Iris Festival 2019: Festivities to mark 30 years of the Brussels-Capital Region and 150 years of the tram

From 1–5 May, marking 30 years of the Brussels Region and 150 years of the Brussels tram, the Belgian capital is putting on a huge number of original activities for visitors at various locations across the region. From the European Tram Driver Championship to the unmissable Electro Night, including a spectacular fireworks display, there will be a host of free activities celebrating both of these anniversaries. An event not to be missed.

Every year the Iris Festival celebrates the Brussels-Capital Region. It is worth noting that on 16 May 1991 the iris was adopted by the Brussels Parliament as the symbol of the Brussels Region. Next 1 May, Brussels will be launching a week of festivities. Only 30 years ago, the BrusselsCapital Region was created and 150 years ago the first tram appeared on the streets. Numerous activities have been programmed to highlight these two events. The Belgian capital will also be on exhibition with the European Tram Driver Championship organised by the Brussels Public Transport System (STIB).

“2019 is no ordinary year for the Brussels-Capital Region. This year we’ll be celebrating its 30th anniversary. The region was born in January 1989. Finally, the needs of the population were taken into account when it came to political choices and decisions. It was only right to commemorate this event with the people of Brussels and with Belgium as a whole. This year, the Iris Festival lasts 5 days. It is a long weekend of celebration for Brussels’ 1,200,000 inhabitants and 184 nationalities. But this is not the only important anniversary in 2019. During the Iris Festival, we will also celebrate the 150th anniversary of the tram, a key part of the daily lives of many Brussels residents. You’ll get a unique opportunity to look back at the important milestones of its long history and discover the tram of tomorrow. Concerts, guided tours and numerous activities of all kinds are planned during the festival long weekend. A magnificent firework display on Place des Palais brings events to a close. I look forward to celebrating two incredibly symbolic anniversaries with you,” Declares Rudi Vervoort, Brussels Minister-President



Wednesday 1 May

Tram parade

The undisputed highpoint of the festivities celebrating the tram’s 150th anniversary in Brussels will be the huge parade of classic trams along the Rue Royale, which will start at 2pm, featuring some forty historic trams. Virtually all the different types of tram from Brussels’ rich history of trams, will be taking part. From the early horse-drawn trams to the 3000 and 4000 trams that travel through the streets of Brussels today. To organise this huge parade, a real treat for diehard fans as well as members of the public, the Brussels Tram Museum will be enlisting around 100 volunteers.

During the festivities, ten or so historic vicinal vehicles from all four corners of the country, including a steam-powered trams, will be on display on the Place Royale. But the undoubtable star of this exhibition will be… the model of the brand new TNG tram (“the Tram New Generation”), currently under construction, the first versions of which will be travelling around the streets of Brussels in 2020.

The Next Generation Tram

With the 150th anniversary of the tram, we have a chance to look back over its rich history and a perfect opportunity to see what the future holds for us. STIB has ordered 60 new trams from the manufacturer Bombardier. The first examples of the Next Generation Tram will be appearing on the streets of Brussels early next year. The public will already have had a foretaste with the arrival of the full scale model of the vehicle. It will be on display from 1–5 May, alongside vintage trams on Place Royale.

Thursday 2 May

Bruxelles-Brussels: a city journey
Premiere of the documentary film directed by Luc Jabon at Bozar (The Henry Le Bœuf Hall)

Immerse yourselves in some Brussels neighbourhoods, with informed speakers taking part, rediscover the origins and the past of these streets, ask about their changes, destruction, current transformation, and imagine what they will be like in the future. A street is not just a public thoroughfare for using and passing through. It throws up some political, economic, urban planning, social, cultural, poetic…and amusing challenges. Asking questions about those challenges shows the cost of Brussels’ constant changes and how today the public is being able to reclaim their urban spaces. After all, when a street is alive, people get to share in the city…

Free guided tours on a classic tram.

To celebrate the tram’s 150th anniversary, professional guides will be giving you a tour through the districts of Brussels on board a classic tram. The tours will be departing from the Place Poelaert on Thursday and Friday 2 and 3 May, and will be in French, English and Dutch. The journey will take around 2hr30 and will include a stop at the vicinal exhibition on the Place Royale. A unique, free event to find out more about this public transport heritage in the company of an expert.

Friday 3 May

Manneken Pis in STIB uniform

Brussels’ most famous little boy, Manneken Pis, is going to be dressed up in the STIB’s new driver’s uniform. This uniform, designed by Maison Strelli, will be the 3rd STIB outfit that Manneken Pis has worn over the years. The change of uniforms for STIB staff will take place on 2 May.

Electro Night

Electro Night brings music lovers together year after year. DJ sets will be taking place in Place des Palais, in the heart of the capital, and will once again be headlined by some of the major Belgian and international names.


Come and move to the rhythm of the Iris Festival on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 May at Place des Palais. Featuring Claptone, Laura De Greef, Nora En Pure, Ofenbach, Stereoclip, Blu Samu, Girls In Hawaii and Todiefor. All are welcome! 🎆 🎶

Publiée par Fête de l'Iris / Irisfeest sur Vendredi 5 avril 2019


Saturday 4 May

Iris Festival across the Brussels districts

This event invites all passers-by, be they natives of Brussels or tourists, to discover a Brussels that is off the beaten track. A huge number of secret places or places normally closed to the public will be offering exceptional visits on this festive Saturday, under the banner of discovery and togetherness. As part of the 2019 events, the Iris Festival taking part across the communes will be showcasing Brussels City, Ganshoren, Berchem-Sainte-Agathe and Koekelberg. Guided visits or walks are also organised in each of the four communes taking part.

Europe Day

The European Institutions will open their doors to the public and offer guided tours all day long. A unique occasion to discover the inner workings of the European Union. Guided tours of sites, information stands, interactive activities, talks, concerts and exhibitions in the European quarter – it’s all on the menu to guarantee a day of fun and learning for the family or among friends.

The European Tram Driver Championship

The 8th European Tram Driver Championship will be taking place on Saturday 4 May too. Mixed teams of tram drivers from 25 European cities will battle it out over the course of a number of different challenges.

This year, Brussels’ public transport company will be organising the event. The championship will be held on Saturday 4 May along the Rue Royale, by the Parc de Bruxelles, and will be open to the public. The competition, which will take place in public, starts at 10 o’clock and finishes at around 5 o’clock when the winners will be announced. Practices will be held on Friday 3 May at the STIB depot in Haren.


The championship predominantly tests drivers’ driving skills, for example with a route marked by cones that must not be touched, stopping as close as possible to a particular obstacle, or “tram bowling”.

Concert on the Place des Palais

To close the day with a flourish, people are invited along to several exceptional concerts being performed by Belgian and international artists. A spectacular fireworks display will begin at around 11 p.m. at the Place des Palais.

Sunday 5 May

Festive Park

Street arts

During the Iris Festival, street art is showcased through an artistic programme which brings together the best and brightest in this field from Brussels and elsewhere. Circus arts, street theatre, interactive games, all kinds of workshops, dance demonstrations, children’s activities and much more. Brussels Park will be transformed for a day into a theatre.

Sporting entertainment

A host of sporting activities will also punctuate the day.

Thematic villages

From 12:00–6:00 p.m., a hundred or so associations from the Region’s different districts will be present in Brussels Park, including:

• Discover the City Village
• Europe Village
• Kids Village
• Mixity Village
• Arts, Cultural Heritage & Museums
• Public Village
• Science Village
• Sports Village
• ULB Village
• Districts Village

Festival at the Parliament

The Iris Festival at the Brussels Parliament is the chance to discover, while having some fun, an historical building right at the heart of the lives of its inhabitants. Marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Brussels region, you also have a chance to get to grips, alongside some real Brussels citizens, with zwanze (Brussels humour … and even discover an exhibition dedicated to the parliamentary democracy and architecture.

Further information available here