The Pageant of the Golden Tree: Bruges’ must-see summer event

The Belgian city of chocolate, waffles and old world architecture, it’s a well-known fact that anyone who visits Bruges can’t help but fall in love. And while it’s already a place set to capture your heart, once every five years, a special event is held to really stir up your senses. The Pageant of the Golden Tree is anything but your average spectacle, and this year the event takes place on the 19 and 20 August. Read on to find out more!

What is the Pageant of the Golden Tree?

Image by Gilgongo

With decorative floats, giant puppetry and some 1,700 characters, The Pageant of the Golden Tree has been held in Bruges every five years since 1958 – but its routes trace back further still. The procession commemorates the 1468 marriage of Charles the Bold, the then Count of Flanders, to the English Princess Margaret of York. As part of the celebrations all those years ago, a jousting tournament was held, with knights from all across the country descending on Bruges to compete in the city’s Markt Square, where a sparkling golden tree stood as emblem to the festivities. Today, the main attraction of the two-day extravaganza is the entrance of the royal wedding party, a re-enactment of the medieval tournament and an almighty parade through the city streets – just as there was all those years ago.

Where to catch the parade

Following in the same footsteps as the cavalcade from years gone by, everything kicks off at 3.30pm on the cobbled Smedenstraat, just after Smedenpoort – one of the four city gates of Bruges. The parade takes in some of the best sights that Bruges has to offer – including the famous Belfry, Church of Our Lady and Saint Saviour’s Cathedral – and also spans the Markt Square, where the historical Golden Tree tournament once took place. Towards the end of the procession, Gruuthusestraat offers up canalside views, as well as atmospheric restaurants and historical buildings to visit when the merrymaking ends.

If you’d like to see the event, it’s likely you’ll be standing for around two hours – to give you an idea, it usually takes the procession about an hour to reach the Markt Square, which is in the middle of the route. Though you’re welcome to bring along a foldable chair if you’d rather rest your legs. Typically the event has grandstands in the Markt Square, as well as benches in Guido Gezelle Square and seats lining the Dijver canal. These are usually reserved for disabled residents, though non-residents with disabilities can also purchase tickets, which includes an audio description for the visually impaired.

While you’re in Bruges

Bruges' Skyline

As one of the most popular places to visit in the world, this UNESCO world heritage site is just calling out to be explored. To truly soak up the city’s history, the Markt Square’s Historium Brugge will transport you back in time to the 15th century. Once you’ve had your fill of medieval artefacts and exhibitions, head to Burg Square, which is bordered by cosy cafés and bars. The square is especially beautiful at night – perfect for whiling away the hours and taking respite after the event of the Golden Tree. Other attractions include the world famous Frietmuseum, which chronicles the history of the nation’s frites, as well as chocolate shops and countless brewery tours. Read our guide to a weekend in Bruges for more inspiration.

Ready to explore Bruges? Take a look at our Hull to Zeebrugge crossing, which will take you just a 25-minute drive to the city.

Feature image by Gilgongo