Whether you’ve made the pilgrimage to Brussels for its tasty beers or headed to the Belgian capital to experience its famed nightlife, you might not have experienced the city as the locals do. There’s an endless list of things to see and do in Brussels - and it’s not just limited to sipping on Duvels - there’s plenty more where that came from.
We checked in with six of our favourite Brussels-based artists to catch their recommendations on what to do in the city, and find out their personal favourite spots in the Belgian capital. It’s the Comic City, the home of the waffle, and the greenest city in Europe - are you not tempted? Check their recommendations out below.
The start of any Brussels plan is often heading to Kiosk Radio at Parc Royal in the city centre. Surrounded by famous neighbours - the King’s Palace, the American Embassy and Wetstraat 16 (our version of 10 Downing Street) - Kiosk is the absolute opposite of these traditional institutions of old power. Every day, DJs and musicians play exciting music for an audience both online or on the terrace of the radio station and bar. This is a place where our city’s underground scene, often battling the status quo and creating new buzzes, unites.
From Kiosk, I enjoy walking to Buddy Buddy, a coffee shop and nut butter atelier with a stunning interior design. From there, I quickly descend into the vintage local neighbourhood Marolles for a stop at Crevette Records. This is where the black gold goes around, both new releases and immense second-hand offerings.
In the evening, I enjoy a movie at Galleries Cinema in the beautiful Galerie De La Reine, a 19th-century shopping arcade, or go for beers in one of the many bars downtown has to offer such as Marcelle, Archipel or Le Laboureur. At night you can find me at C12, a club tucked in the basement of the central station, for my DJ residency - or just to dance the night away.
I go running or enjoy the quiet in Parc Josaphat in Schaarbeek or the enormous Zoniënwoud in the south of the city, making Brussels Europe’s greenest capital city.
[Photo by Jente Waerzeggers]
Fuse is the oldest techno club in Belgium where I happen to be a resident, my fave spot is the Motion Room (second room upstairs, smaller capacity and cosy). C12 is a club within a former shopping mall - almost like reverse gentrification.
Fontainas is a queer bar and always has a great musical selection, mostly electronic music and DJ sets. Mothers and Daughters is my fave lesbian bar that only opens a few months a year and is always in a different location. La Flaque is my fave natural wine bar because I'm picky!
My fave park is Park van Vorst - great to chill, but don't be surprised if a random party pops up around sunset with loud music, Berlin style. Kiosk Radio is an online radio station where I've been a resident since its inception. It's in the middle of Parc Royal with an open-air bar which is also an amazing hang-out spot for electronic music lovers. Also, check out Not Your Techno party!
Brussels is a city of high contrasts between the rough and the refined on a very small scale. A short walk from North Station to Parc Josaphat perfectly encapsulates that. This is Schaerbeek - and my neighbourhood. Apart from the park, two stops are a must there. Barboteur, where they treat their taps as a good festival line-up - no headliners, just quality and something for every taste. And Achille, a new wine bar with insane food and wine and a real connoisseur behind the counter.
Closer to the city centre, there’s Parc Royal and Kiosk Radio which, on a good day, is a standard hang-out for the local scene. On a bad day, it’s cold, empty, and raining like hell. But, maybe I'm there spinnin' records to match the landscape!
On the way back to the centre, there’s Crevette Records with their bottomless record crates, Les Ateliers Claus for intimate eclectic concerts or VK / Recyclart for more gigs and open-minded club nights.
Maybe surprisingly, Brussels has some quality green spots. I like walking in the evening with my headphones on in Parc Duden and watching the sunsets there. When I’m taking breaks from studying archaeology at the ULB, I’ll wander in the Bois de la Cambre to reconnect with nature and ground myself in the present moment. Another way to disconnect and get inspired is to go digging for treasures (records and CDs!) at Crevette and Pêle Mêle, a second-hand store. My fave museums are the Art and History Museum, the Natural Science Museum and the Musical Instruments Museum, where they have a theremin you can play!
Another good one is the Planetarium which I visited recently for Terrence Dixon’s live set during Listen! festival. I appreciate all things cosmic - we've even started a collective of artists called PLANET which is a testimony to that, I guess!
When going out, there is of course C12 which plays an important role in Brussels’ nightlife, and I work at Beursschouwburg, a diverse arts and cultural centre that has great programming. Last but not least, I also like to spend time at home with my cat Lily.
If it’s your first time in Brussels and you're a music lover, your first stop should be at the Brussels music scene HQ, Kiosk Radio. This is the best place to listen to good music any time of the afternoon while drinking a great Belgian beer. If there are still some left, try Sona from L’Ermitage brewery. It’s also the perfect place to meet new friends and to create links between the different musical scenes of the country.
I’ve been living in the Forest neighbourhood for a few years, and it's turned out to be one of my favourite places in Brussels. My music studio and my flat are both situated around the Parc de Forest and Parc Duden which is a very chill place to walk or hang out with friends. The great Brussels music venue Beursschouwburg asked me to make a sound walk, and I chose this park - if you visit, take a listen while you explore the park! It’s a mixture of field recordings I did in the area, music I composed, meditation tapes I found, interviews, and the famous budgies of the park.
You can pick something from Janine Bakery for the walk. They have the best baguettes, and also make beers with the bread that they don’t sell at the end of the day. In the same area, you’ll find my favourite restaurant St Kilda where you can find the best food and natural wine in a very cosy atmosphere - it’s absolutely delicious and unpretentious.
You can’t come to Brussels without losing yourself in the Marolles neighbourhood around Rue Blaes and Rue Haute. And, if you are into crate digging, don’t miss Crevette Records (and Pim’s very good advice), as well as Balade Sonores and Sono Ventura just around the corner.
In the morning, you can also go to Place du Jeu de Balle, a very messy and beautiful flea market that might be the best picture to represent Brussels. It’s also the street of the legendary Fuse club if you want to experience nightlife later. At night, check out a concert at Beursschouwburg & Ancienne Belgique, or head to C12 in the centre.
If you continue in the centre, head to Rue de Flandres and Sainte Catherineto to try the great pizza of Nona or a delicious Japanese meal in a very traditional Izakaia at Ajiyoshi. We also have a lot of great galleries in Brussels with plenty to discover, including Clearing, Wiels, Mima, Bozar, iMAL, and Patinoire Royale.
[Photo by Pierre Tengrootenhuyse]
There is no doubt that the central point to anything cultural in the city is passing by the Kiosk Radio wooden shack at the royal park. People connect on the spot and there is always someone there to give you the right address for what you’re looking for. It's also my favourite bar with a variety of soft and local drinks and snacks. Wanna club? Visit C12, an underground club below the Central Station. Or the legendary Fuse, or La Cabanne.
For the local dishes have some fish at Noordzee, a spot in the Ste Catherine area cooking and grilling on the street side. Beijingya is my favourite Chinese in the same area. If you fancy buying records, visit the Marolles area with a bunch of great record stores like Sono Ventura, Crevette Records, Balades Sonores or Tropicall.