Hipster guide to Brussels
Travel blogger Adam breaks Brussels' placid facade to reveal a 'Bourgeois Bohemian' side with his list of hip bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs in Brussels.
When researching travel tips for this hipster guide to Brussels, I came across the term 'BoBo' or Bourgeois Bohemian. In all honesty, with Brussels’ title as the capital of Europe, BoBo is a more accurate description of many of the places to see in this travel guide.
What is a Bourgeois Bohemian and what sets them apart from a hipster? Well, not much. BoBos are just more likely to have and spend more money. While there are plenty of thrifty and even cheap things to do in Brussels, if you’ve got the money, you might as well spend it. In Brussels, you can enjoy a very Bourgeois Bohemian lifestyle – even if you’re just in town for a weekend.
The beauty of Brussels is that it hides so many of its charming features. The downtown area, though beautiful, is only interesting for so many tourists – and even then it can’t keep many young travellers’ enthusiasm. But leave the city center and explore some of the other parts of town (Ixelles, for one), and you’ll quickly discover how much fun the city can be.
Bars and cafes in Brussels
- Cafe Belga – one of the trendiest cafes in town. You’ll hear Bjork and her ilk on the stereo. During the day it’s crowded with people hanging out on the sun loungers outside, and in the evenings it's popular for enjoying some quality beers.
- Champagnotheque – a champagne bar where you can buy by the glass, which is a novelty for champagne!
- À La Mort Subite – this 'Sudden Death' bar is famous for Lambic beer on tap and a healthy mix of locals, tourists and funny old folks.
- Place Saint Boniface – lots of people hang out in this plaza in Ixelles in the summer.
- Le Pantin – a cosy bar with board games and chess sets for people to use.
- Recyclart – a non-profit cafe and art centre by day, and in the evenings it’s a nightclub. Some nights they even offer quirky courses such as woodworking or bread baking.
- Potemkine – has a good brunch, and often there are DJs and small concerts. Also shows free movies.
- Moeder Lambic – it's one of the best beer bars in town and ranked as one of the top 10 in the world. The waiters are trained to recommend beers (mostly Belgian) based on your mood/taste.
Food in Brussels
- Exki – these quick eateries are scattered around town and offer healthy, organic foods. They're a welcome break from all the unhealthy snacks so popular in Belgian cuisine.
- Frites, of course – the best I had were at the stand at Place Flagey (Friterie Flagey Frituur). Fritland is also well-known (and decent) but probably only because it’s the most popular in the downtown touristic areas. If you’re looking for a bit of adventure with your fries, try the local 'pickle' sauce.
- Arcadi Cafe – a hyper-local place that’s family-owned and downtown, too. Try a quiche!
- Capoue – generally regarded as offering some of the best ice cream in town.
- Mamma Roma – here you pay for pizza by the pound. They also serve up some interesting pizzas like 'potato-truffle'.
Nightlife in Brussels
- Place Saint Boniface – the street just in front of the church offers some affordable and quality restaurants. If you want to enjoy a summer night in Brussels without the partying but still a lot of people-watching and good times, consider checking out the cafes and restaurants here. Bonus: The street closes down for a summertime street-party at least once a year!
- Saint Gery – this area near downtown has lots of people drinking outside in the summer. It offers a great atmosphere and you don’t even have to hang out in one of the bars.
- Weekly events such as Piknik Elektronik (every other sunday in a different park, electro DJs) and Apéros Urbains offer the chance to explore new parts of Brussels each week. While each started as more of an underground movement, these days they’re more popular as networking events for Bourgeois Bohemians and European Union socialites. Entrance is typically free.
- Recyclart – located inside an underground train station, it’s a very hip atmosphere. Check their Facebook page for parties.
- The Fuse – This club has been around for a while but is still one of the most popular nightclubs around.
Adam Groffman is a freelance writer and travel blogger based in Berlin, Germany, where he covers city trips in Europe and around the world, expat life, LGBT issues, festivals and nightlife. His work has been featured in Vanity Fair, Condé Nast Traveler, DETAILS, USA Today Travel and numerous online publications. When he's not exploring the coolest bars and clubs, he's usually enjoying the local arts and culture scene. His travel stories are available on his blog Travels of Adam. Find him on Twitter @travelsofadam or view his daily photos on Instagram @travelsofadam.
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