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Record numbers for Bruxelles-les-Bains 2013

 - ©Bruxelles-Les-Bains/Eric Danhier

2013-08-11 – The summer’s not over – we’re only halfway through – but for the city’s own beach that’s it till next year. Bruxelles-les-Bains has just closed its doors, folded away its deckchairs, swept up its sand, and dismantled its porticos in the white and blue of Brussels. The 2013 season has been exceptional in all respects! The organisers are calling it ‘historic’, with 400,000 visitors, compared with 150 to 300,000 in previous years!

The reason is not just that the weather was fine, or even that it was fine all the time: above all, it was because the weather was so miserable beforehand, with a harsh winter and a wretched spring, that the people of Brussels and tourists rushed outdoors as soon as the weather permitted, and did so again every day so as to make the most of it before it was over! The result was five weeks of blazing sunshine and an enthusiastic public for whom a few hours at Bruxelles-les-Bains was the perfect way to chill out.

As for the vendors, they had virtually generated the same turnover as for the whole of last year’s Bruxelles-les-Bains after the first weekend. The opening event alone attracted some 12,000 people to the site, which is unprecedented. The visitors kept coming all weekend, and then as the days and weeks went by! The vendors are putting away their stock – if there is any left – and will be back in early July 2014. They are completely satisfied, even with the changes they were asked to make in order to give the terraces visual and aesthetic unity, which they readily admit ‘did the trick’.

New activities

The new activities on offer this summer obviously contributed to the success. Most spectacular and unexpected of all were the boating activities. These were not easy to arrange due to the safety standards set by the Portof Brusselsand the police. As promised, though, sailing dinghies, kayaks, pedalos and even water-rollers were dotted around on the Canal every Sunday. Long queues of people waited for their turn, and every day of the week (when the waterway is reserved for commercial traffic) you could see frustrated people who would have liked more such opportunities.

Alongside these fun activities, serious sports associations offered demonstrations of the sports that can be practised all year on the Canal upstream of Quai des Péniches, beyond the Van Praet Bridge: rowing, sailing, and high-speed semi-rigid inflatable dinghies. There was even underwater diving, in a heated tank. The goal of dispelling false assumptions was achieved, and the feedback was unanimously positive. This shows every sign of becoming a vital element of the Bruxelles-les-Bains programme.

On screen

Another first this summer was the open-air cinema. Twelve screenings were scheduled by the partner, the Galeries cinema, in a deft feat of programming that was both high-quality AND accessible to a wide public. The goal was amply achieved: more than 200 people attended, including for the film karaoke evening: a medley of an hour of film hits to which the audiences of the Galeries and Bruxelles-les-Bains sang along in unison.

Another evening event was the thirty Croisetteke concerts, before the parties on the Boat Club. These brought people together who do not normally mingle: the regulars of nightclubs such as Bulex, Downtown Club and Fuse, and the traditional, more local and family-based public of Bruxelles-les-Bains. There was no tension: on the contrary, as everyone swayed to the same beats (and there was something for all tastes), another example was seen of that cosmopolitanism that is a characteristic feature of Brussels!

Did you say surreal? Such was the avowed intention of the promoters of Bruxelles-les-Bains, and such was what was actually experienced during the 2013 season.