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. How to be cool like a local: Nine things to do in Brussels in May
HUNT FOR VINYL GEMS
Now in its 18th year, the Brussels Vinyl Record Fair draws music fans from across Europe to the Galerie Ravenstein. Normally rather desolate, the 1950s shopping arcade near Bozar will be crammed with enthusiasts hunting through cardboard boxes for a forgotten release or a favourite band on vinyl. You find every genre here from moody French chanson to prog rock. Held on June 3 from 10pm. Entrance is free.
DIG OUT FORGOTTEN TRACKS
The Collector in the city centre next to the old Stock Exchange
Most cities lost their record stores when CDs came along, but music shops in Brussels refused to die. The city now has a vibrant vinyl scene focused on the Bourse neighbourhood where dedicated vinyl collectors and DJs go to hunt for rare finds that you don’t find many other places.
You could start with The Collector, opposite the Bourse, where locals have been buying records since the 1980s. Then head over to more recent specialised stores like Veals and Geeks, where the racks are filled with psychedelic music, or join DJs from France and the UK hunting through crates of dance music in Dr Vinyl.
Several new record stores have opened recently including Crevette Records in the Marolles, where you can sit at a counter with a Papegaai beer listening to techno on headphones.
With their relaxed retro mood, Brussels’ vinyl stores have become friendly urban spots where people go when they want someone to chat to on a rainy day. The staff are usually happy to share their favourite bands with you and pass on a flyer for an upcoming concert.
CHECK OUT THE VINTAGE
Vintage fans can look forward to Brussels Vintage Market. Every first Sunday of the month, the market takes place in the beautiful Halles Saint Géry in the city centre both indoor and outdoor. There is a mix of everything, from clothes and jewellery to small furniture and decorative objects. The vinyl records are playing old hits in the background while there is also food and drinks to look forward to after you’ve carried out your bargains.
GET INTO DESIGN
Most people associate design with hip cities like Copenhagen and Stockholm, but Brussels is catching up as an inspiring design destination. The tourist office Visit Brussels brought out the guide Brussels by Designers earlier this year to highlight the best concept stores, design bookshops and stylish cafés. The lists have been put together by four local designers who know the scene intimately including fashion designer Gioia Seghers whose hotspots include Gabriele Vintage, Kaaitheater and Bar du Matin. Or you could follow designer Jean François d’Or to his favourite spots like the Abbaye de la Cambre gardens and the lunch restaurant L’Estaminet in Schaerbeek.
Brussels by Designers is sold in Visit Brussels shops and at upmarket bookstores in the city. It costs €8,50.
FOLLOW THE BRUSSELS STREET ART TRAIL
Stencil graffiti art at 7 Rue du Chêne made by Jef Aérosol, one of the first French street art pioneers from the 80’s. It depicts John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.
The street art scene in Brussels emerged in the 1990s when the city, modelling itself on Berlin, took a more tolerant attitude to graffiti. Many local and international street artists flocked to the abandoned Eglise de la Chapelle/Kapellekerk railway station in the Marolles neighbourhood to create works in the tunnels under the railway viaduct. The Brussels culture councillor Karine Lalieux is now firmly in favour of street art as part of the urban mix, which has led to some inspired projects in downtown Brussels, including hidden works by French artist OakOak in the St Catherine district.
The commune of Brussels recently launched a website dedicated to street art in the downtown neighbourhood. It features two street art tours and a map pinpointing every interesting work, from a fresco on the shutters of Noordzee fish shop to a tiny piano keyboard on the doorstep of a house.
© Lisa Rave
The cosmopolitan city festival Kunstenfestivaldesarts brings cutting-edge drama, dance and performance to 23 venues across Brussels throughout the month of May. Now in its 23rd year, the festival has adopted two unexpected venues to begin and end its 2018 programme. It launches with Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula’s dance performance Banataba, which will be staged in an empty wing of the unfinished Africa Museum in Tervuren. And the festival will end with several productions in the empty Citroen garage destined to become the art centre Kanal/Centre Pompidou.
ADMIRE THE ZINNEKE PARADE
Zinneke Parade aims to celebrate Brussels diverse communities
Launched in 2000 when Brussels was one of the European capitals of Culture, the Zinneke Parade aims to be a contemporary procession for a cosmopolitan city. Held every two years, the parade brings together groups from 18 urban neighbourhoods. Dressed in flamboyant costumes, they converge on the Bourse square in an exuberant parade that blends music, dance and theatre. Held on 12 May from 15.00 to 20.00.
ENJOY BELGIAN PRIDE
One week after the Zinneke Parade has wound down, thousands of revellers pile into the city centre to take part in Belgian Pride. Founded in 1996, the event marks the end of two weeks of activities celebrating the city’s sexual diversity and tolerance. Involving more than 70 organisations, the parade features flamboyant costumes, gaudy floats and gay-friendly street parties that fill the Saint Jacques quarter in the city centre. This year’ theme is Your Local Power, calling on the gay community to show itself in the streets without fear. For more information, the Pride Village on Mont des Arts brings together dozens of groups active in supporting gay community rights.
SEE THE LIGHT
Horta Museum ©Paul Louis
He died more than 70 years ago, but Victor Horta is still admired by architects for developing ingenious structures that brought light into traditionally dark Brussels interiors. His techniques are revealed in an exhibition that runs until June at the Horta Museum in Saint Gilles. It covers his entire career, from the neat little classical temple he constructed in the Cinquantenaire Park to his monumental designs for Central Station and the Palais des Beaux-Arts.
By Derek Blyth