Every year, and for two days only during the 3rd weekend of October, the city of Hasselt hosts the incredible Jenever Festival, one of the major events in all of Belgium. In 2017, the festival will be on the 14 and 15 of October.
Jenever: History and Tradition
Jenever refers to the popular traditional liquor from Belgium. It is known as Dutch Gin in the English-speaking world and it has a history of more than 500 years. Since 2008, it’s had its own ‘appelation d’origine contrôlée’, which means that only Belgium, the Netherlands, and some parts of France and Germany, may produce and export the drink.
It’s during the Jenever Festival that the residents of Hasselt honor the history, tradition and heritage that jenever plays in their culture. And visitors are more than welcome to join the fun!
Hasselt: The Jenever Capital Of Belgium
The Festival celebration turns Hasselt into one of the most incredible city parties in all of the country. Hasselt has more than 70 distilleries that produce over 200 varieties of the drink, including a great range of fruit-flavored versions. The streets are filled with music, dance, theater, culinary attractions and even the city’s bronze water fountain is replaced with jenever!
And while you are attending the festival, it gives you a great option to check out the beautiful city of Hasselt and the rest of Belgium for that metter.
Making A Stop At The National Museum
The Jenever Museum is located in Hasselt and visitors cannot only learn about the fascinating history behind the production of the traditional drink but also they can see a demonstration of its production and even get the opportunity to sample a wide variety of jenevers that Belgium has to offer, in the museum’s own tasting room.
The best part of this experience that combines history and drinking is that during the festivities the entrance is completely free! The advice is to get a guide to learn more about the history and avoid getting lost inside the museum.
Drink Up! Drink Up!
The best part of being in Hasselt during the festivities is that visitors get the chance to taste jenever. A shot of the popular drink is around €2 per glass but a person can get coupons or pay with cash.
Even the food has jenever. There are plenty of live cooking demonstrations designed to show all the creative ways to use jenever, and that includes cocktails too.
And not to worry, there are plenty of other beverages available such as beer, whiskey, other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Families Can Have Fun Too
The festival also includes plenty of family friendly activities. On day two the street of Minderbroedersstraat is transformed into a children’s village. Kids can enjoy many street theater performances, a graffiti wall and a wishing tree. There is also a 60’s street corner, street grilled sate and sausage accompanied by lots of wonderful music.
One of the most interesting festival competitions in the city includes a race where the waiter and waitresses have to carry a tray with a bottle of jenever filled glasses through the city. Whoever arrives in the best time with most of still in the glasses is crowned as the winner.
How To Get There
There are many ways to get there. Hasselt’s train station connects with major Belgium cities like Brussels, Antwerp, Brugge, Ghent, Leuven and Liege. One can also travel by bike – during the festival there is a secure bike stall available. And there are also plenty of places to park for free and then walk, bike or take the local bus service. Don’t miss out on this event!