Share article:
Share article:

Derek Blyth’s hidden secrets of Brussels

AIR RAIDSHELTERdeblbxhiseis28onim1
AIR RAIDSHELTERdeblbxhiseis28onim1

Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling The 500 Hidden Secrets of Brussels. He picks out ten of his favourite hidden secrets in every issue for The Brussels Times Magazine. These are the picks in the latest February issue.


You need to hunt it out. Hidden behind the trees in the Parc de Bruxelles, you can spot the entrance to an old air raid shelter built in 1939. Intended as a Belgian command centre, it was taken over by the German army in 1940 as a centre for tracing radio messages sent by the Resistance. Reinforced in the 1960s as a Cold War bunker, it was abandoned after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Go to the Bunker du Parc Royal’s Facebook page and you can see what lies below. 

Behind Théâtre du Parc, Parc de Bruxelles
Government district


urban therapydeblhisebxis28onim6

Anis and Céline have created an intriguing concept store that resembles a cabinet of curiosities. The owners have roamed the world to find inspiring products by young designers, including a huge collection of terrariums from Paris. They have added unique personal touches, like workshops, Sunday brunch with opera singers and a little glass of mint tea as you wander around the store.

Rue de Flandre 80-84, Dansaert
+32 (0)2 319 44 42,


Exciting things are happening on Place Fernand Cocq as Ixelles commune pushes ahead with its car-free zone. The new bar Contrebande is run by a local cooperative of five young people who promote unique organic beers from small Brussels breweries. They will tempt you with brews from Brasserie de la Senne, En Stoemelings, l’Ermitage and No Science, along with tasty vegan and non-vegan food.  

Place Fernand Cocq 6, Ixelles
+32 (0)2 512 24 66



This beautiful new place to lunch occupies a vast corner house where the director of the military hospital once lived. The eating area is spread over three spacious rooms decorated in Brooklyn loft style with exposed brick walls, concrete floors and thick red curtains. There’s also a romantic conservatory and a little garden at the back.

Avenue Auguste Rodin 8, Ixelles
+32 (0)2 203 00 14



It looks like a staff canteen, but L’Architecte is a place where some serious cooking is done. Located on the ground floor of the architecture school La Cambre, the interior was given a raw industrial look by the Brussels firm Lhoas & Lhoas. The setting is truly urban with big windows looking out on the vibrant life of Place Flagey. But the cooking is what matters here. The menu was put together by Damien Bouchéry, who has created fantastic dishes at affordable prices. It’s a pity they throw customers out into the cold at 10pm because the main door has to be locked. #typicalbrussels, you might say.

Place Flagey 15, Ixelles
+32 (0)2 648 34 36,


This cool Ixelles restaurant has added a fresh twist to the traditional Belgian roast chicken. It has the look of a roadside diner with big windows looking out on the street and stacks of logs at the front door. The relaxed mood attracts a young crowd who come for Mechelen coucou chicken roasted over a wood fire, generous bowls of frites and jam jars filled with apple sauce.  

Rue de la Paix 22, Ixelles
+32 (0)2 513 41 65,


life is beautifuldeblhisebxis28onim5

No secret door or hipster beards. Karoline and Harouna run a friendly, relaxed cocktail bar with a plain candlelit interior. It appeals to an international Brussels crowd with a range of cocktails including a few quirky inventions. We were bowled over by the vodka-based Under the Garden which is smoked in oak and then sealed with a potted plant (which you have to hand back).

Rue Dansaert 161, Central Brussels
+32 (0)2 223 59 99,


A short hike up the Rue de Namur brings you to JAT’, a stylish coffee bar that opened in 2013. It has a random assortment of vintage armchairs, indie music and international magazines. The friendly team behind the bar serve good coffees, sandwiches and soups.

Rue de Namur 28, Sablon
+32 (0)2 503 03 32,


Where do you find a newspaper now that most Brussels newsagents have closed? The Pain Quotidien café-bakery on the corner of Avenue Lepoutre has come up with a solution. It now has a newsstand at the entrance where you can pick up a wide range of international newspapers along with style magazines and political journals.

Chaussée de Waterloo 515, Ixelles
+32 (0)2 343 33 59,


le relais forestierdeblhisebxis28onim4

This snug new café in the grounds of Rouge Cloître abbey makes the perfect spot to end a forest ramble. Located in an old stone house, the interior is furnished like a Swiss chalet, with pine tables, a wood stove and a toy cable car hanging from the roof. The friendly owners are committed to sustainable, ethical food from local producers. They offer organic soups, beers from Walloon breweries like Dupont and Silly, and cakes supplied by Les Tartes de Françoise.

Maison du Portier, Rue du Rouge-Cloître 2, Auderghem

By Derek Blyth

Latest news

More than 1,300 Covid-19 patients in Belgian hospitals
More than 1,300 people are in hospital as a result of coronavirus infections, as the number of new cases continues to rise in Belgium. Between ...
Masks reintroduced indoors, teleworking encouraged
Masks will again be mandatory inside shops and other indoor public spaces, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced in a press conference on ...
Belgium intends to activate the pandemic law, says Health Minister
"We intend to activate the pandemic law," Public Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke confirmed on Tuesday in the House committee, ahead of Tuesday's ...
Offers for fake Covid Safe Tickets circulating on social media
As the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) becomes mandatory in many places across Belgium, offers for forgeries are increasingly circulating on social media. ...
EU auditors: More worried about the future budget than about pervasive errors in the 2020 budget
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) have signed off the 2020 EU accounts as giving a true and fair view of the union’s financial position but like ...
Belgium aims to tackle sexual violence with video interrogations
The federal government is looking to tackle sexual violence and increase convictions connected to this crime by relying more heavily on video ...
Duvel celebrates 150th anniversary with special brew in commemorative bottle
Belgium’s Duvel Moortgat Brewery is celebrating its 150th anniversary with the release of a special brew in a commemorative bottle shaped like its ...
Pollution scandal: 3M to show emissions don’t pose risk or halt production
Flanders has ordered American company 3M, involved in a pollution scandal in Antwerp, to prove that emissions linked to its production activities do ...
The Netherlands fears a greater rise in sea levels than forecast
Sea levels could rise by up to two metres by 2100 on the Dutch coastline – far more than previously forecast – according to an announcement from the ...
The Smurfs return to Belgian TV with the first new show since 1989
A new Smurfs show is bringing the characters of Belgium's second-most-famous comic franchise back to the small screen with their first new series, 30 ...
On this day in Brussels: An entrepreneurial journey begins
The Rue Dansaert was just beginning to become trendy when Alain Coumont opened his first bakery here on 26 October 1990. He started by baking big ...
Almost half of Belgian subsidies from EU left unused
Belgium left almost half (49%) of its subsidies allocated by the European Union between 2013 and 2020 unused, the equivalent of around €1.375 ...