Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00 / Thursday 10:00 to 21:00

Meeting point: BOZAR – rue Ravenstein 23 – 1000 Brussels

Price: €14


Pieter Coecke’s cartoon: The Martyrdom of Saint Paul

The King’s House (Maison du Roi) is home to an amazing tapestry cartoon with a large 16th- century design measuring 3.40 m by 3.80 m. This gigantic fresco reflects the concerns of an era of change: the Renaissance. It is attributed to the great Flemish painter Pieter Coecke, Pieter Bruegel’s father-in-law. This unique tapestry cartoon is invaluable and is one of the few that has stood the test of time. This enormous design served as a model for tapestry weavers. Its renovation took a year and a half, and was completed in 2017.

Dates: Tuesday to Sunday

Opening hours: 10:00 to 17:00

Price: €8

Meeting point: Maison du Roi – Grand Place 1000 Brussels Information


Crossbows during the time of Bruegel

At the end of the 16th century, crossbows disappeared from the battlefield and were increasingly replaced by firearms, which had the advantage of speed. However, crossbows are still a highly prized hunting weapon both among nobility and ordinary people; they have mainly become a weapon used for hobbies and have a major presence at trade fairs in our regions. The various depictions of this weapon and the shooting areas for using it, created by the Brussels painter, are a testament to this.

The exhibition will use these depictions to show the sociological evolution of the crossbow in the cities of the Spanish Netherlands, right up to its current usage.

Dates: 4/6 to 30/7 on Tuesday afternoons only

Opening hours: 13:00 to 19:00 – or upon request for groups

Price: €2 – free for students – groups: €40 added for the guide

Meeting point: Crossbow Guild Museum – Impasse du Borgendael, 7-9 Place Royale – 1000 Brussels

Information and bookings:

Bernard van Orley. Brussels and the Renaissance

Along with Bruegel, Bernard van Orley was one of the key figures of the Flemish Renaissance. He was a painter at the court of Margaret of Austria and Mary of Hungary, received commission after commission and, at a very young age, became the head of one of the largest ateliers of the era. He painted religious tableaux but also designed tapestries and stained glass windows. The exhibition places particular emphasis on his portraits, which helped him to bring together his impressive network of political advisors, influential clergymen and humanist thinkers. For the first time, the works of Van Orley from all around the world have come together in one exhibition, in the place where they were first created. This is a unique opportunity to (re)discover this Brussels master painter.

Dates: until 26/05 – closed on Mondays

Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00 / Thursday 10:00 to 21:00

Meeting point: BOZAR – rue Ravenstein 23 – 1000 Brussels

Price: €16



Ommegang Procession

Wednesday 26th June and Friday 28th June 2019.

Relive the procession organised by the city of Brussels in 1549 for Charles V and his son, the future Philip II!

1,400 participants have made it their mission to recreate a historic moment in the streets of Brussels. Musicians, singers, dancers, horse riders, guards in uniform, flag-bearers and more will all help create a Renaissance atmosphere in our local area. Charles V’s carriage will leave at around 20:15 from his former Brussels Palace in the Place Royale. Historic groups will set off from the Royal Park (Parc Royal) at around 20:45 in order to join the guilds of crossbowmen, archers, harquebusiers and fencers in the Sablon. Once the historical procession is complete, with the carriage at the front, it will start from the Sablon at 20:50 and will parade through the streets of Brussels, ending up at the Grand Place, where the show will have been going since 20:45.

Brussels Park – Sablon – Place des Palais – 1000 Brussels

On route: Free

Grand Place – places en tribune – Chargeable:

Crossbow Shooting

Wednesday 26th June and Friday 28th June 2019. The Ommegang festivities will put on a shooting competition between the two guilds of crossbowmen in Brussels in the forecourt of the church of Notre Dame du Sablon.

Upon his arrival from the Place Royale, Charles V will enter the church at around 20:25. Visitors can then attend the historical re-enactment of the guildsmen bringing the Virgin out.

Village Renaissance/ Jousts / Royal Break

Wednesday 26th June to Saturday 29th July 2019, from 12:00:

The pathways of Brussels Royal Park (Parc Royal) will be transformed into a living, breathing village. This Renaissance recreation will involve many activities, including ‘passages of arms’ and horseback fighting. Young and old alike will also marvel at the jousting.

Opposite the Royal Palace (Palais Royal), in Brussels Park, there will be a temporary terrace beneath an elegant marquee. It’s a place to relax and unwind, and ideal for lunch or post-work drinks!
Jousts, Renaissance village: free
Royal Break, chargeable:

More information on the Charles V Festival: