Together with the start of the summer comes the cringe-inducing ‘city guides’ we’ve all grown accustomed to, from American broasheets’ “36 hours in…” roundups to glossy magazines’ “10 things to do in…” selections. Directories of the usual suspects, these guides hit all the right (touristy) chordes, without ever delving deep into the city DNA. And Belgium – what with its beer, chocolate and lace tradition – often falls victim of this trend. Indeed, flick through any of these half-assed guides and you’re likely to find a roll-call of unsuprising and uninspiring suggestion. Born out of frustration, we’ve taken matters into our own hands: everyday of this week, we’ll be uploading our very own guide to Brussels, divided into sections of interest. We start today with places to have a drink. Tomorrow will take care of places to shop and look at art. Thursday will be all about places to eat whilst Friday will suggest places to sleep and walk. And if you know the city like the back of your hand and feel we’ve left out a hidden gem, please do share the knowledge in our comments section.
You finally made it to Brussels, world capital of beers. It would be criminal to pass on a pintje. For a taste of the real deal, Chez Moeder Lambic is where you want to head to. You have two addresses to pick from: the most recent and bigger one on the Place Fontainas Plein (pictured above), or the original – and our personal favourite – tavern in the heart of Saint-Gilles/Sint-Gillis, opened more than 25 years ago and flaunting the kind of motto (Beer is the answer) we can only raise our glasses to. Favouring quality over quantity, the place only serves artisan beers. And don’t even dare ask for a Jupiler or a Kriek, or the very knowledgeable (perhaps even snobbish at times) staff will laugh at you. But then again, you wouldn’t go to the city’s finest steakhouse to order a Big Mac, would you?
Rue de Savoie 68 Savoiestraat
+ 32 (0) 2 544 16 99
Place Fontainas 8 Fontainasplein
+ 32 (0) 2 503 60 68
The Fontainas exudes a certain je ne sais quoi that makes us want to listen to dreampop on a sunny terrace while sipping a violet flavoured cocktail. Don’t ask us why, it just does. It’s the kind of oasis of peace you’ve been looking for after a draining run through the city’s downtown, sucking on those last ounces of strength left in you as you wander through the cobblestoned pedestrian roads behind the busy Anspach Boulevard. Very popular with the local gay and lesbian community, this cute little café ticks all our boxes: great location, decent music, friendly atmosphere, lovely terrace, yummy juices and tasty nibbles. Sundays also sometimes play host to Lady Jane’s Catclub.
Rue Marché au Charbon 91 Kolenmarkt
+ 32 (0) 2 503 31 12
Booze ‘n’ Blues
Whether it’s the hectic mix and match interior, the vintage jukebox, owner Eddy’s impeccable taste in music and legendary aloofness, his submarines (a shot of schnapps in a glass of beer) or the “colourful” bathroom, we just can’t get enough of this place. We already raved about it in last year’s Heritage Issue (making it the issue’s institution) and still don’t tire of sending every single person we meet to our favourite boozer, even though Eddy probably hates us by now…
Rue des Riches Claires 20 Rijke-Klarenstraat
Born a few months ago, Madame Moustache Et Son Freakshow has rapidly become the name on everyone’s lips. You’ll find this eccentric modern day cabaret on the lively Place Sainte-Catherine/ight where the now defunct Los Romanticos held its frenzied salsa nights. Hosting wild gigs as well as DJ sets, its knack for garage, rockabilly, 60’s rock and coldwave have filled a void that was oh too deep in the capital. Those less keen about going nuts in front of a teddy band can always enjoy the chilled out vibe of the lounge area. If you’re in the area on a Wednesday night, do pop in to catch their weekly “Back To The Grave” garage fests. Expect polka dot dresses, tattoos, pointy shoes and raven bowl cuts.
Quai au Bois à Brûler 5-7 Brandhoutkaai
With a different DJ set or gig scheduled for each day of the week, the Bonnefooi knows no boring nights. The clientele is as eclectic as the musical programming so you never really know what you’ll be getting yourself into. Open from 5pm to 5am, the Bonnefooi has become our favourite place to crash after a gig at the Ancienne Belgique or once the downtown bars have called the last drink.
Rue des Pierres 8 Steenstraat
One of the latest additions of the trendy Place Flageyplein, this small café has the kind of understated charm that made it an instant favourite amongst the team. Relatively quiet during the day, it’s the perfect spot for a chilled out drink with the family or an informal business meeting. At night, the street terrace packs up with locals that are eager to escape from the Flagey madness.
Rue de la Brasserie 117-119 Brouwerijstraat