I’ve lived in Brussels for a while now, and have not scratched the surface. It’s a very diverse town with many distinct neighborhoods, each with its own vibe. The city center (de vijhoek) is very dense, the streets are narrow, and there are nooks and crannies everywhere with bars, restaurants, and small shops. The majority of restaurants have terraces outside, so from 4:30 pm till very late, the streets are filled with people eating, drinking, and talking. Outside the city center, many parks, woods, and old industrial spaces are now reclaimed and have their own bars and markets. I can and have spent long days and long nights just aimlessly walking about, which is the best way to take it all in.
De Noordzee (Pl. Sainte-Catherine 50)
A beautiful spot in the heart of Brussels, where you order at the outside bar and eat at little tables on the square. Specialty are Shrimp Croquettes, which are heavenly. They also do a maatjes festival, a day where you can get Hollandse Nieuwe (a kind of raw herring with onion), which is heavenly. Get a bottle of white wine, load up on all things fish and sit outside in the sun. Perfect days.
Los Agaves (Avenue Jean Volders 4)
I wouldn’t call it cosy, but man do they have nice margaritas. It’s a taco place, that is lit like a night shop and not really too organized, but file that under charm, and have the enchiladas verts. It’s the best start to a big night and the best end to a big night.
Bab Al Hara (Chaussee de Mons 62 Bergensesteenweg)
Best Syrian place in Brussels. I had a rehearsal space close by, and would have rehearsals that dragged on, and got me feeling stressed and hungry. But to then have a table full of little dishes, bread, falafel, yogurt and all other things delicious and comforting, just made everything well again. Good memories, better food.
Old Boy (Rue de Tenbosch 110, 1050 Ixelles)
An asian fusion place that just has two options. The menu with meat or the one with fish. You can only reserve at set times, as they serve the whole restaurant at once. All starters come out together, the different mains follow soon after and so on. Everybody’s on the same ride, and it’s a good one. It’s pretty fun to see everybody tuck in to the same delicious dish at the same time, and because of that, the vibe is always excellent. Sit at the bar though, and peek into the kitchen, there’s fire and stuff.
De Monk (Rue Sainte-Catherine 42)
A classic, and the place where I spent the majority of my college years. They have an excellent selection of beer, but in Brussels this is more rule than exception. The interior is very typical of the city, a combination of wood, mirrors and a touch of fin de siècle. They have a spaghetti restaurant in the back, that is great and sometimes have gigs on as well. Stay late and talk about that movie you’re writing. It’s that kind of place.
Goupil Le Fol (Rue de la Violette 22)
Insane cafe/bazaar/maze where you can easily get lost. It’s an old house in Brussels filled to the brim with couches, paraphernalia, bicycles on walls and low lighting. It’s a pretty bizarre place, excellent for very late nights. It very much feels like part of a movie, and there’s something unreal about the geometry of it all. I don’t think you can actually see the walls anymore, under all the paintings, pictures and stacks of books. It’s a good place to just fall asleep as well, but you might have some weird dreams. Not entirely sure if it’s haunted or not.
There’s a lot of parks in Brussels, and every summer, most parks build their own pop-up bars where they throw parties or have some shows. There really is a lot to choose from during the hotter months, and it’s where all the locals go and hang out. The atmosphere is great, and very relaxed.
Atelier 34 (Drève de Rivieren 334, 1090 Jette)
A place in Laeken (which is part of Brussels) that is also a museum. The art there can be pretty out there, and they make a point of having it up on giant billboards in their yard, which is brilliant. They also serve drinks, a bit of food and have loads of couches (again) in their yard. It’s a good place to spend a Sunday between the chickens that roam freely, or just bring your own stuff and have a barbeque.
Fuse (Rue Blaes 208)
The all time classic in Brussels, and birthplace of a lot of the city’s nightlife. Always has a great line up, and good vibes. There are two rooms, and to call the whole place spacious would be an overstatement. Which means it’s busy, sweaty, dark and loud. Perfect.
Core Festival - (Av. de l'Atomium)
Festivals are the thing to do in and around Brussels in the summer months as there is so so much to choose from. I would go for Core Festival, as they always have an amazing, slightly left field and pretty broad line-up. The festival itself is in the park and woods around the atomium, which is a very shiny collection of big balls in Brussels. The location is very surreal, and the music only adds to the drama, so for a pretty full on experience, it would go here.
Crevette (Rue Blaes 146)
Crevette records is the best place to make unexpected discoveries, spend way longer browsing than initially planned and leave with more vinyl you can actually carry. They love what they do and they do it well. It’s a small shop in a nice part of town, and so, it has a pretty magnetic pull on me whenever I’m in the neighborhood. I've found some real gems there, so thanks Crevette!
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