Best bars in Belgium for a taste of Belgian culture

Best bars in Belgium for a taste of Belgian culture

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Work your way through Belgium's list of hundreds of specialty beers at one of these rocking bars. Which are the best bars in Brussels, Antwerp or Ghent?

Belgium is a trove of quirky and cultural experiences. You'll find plenty of reasons to celebrate Belgium’s eccentric carnivals, art-house cinema scene and excellent shopping facilities – but up the top of the list of things to do in Belgium, diving into the Belgian specialist beer industry is a must.

Beer and bar life are an ingrained part of Belgian culture. Belgium’s mix of traditional and trendy bars are perfect for discovering a slice of local life and impressing your visitors over a pint of witbier or trappist ales. When you need a break from hopping the best bars in Brussels, you're only a jump away from numerous other local, party destinations.

Here you’ll find a range of the top bars to help you dig into Belgium’s culture.

Top bars in Brussels

A la Mort Subite
For a slice of old Brussels life, this cavernous and rowdy bar doesn’t lack for atmosphere with long rows of tables for chattering, yellowing walls, and its own Mannekin Pis. It is the perfect place for a Kriek on draught and a quick bite.

Rue Montagne aux Herbes Potageres 7
Mon–Fri: 11am–1am; Sat: 11am–midnight; Sun: noon–midnight
www.alamortsubite.com

Le Bier Circus
As the name implies, this basic emporium of beer stocks a couple hundred varieties, all bound in a special beer menu. There’s a unique glass collection to match the rare and unusual beers, plus a cosy tasting corner.

Rue de l’Enseignement 57
Tues–Fri: 11:30am–2:30pm, 6pm-midnights; Sat: 6pm–midnight
www.bier-circus.be

Moeder Lambic Original
Sitting in the shadow of the St Gillie town hall, this tiny wooden tavern with benches and scrubbed tables has a beer menu with some of the rarer bottles costing as much as vintage wines. Its more modern sister bar, Moeder Lambic Fontainas, is situated at Place Fontainas 8, is great for beer tasting.

Rue de la Savoie 68
Mon–Fri: 4pm–1:30am; Sat–Sun: 4pm–3am
www.moederlambic.com

Cirio
Opened in 1886, a minute from the Grand Place and you land in the 19th century, with the bar’s original art nouveau wallpaper and fittings. A thorough selection of mostly bottled beer is supplemented by the famous half-en-half, a mixed glass of still and sparkling wine.

Rue de la Bourse 18
Daily: 10am–midnight

Le Fleur en Papier Dore
This old bar, on a steep hill just below the Sablon, was the hangout of the Brussels Surrealists, and their scribbles and drawing can still be seen on the walls. It was under threat of closure until a group of die-hards clubbed together to save it for posterity.

Rue des Alexiens 55
Tues–Sat: 11am–midnight; Sun: 11am–7pm
www.goudblommekeinpapier.be

A La Becasse

This family-owned bar since 1877 is situated close to the Grand Place and one oldest bars in downtown Brussels, with traditional wooden decor and long benches to accommodate drinkers.

Rue de Tabora 11
Daily 11am-midnight
www.alabecasse.com

La Porte Noire 

This atmospheric cellar bar is popular with hip young locals and foreigners, and regular live performances make it perfect for a rowdy night out. Besides a decent beer menu, you’ll find one of the better whisky selections in the city.

Rue des Alexiens 67
Mon–Wed: 5pm–2am; Thurs: 5pm–3am; Fri–Sat: 5pm–4am

Top bars in Antwerp

Den Engel
‘The Angel’ is as much a part of Antwerp life as Rubens and fashion. Situated in the main square, this historic bar has no pretensions, no grand style, but the usual crowds give it a buzzy edge.

Grote Markt 3
Daily 9am–1am
www.cafedenengel.be

Kulminator
This is a classic bar renowned for its range of beers – more than 500 in bottles, plus a huge choice on draught – including vintage beers some decades old. Tiny and cosy, it isn’t the easiest to find tucked away in a side street.

Vleminckveld 32
Mon: 8pm–midnight; Tues–Sat: 4pm–midnight
Facebook.com/Kulminator

De Vagant

This is where to go for a good glass of genever (or jenever), the fiery gin-like spirit. There are 200 types on offer, with a restaurant upstairs serving food. Take lessons from the locals – they sip rather than down it in one.

Reyndersstraat 25
Mon–Fri: 11am–2am; Sat 11am–3am; Sun: noon–2am
www.devagant.be

Top bars in Bruges

Brugs Beertje

Beertje is like a Dutch brown cafe – dark, moody and atmospheric. The beer menu offers some 300 beers, although be sure to sample the beer of the month – the Hairy Bikers did likewise when visiting Bruges’ ‘Little Bear’.

Kemelstraat 5
Mon, Thurs–Fri: 4pm–midnight; Sat–Sun: 4pm–1am
www.brugsbeertje.be

Cafe Vlissinghe

The oldest pub in Bruges has quenched thirsts since 1515. Tucked down a side street, the decor and interior retain a sense of history. Try a game of boules in the garden during the summer.

Blekersstraat 2
Sun: 11am–7pm; Wed–Sat: 11am–10pm
www.cafevlissinghe.be

Brouwerij De Halve Maan

This is one of the oldest standing breweries in Brugge that not only does tours but also serves traditional Flemish pub food while locals and tourists mingle together over some of the freshest beer in town.

Walplein 26
Sun–Fri: 10am–6pm; Sat: 10am–7pm
www.halvemaan.be

Top bars in Ghent

De Dulle Griet

The Griet took a leap of faith many years ago and became the first bar to specialise in Flemish beers. Because of that it gets its fair share of tourists but locals, too. You may be asked to exchange a beer for a shoe, which then gets hauled into the air in a basket where it hangs until the drinker has paid up and returned their glass. (This quaint tradition evidently stops you walking out with one of the specialised beer glasses.)

Vrijdagsmarkt 50
Mon: 4:30pm–1am; Tues–Sat: noon–1am; Sun.: noon–7:30pm
www.dedullegriet.be

Stadsbrouwerij Gruut

The Gruut brewery might not have a jazzy scene like Café Den Turk, Gent’s oldest bar, or the buzz of popular Waterhuis aan de Bierkant, but it does serve a unique Belgian beer that uses a mixture of herbs (gruit/gruut) instead of hops. Visitors can tour the brewery.

Grote Huidevettershoek 10
Mon–Thurs: 11am–6pm; Fri–Sat: 11am–11pm; Sun: 2pm–7pm
www.gruut.be

Top bars in Lueven

If you plan on drinking in Lueven, heading to the city's main square, Oude Markt, is a must for revelling among the vibrant student throngs. The area is nicknamed the ‘longest bar in the world’ due to its collection of some 40 cafes and bars all side-by-side.

Trappist beers

Six of the world's 11 trappist breweries are in Belgium. Get to know these speciality trappist beers while out and about in Belgium:


Learn the basics to become a Belgian beer connoisseur.

 

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