March is the end of winter and the beginning of spring in Belgium. Temperatures are still quite cold, but the days are getting longer, and the season's first flowers are starting to show.
Although Belgium is small, its climate varies between coastal, inland, and highland areas. Coastal Flanders (the Flemish-speaking northern region of Belgium) tends to be the warmest/mildest region, with a maritime climate that tempers extremes of cold or heat. On the other hand, the southern, inland Ardennes hill and forest region are the coldest, with more snow and fog in winter. Capital city Brussels is inland, so it has more of a continental climate than coastal cities like Bruges or Antwerp. Brussels sees an average high temperature of 50°F (10°C) and a low of 39°F (4°C).
Crowds & Costs
March is generally the low season for travel to Belgium, but there are some busier periods depending on the timing of Lent and Easter. It's still a great time to come if you're on a budget because accommodation prices will be relatively low. You may find a good deal on hotels in popular places (such as Ghent, Bruges, or Antwerp) that would be expensive in the summer or booked out months in advance. And although it's the off-season, you can still expect most cultural facilities in the cities to be operating.
If Easter or Lent falls in March, you can expect an upswing in tourism. The Binche Carnival near the southern city of Charleroi is very popular and busy, as it's one of the oldest street carnivals in Europe. It's held during the three days preceding Lent, so the date can be in February or March. If you want to see this festival, book accommodation in advance. Similarly, if you're traveling to Belgium around Easter, expect closures as it's a public holiday long weekend.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Where to Go
Whether you're a history buff or enjoy a big street party, travelers with many interests will enjoy visiting Binche this month (festival timing depends on when Lent and Easter fall and may be in February). The town in southern Belgium, near the city of Charleroi, hosts one of the oldest street carnivals in Europe, dating back to the Middle Ages. The boisterous parades, wacky costumes, and local Belgian beer guarantee a good time, whatever the weather.
Not far from Charleroi, the town of Bouge, part of Namur city, hosts a traditional spring event on the first Sunday of Lent: the Giant Fire of Bouge. The bonfire marks the arrival of spring, and the tradition is believed to be more than 1,000 years old. Similar bonfires are held in many towns across Wallonia (the French-speaking area of southern Belgium), but that in Bouge is particularly huge.
What to Do
The first signs of spring can be seen in Belgium in March, and parks and woodlands around the country spring into colorful life. While most spring flowers are at their best in April and May, lovely little white wood anemones cover the Zevenbergenbos forest floor in Ranst, outside Antwerp, from mid-March. Flower and nature lovers will enjoy the whimsical scene. Similarly, catch the soft pink magnolia blooms at the magnolia walk section of Rivierenhof Park, also outside Antwerp.
If you travel to the Antwerp region for these flower attractions, take time to explore the city's fantastic galleries and museums. If the spring weather turns cold and damp, head indoors to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in a grand neo-classical building and the Rubens House (Rubenshuis), the former Antwerp home and workshop of Peter Paul Rubens.
Events in March
Carnival of Binche, Binche. This three-day carnival before the start of Lent features street performers, dances, and costumed processions.
Giant Fire of Bouge, Namur. Wallonia celebrates the end of winter in March with a bonfire that lights up the city.