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"In season" in Belgium means from mid-April to mid-October. The peak of the tourist season is July and August, when the weather is at its finest, but you'll find Belgium every bit as attractive during other months. Not only are airlines, hotels, and restaurants cheaper and less crowded during this time (with more relaxed service, which means you get more personal attention), but some very appealing events are going on. For example, Brussels swings into its rich music season in April, and Tournai turns out for the colorful thousand-year-old Procession of the Plague the second Sunday in September.

Climate

Although there is a world of difference between the seacoast on a summer's day and the high moorland of the Hautes Fagnes in the Ardennes in the dead of winter, Belgium's climate is generally moderate, with few extremes in temperature either in summer or winter. It does rain a lot, though there are more showers than downpours. (It's a good idea to pack a raincoat.) Temperatures are lowest in December and January, when they average 42°F (6°C), and highest in July and August, when they average 73°F (23°C).

In the springtime, when the parks are coming up flowers, the first sidewalk tables put in a tentative appearance, but the weather can be variable. July and August are the best months for soaking up rays at a sidewalk cafe, dining at an outdoors restaurant in the evening, and swimming and sunbathing at the seacoast. September usually has a few weeks of fine late-summer weather; and there are even sunny spells in winter, when brilliant, crisp weather alternates with clouded skies.

In the hilly, forested Ardennes, autumn's falling leaves bring out visitors searching for the finest fall colors. It's not quite New England, but it's spectacular enough, and any shortcomings on the color spectrum are compensated for by the culinary feasts on the menus of the many great restaurants here, during the hunting season for wild game.

Winters at the coast, moderated a touch by the North Sea, most often are rainy. Inland, it's a different story. Some years, though not very often, the temperature falls low enough for canals (in places like Bruges and Ghent) and lakes to freeze sufficiently and become playgrounds for ice skaters. In the hilly, forested Ardennes, snow brings out cross-country skiers, and even downhill skiers to the region's handful of ski lifts and short runs. Expect lots of gray skies in Brussels -- Eurocrats from sunny Mediterranean lands confess to going stir-crazy for the sight of blue skies and sun during winter in the capital.

You're well advised to pack a fold-up umbrella at any time of year. Likewise, carry a raincoat (with a wool liner for winter). Second, pack a sweater or two (even in July) and be prepared to layer your clothing at any time of year. Don't worry: In the summer, you can leave some space for T-shirts, skimpy tops, and sneakers.

For local weather forecasts, go to www.meteo.be.

Holidays

National holidays are January 1 (New Year's Day), Easter Sunday and Monday, May 1 (Labor Day), Ascension Thursday, Pentecost Sunday and Monday, July 21 (Independence Day), August 15 (Assumption), November 1 (All Saints), November 11 (World War I Armistice Day), and December 25 (Christmas Day). In Flanders only, July 11 is Flemish Community Day, the anniversary of the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302. In Wallonia only, September 27 is French Community Day, recalling liberation from Dutch rule in 1830.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.