In my youth I lived in Brussels for a few years. By day I was a respectable assistant to an MEP. By night I danced, drank and feasted at a flatshare which fondly became known as The Duplex. One guy I met was very surprised I lived there. ‘Oh really? I thought that place was a bar,’ he said.
Whether it was tango nights, group Ikea furniture assembly over shots or surrealist themed parties, one Expater was primarily responsible for our irresponsibility. If you thought Brussels was a dull city for bureaucrats, you need to spend an evening with French Expater Rémi.
Here are his tips for a more light hearted take on the Belgian capital:
Get your bearings and take in the views from the Palace of Justice. On a (rare) sunny day you can see all the way to the Atonium and the Koekelberg Basilica.
OK so it’s touristy, but take a quick look at the Grand Place, it’s on the way to the famous (but surprisingly miniscule) peeing boy sculpture.
Photo by arnybo
Watch a puppet show at the Royal Toone Theatre. Don’t worry if you don’t understand a word, even the Frenchies don’t get it – it’s performed in Marols (the local slang).
Walk off the chocolate and chips (you are going to be eating LOTS) with a stroll around the merchant professions statues in the park near Place du Petit Sablon.
Photo by infomatique
Max out the Amex on Rue Dansaert. Fabulous clothing boutiques, lesser known luxury Belgian designers galore. A must.
If you’re fond of a flea market (and not claustrophobic), head to the daily markets around Place du Jeu de Balle, Rue Blaes and Rue Haute. Check out Stef Antiek on Place de la Chapelle – 950 sqm of rubbish / treasure depending on how you see it.
Photo by kozumel
Stop for a waffle at Dandoy. Brussels waffles are light and crisp, while Liege waffles are thicker and more doughy. If in doubt, try both.
Eat your weight in chocolate around Place du Grand Sablon. Passion Chocolat is a fabulous and lesser known chocolatier.
Order a steaming bowl of mussels with fries at Pré Salé, Rue de Flandre 20.
Try other typical Belgian specialities at In’t Spinnekopke (‘the spider web’) on Place du Jardin aux Fleurs.
Feast on a huge bowl of sausage and stoemp (Belgian style sausage and mash) at Fin de Siècle, on Rue des Chartreux 9.
Photo by jmerelo
Recover from the night before (see next section) over brunch. Try the rooftop cafe of the Musical Instruments Museum on Rue Montagne de la Cour 2, or Café Belga on Place Flagey (one of the best spots for people watching).
Cafe Belga. Photo by kozumel
Drink and be merry
Call in one of the many hidden bars on the side streets to Grand Place or try Delirium, with its menu of over 2,000 beers. In Belgium it is not just acceptable to drink beer at 10am, it is expected.
Do like the locals – take away a cornet of fries at Antoine’s on Place Jourdan and wash it down with a beer from one of the nearby bars. On a (very unusual) sunny day choose the terrace by L’Espérance/Chez Bernard.
Dance like an idiot at Madame Moustache, Quai au Bois à Brûler.
Get in the groove at jazz bar l’Archiduc, Rue Dansaert 6.
Sip a gothic cocktail on a coffin table at Cercueil, Rue des Harengs 10.
Photo by elPadawan
And what not to do in Brussels…
don’t bother with the Atomium. Too far for too little.
don’t catch E Coli. Avoid anywhere on Rue des Bouchers.
This way for (overpriced) food poisoning. Photo by scalleja
don’t expect a complimentary jug of water in a restaurant. All water is paid for. Same applies to toilet water…
don’t argue with the lady outside the cafe / restaurant / bar toilet. Yes, maybe you have just spent 50 euros on a bottle of wine, but you will still have to pay 50 centimes to get past ‘Madame Pipi’.