The modern Ommegang is a re-enactment of Emperor Charles V and his son's visit to Brussels in 1549. Today, over 1,400 actors and enthusiasts get dressed in 16th-century costumes to walk through the city shoulder to shoulder with giants, musicians, dancers, and other participants of the parade.
The procession consists of two parts: traders and guilds gather at Brussels Park while the Emperor and his retinue start from Place Royale. Both columns meet at the Sablon near the Notre-Dame du Sablon and walk towards the Grand Place—the market square is the final destination of the procession. This is where the fake Emperor Charles V gathers the tribute paid by guilds and traders, and the celebration continues. Visitors can enjoy fireworks, a light show, live concerts, and a fight of men on tall stilts.
Aside from the parade, spectators may visit the medieval village in Brussels Park. It is easy to spend a few hours here tasting foods and drinks, watching the craftsmen work, and taking in tournaments and sword fights. Meanwhile, a crossbow competition takes place at the Sablon. The medieval market is also a good place to visit as it unites craftsmen from all over Europe—they come to show their art and sell goods.
The initial meaning of “Ommegang” is “walking around.” In medieval times, it was used to describe religious processions organized to honour a particular saint. The term has now lost its sacred meaning and has become a synonym for a colourful, historical pageant. In Brussels, the Ommegang tradition was revived in 1930. This was the first year when people gathered to re-enact the Emperor’s visit. The events were staged according to the historical descriptions to make the procession appear as natural as possible.