Pukkelpop 2016 and Rock Werchter are the two largest Belgian rock music festivals. They are held in the same region, with Rock Werchter held near the university city of Leuven (about 15 miles east of Brussels), and the Pukkelpop Festival Belgium near the city of Hasselt (about 50 miles further east). The town is approximately the same distance from Antwerp as it is from Brussels.
Pukkelpop Festival History and Facts
The annual attendance at Pukkelpop is close to 200,000 people, and the attendance at Rock Werchter is close to 300,000. The festival began in 1985. During the 1980s, it was plagued by low attendance, lack of a permanent home, and last minute cancellations of its headliners, even canceling the 1989 event. It moved to its current home in a field near Hasselt in 1991, and has been held there ever since. It began as a single day event—July 21, a national holiday in the country. Attendance has gone up each year since, and it became a three-day festival in 2001. It is now held during the third week of August, taking advantage of the fact that a good percentage of people in Europe spend most of that month on vacation.
Tickets to Pukkelpop
Pukkelpop Festival Belgium tickets sell out earlier and earlier each year. They were sold out by July in 2010, so it's recommended that you plan ahead should you want to attend Pukkelpop 2016. You can buy tickets for one day or for the entire festival.
Directions to Pukkelpop 2016
If you're bringing your own vehicle, the roads are excellent from Leuven, Brussels, or Antwerp. But, as an incentive to use public transportation, festival tickets provide free bus and train transport. And, remember that anyone under age 26 always rides free on the Belgian trains.
As with virtually all large summer festivals in Europe, tickets also provide entry to the camping sites, which open at noon on the Wednesday prior to the beginning of the event. Local disc jockeys provide music for campers before the festival events begin. You can only buy your food and drink (from numerous outlets) with tokens that are (handily enough) available near the bars. Free drinking water is available, though not all taps have potable water. Check before you fill up your water bottle. There are some hotels in Hasselt, including both a Radisson and a Holiday Inn. There are also some small budget hotels and pensions. Those who choose not to camp will generally utilize one of the wider selection of Leuven hotels.
Pukkelpop Festival Venues
The Pukkelpop Festival has eight stages, several of which are undercover to accommodate the changing weather. More than 200 acts perform on these stages, with the internationally known headliners usually playing on the Main Stage. One stage is devoted to comedy and acoustic performances, and there is a dance hall. There is even a "chill out" area with sandy floor and hammocks and an arcade area with games. The Pukkelpop Festival Belgium began as a showcase for alternative music, but has expanded to include a wide variety of rock and pop, hip hop and punk, and heavy metal. A number of legendary performers and bands with international fame have appeared, including Neil Young, Guns N' Roses, Iron Maiden, Green Day, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Image: Raf Maes