As the summer season begins, Brussels starts to move at a more relaxed pace. It’s a good time to explore the city’s cool side by visiting vinyl stores, picking up a guide to design venues, looking out for street art and joining a street parade that fits your mood.
Published in brussels local
You might be thinking that it’s time to start learning to cook like a local, rather than just getting an online delivery every time. Here are a few ideas on where to find the best ingredients and how to learn from the local experts.
Published in brussels local
It’s maybe still too early in the year for café terraces, but you can spend the month of March exploring the vibrant culture of Brussels, from indie films in a restored picture palace to Europe’s biggest design fair.
Published in brussels local
How to be a Brussels local: The February List - Eight things to do this month
Published in brussels local
It’s coming up to the most depressing day of the year (15 January), so you need to keep your spirits up. Fortunately, there are inspiring events happening in January that will take the edge off this gloomy period.
Published in brussels local
It’s coming up to the time of year when you might want to find an unusual gift to take back home. Here are some places to go for inspiring ideas along with a few hints on what locals like to do as the year comes to an end.

The December List: Ten things to do this month

PIMP MY STREET

Most Brussels locals warn you to avoid the Petite Rue des Bouchers and on no account to eat in any of its restaurants. But maybe you can ignore the advice for the coming month as the street has been reinvented as a temporary hub of Belgian creativity. Some twelve Belgian creators have taken over four empty shops in the street to show off art, photography, design, fashion and even chocolate.

The four shops have been lit with blue neon signs to guide you down the cobbled lane. The participants include chocolate maker Laurent Gerbaud, interior designer Dominique Gringoire and talented Brussels street photographer Jehanne Hupin.

You can also discover Isabelle Azais’ quirky Service de thé d’Alice au pays des poubelles (Alice in Rubbishland’s Tea Set) made from smashed cups, Studio Arbor’s tree art and Margaux Baert’s beautiful paper dress installation Paper Nymph. 

“Our aim is to persuade Brussels residents to rediscover this attractive street, while showing investors and shopkeepers that this neighbourhood has potential,” said Marion Lemesre, councillor for economic affairs in Brussels commune. 

Petite Rue des Bouchers, shops open from 12.00 to 19.00, until 7 January.

PICK UP A QUIRKY ANTIQUE IN THE MAROLLES

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Head down to the Marolles to explore the antique and vintage stores in this old Brussels neighbourhood. You might find something unusual or quirky to take back home at the flea market held every morning on the Place du Jeu de Balle. Or you can trawl through Stefantiek’s two cluttered shops filled with bizarre rarities. You might leave with a pair of carved stone angels that once decorated a Belgian castle, a stuffed giraffe from a vanished museum or even a complete vintage barbers’ shop interior.

www.stefantiek.com

CHECK OUT COOL SHOPS

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Set aside a Saturday morning to stroll around neighbourhoods where the small independent shops are located. Begin in the postcard shop Plaizier where you can pick up a guide to Ugly Belgian Houses to give a difficult brother or a poster of the Atomium in 1958 for a nostalgic uncle. No luck here? Then head to the magical Heyday in the Marolles where the owner sells quirky cards, retro robots and unique posters. Still struggling? You might find exactly what you need in the new Hopono concept store near Place du Châtelain.

www.plaizier.be
www.heyday.be
www.hopono-shop.com

CATCH THE SHOPPING BUS

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Not many people hop on the cute little electric shopping buses that link the uptown and downtown shopping districts. But the free orange buses, sponsored by ING bank, are a fun way to get around some of the city’s most vibrant districts, including the Sablon, Saint Jacques district and Rue Dansaert. The buses run every 15 minutes on Fridays and Saturdays, up until 6pm.

www.freeshoppingbus.be

DISCOVER DESIGNS AND PRODUCTS MADE AND BOUGHT BY LOCALS

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Belgomarkt

Belgomarkt is an interesting alternative to the big chained supermarkets. Situated between Saint Boniface and Place de Londres, the shop is completely focused on local food products. Everything is farmed and cultivated in Belgium, bio of course, from fresh fish and meat cuts, to cheese, fruits and vegetables. In the neighbourhood, you’ll also find Belgikïe, a designer shop selling clothes and handicraft from Belgian creators. If you are looking for a Belgian souvenir and want to support Belgian talents, check out Manneke in the city centre. The shop owners wanted to offer authentic alternatives for visitors and locals looking for gifts and souvenirs.

www.belgomarkt.be
www.belgikie.be
www.facebook.com/manneke.brussels

TAKE HOME A BRUSSELS BEER

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Brasserie de la Senne

Not so easy if you are flying home over Christmas, but you might work out a way to carry home a few Brussels beers from the city’s micro breweries. You could introduce friends back home to the sublime wheat beer Grosse Bertha brewed by the Brussels Beer Project, or the lovely Zinnebir from the Brasserie de la Senne right in the heart of Molenbeek. The micro brewery En Stoemelings offers a range of interesting brews, while the tiny l’Ermitage brewery creates small batches of American-style craft beers.

www.brasseriedelasenne.be
www.beerproject.be
www.enstoemelings.be

WATCH A FILM IN AN ARTHOUSE CINEMA

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Things have been stirring recently in the cinemas of Brussels. The Ixelles neighbourhood cinema Styx has reopened one of its two intimate screening rooms where 35 people can squeeze in to watch a film classic. Meanwhile, some of the best recent Belgian films are being screened at the Be Film festival held in late December in the Cinematek and Flagey cinemas.

www.befilmfestival.be

BOOK A ROOM FOR YOUR FRIENDS IN A LOCAL HOTEL

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Hygge Hotel

It’s sometimes difficult to squeeze friends into a little apartment. But Brussels has dozens of cool hotels where you can book an inexpensive room over Christmas. For a relaxed Nordic feel, check out the rooms at the new Hygge Hotel in Ixelles. Or show off the city’s quirky side by booking your friends a inexpensive double room at the nostalgic Le Berger, where rooms were once rented by the hour. 

www.hyggehotel.be
www.lebergerhotel.be

FIND A FUN ACTIVITY FOR KIDS

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First step for many local parents is to pick up a copy of the Kids’ Gazette, a free magazine and website in three languages that lists events in Brussels for children. Here you find information about plays, dance, concerts and other events. Sometimes language will be a problem, although kids can often cope with performances even when they don’t understand a word. Among the events scheduled, the most intriguing is Gare Centrale’s 25-minute “Baby Macbeth” aimed at children as young as 12 months.

www.kidsgazette.be

VISIT GRAND’PLACE AFTER DARK

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It has been described as the most beautiful square in the world, but Grand’Place just got more beautiful. The city recently completed an ambitious project to light up the buildings at night using 1,600 low-energy LED lights linked by 26 kilometres of cabling. The lights can be individually controlled to vary the colour or brightness, creating an infinite variety of effects in the square. It’s not just a tourist site, but also a place where locals head to celebrate the end the year.

By Derek Blyth
Published in brussels local
You maybe feel the cold weather is starting to bite in Brussels. But don’t start to despair if you are missing the sun. The dark days of November are the perfect time to start exploring warm indoor spots around town like natives do every year.

The November List: Seven things to do this month

DISCOVER A SECRET CABARET

The city is dotted with dark, secret café-theatres that aren’t too well known. But the organisation Bruxelles sur scenes aims to raise their profile this month by offering a special pass. It costs just 20 euro to spend an evening at 15 different venues across the city. They include the charming L’Os à Moelle basement cabaret theatre in Schaerbeek and the irresistible little Jardin de ma Soeur in the old heart of Saint Catherine. You can also catch a classical concert in the former studio of artist Marcel Hastir in the European Quarter or squeeze inside the tiny La Soupape theatre near Place Flagey. The programme includes jazz, comedy, harp concerts, poetry and authentic Berlin cabaret. But you have to book in advance for each venue because they are all small spaces.

www.bruxellessurscenes.be

EXPLORE HIDDEN TRAIN STATIONS

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Groenendaal station

Most people have no idea that Brussels has a network of more than 20 small suburban railway stations. They can be used to nip across town in just a few minutes to places not covered by the metro network. The local trains run to places like Tour et Taxis and Vivier d’Oie in the heart of Uccle. They also take you out beyond the city limits to halts like Groenendaal deep in the forest.

www.sncb.be

VISIT AN ART NOUVEAU HOUSE

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Inside Max Hallet Mansion designed by Victor Horta on Avenue Louise

About 500 Art Nouveau houses are still standing in Brussels, but most of them are private homes you can’t see inside. The cultural organisation Explore.Brussels has managed to persuade owners of five of the most beautiful Art Nouveau mansions to open their doors to visitors on a few days every year. It means you can finally step inside the Max Hallet Mansion on Avenue Louise, where the owner will be there to take visitors on a one-hour personal tour of his house that goes from the basement all the way to the attic. Other tours are organised in the Solvay Mansion on Avenue Louise and the Autrique House in Schaerbeek. It is a unique opportunity to find out what it is like to live in a Horta house. But it’s important to book early.

www.explore.brussels

MEET THE DARDENNES

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The Dardenne brothers

The Dardenne brothers have done more than anyone to raise the reputation of Belgian cinema. Born in industrial Seraing, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne have won several big awards for gritty films that look at struggling lives in the Wallonia rust belt. As their latest film, The Unknown Girl, arrives on screens, Flagey is putting on a retrospective focusing on the Dardennes’ early films. It introduces audiences to some rarely-seen early films as well as the much-praised Rosetta. 

www.flagey.be

PLAN A WINTER WEEKEND

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The old centre of Brussels becomes magical in December when a sound and light show is staged on Grand’Place, skaters head to the ice rink at Place de la Monnaie, and the streets around the St Catherine church are filled with more than 200 market stalls. Hotel rates in Brussels are not too pricey over the weekend, so you might persuade friends to join you in Brussels for a few winter days. Even if the Christmas market gets too crowded, you can lead them on a forest walk or show off the view of Brussels from the top of the Music Instrument Museum.

Until 31 December, www.plaisirsdhiver.be

DRINK A LOCAL BEER IN THE BEST BAR IN TOWN

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Ten years have passed since the artists’ bar La Fleur en Papier Doré was saved from bankruptcy. The new owners set out to renovate the old building while keeping its authentic spirit. They must have done something right because readers of the Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad have voted it “best bar in Brussels” for the second year running. Crammed with wooden furniture and old framed paintings, it’s a fantastic place to squeeze into on a cold November day. Invite a friend to join you for a bowl of soup and an authentic Lambic beer.

Rue des Aléxiens 55, Brussels, www.lafleurenpapierdore.be

FIND THE ULTIMATE STOEMP

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You can’t call yourself a Brussels native until you have eaten a helping of hearty winter stoemp, the local dish made with creamy mashed potato and carrots or leeks. But where do you go to find the best stoemp in town? You might try Les Brassins in Ixelles, a friendly spot popular with students where the kitchen offers stoemp du jour served with sausages. Or you could squeeze into Fin de Siècle down in the centre where the kitchen serves two plump sausages on a mound of stoemp. But maybe your best bet is the Marolles restaurant Au Stekerlapatte hidden at the back of the immense Palais de Justice where you can eat Belgian classics like stoemp in an old Brussels interior with wood tables and mirrors. 

www.lesbrassins.com; www.austekerlapatte.be   

By Derek Blyth
Published in brussels local
You are settled in Brussels but now you want to know the city a bit better, so you can show off your favourite spots to your friends when they come to visit.
Published in brussels local