Share article:
Share article:

Derek Blyth’s hidden secrets of Brussels

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 November issue.


is32onim4deblhiseonim5111418Strokar inside

A stunning new street art hub has opened in an abandoned Delhaize supermarket in Ixelles. Originally built as a garage, the modernist building was converted into a supermarket in 1971. Its concrete walls are now covered with wild art by dozens of Belgian and international artists. The works include Andrea Ravo Mattoni’s giant triptych based on paintings by Flemish Masters and a series of rubbish bins sprayed with the portraits of Belgian politicians.

Chaussée de Waterloo 569, Ixelles


is32onim7debly11on141820im7DINING CABERDOUCHE NEW 696x464

This new café on the sleepy Place de la Liberté borrows its name from an old Brussels word referring to a bar used by prostitutes (from the Spanish expression cabe una dulce, or here comes a sweet girl). The spacious interior has been given a Nordic makeover with exposed brick walls, big windows and hanging plants. The menu offers simple homemade food along with an interesting list of craft beers including Boon Oud Gueuze and Goose Island IPA from Chicago.

Place de la Liberté, Government Quarter
+32 (0)2 356 14 05,


It’s hard to keep kids amused during winter, but you might manage to brighten up a gloomy day by persuading them to follow the comic strip trail. Launched in 1991, the route now features 56 comic book murals dotted around town. You can begin at Central Station where a huge Smurf ceiling fresco was unveiled earlier this year in a passage next to the Hilton Hotel. But that’s just the start of a fascinating route that helps to make Brussels the comic book capital of the world.


deblis3211111418onim6TERVUREN ARBORETUM

Not many people know about the arboretum planted just outside Brussels by King Leopold II. Located near Tervuren, it’s a quiet spot to wander through on an autumn or winter morning. Trees are planted in plots corresponding to continents, so you can begin in a forest that resembles British Columbia, discover a patch of Douglas firs from Oregon, cross a bridge into a Swedish forest and end up in an Alpine landscape. Leopold’s aim was to find out which species could survive in Belgium’s cold, wet climate. Most trees seem to be doing fine.



Named after the famous Russian dancer, Librairie Nijinsky used to sell secondhand books in a beautiful town house in the Châtelain district. No more. The owner was forced out by a rent hike. He now occupies a much smaller shop near Place Flagey. Drop in to check out his eclectic stock of books and art magazines, including a small collection of English fiction.

Chaussée d’Ixelles 315, Ixelles
+32 (0)2 539 20 28


Learn more about your city this winter in a hidden downtown cabaret. Historian Roel Jacobs is giving a series of talks in the charming cafe-theatre Le Jardin de ma Soeur in the heart of Saint-Catherine district. Jacobs aims to shed some light on the Spanish period on 7 and 8 November, the Austrian occupation on 20 and 21 November, and Expo 58 on 5 and 6 December. Tickets cost €5.

Quai du Bois à Brûler, Central Brussels
+32 (0)2 217 65 82,


32is32onim311182014deblhisePICCOLA STORE

Mamma mia, this little Italian restaurant is the real thing. The owner, Rosalba Astore, comes from the region south of Naples where they grow the best of everything. You eat what she tells you. Sometimes she has spaghetti vongole. Sometimes not. Sometimes there is lemon tart. Sometimes every last crumb has gone. It’s the most authentic Italian restaurant we know.

Rue Lesbroussart 48, Ixelles
+32 (0)498 88 87 86,


3is32onim21111420deblhisecBRUSSELS CEMETERY

Brussels has several romantic cemeteries dating from the 19th century including the vast Brussels Cemetery in Evere, where you find the graves of burgomasters, politicians, academics and soldiers. Hop on bus 63 to reach this forgotten spot where you can discover the city’s past, admire beautiful tombs and breathe clean air.

Avenue du Cimetière de Bruxelles 159, Evere


5is32deblonim111201418PASSAGE DU NORD

The Passage du Nord used to look a bit faded and dusty, but a 16-year-long building operation has restored the shine to this covered passage built in 1882. The shop fronts have been repainted in the original style, the neoclassical statues cleaned and the lighting improved. Among the shops, you find an oyster bar, knife shop and milk bar.

Place de Brouckère, Central Brussels


This romantic little park hidden behind the Hilton Hotel is the perfect urban retreat, reached down a secret path between two houses. The park has a few benches, some rare trees and a statue of Peter Pan, along with a stylish café-restaurant located in a former orangerie. The city recently put up signs explaining the history of this ancient green space.

Rue aux Laines 1, Central Brussels

Latest news

Belgium in Brief: Getting To The Airport
When I saw the news of plans for a tram line and cycle path to connect Brussels' outskirts to the airport, my first reaction was sheer joy.  Let ...
EU should invest €5 trillion in climate plan, says State Secretary for Economic Recovery
The European Union must invest €5 trillion in its climate plan over the next decade to "retain its credibility as a political project," according ...
Brussels café managers ask for security guards following stabbing over vaccination proof
Managers of cafes in Brussels are asking to be provided with security guards if they’re to continue enforcing rules surrounding proof of vaccination, ...
1.6 tonnes of drugs, 27 suspects: Belgian police bust major gang
The Belgian police and public prosecutor's office arrested 27 suspects and seized 1.6 tonnes of drugs, over €80,000 and a number of weapons in a ...
75% more sexual violence victims seek help in Brussels since summer
There has been a 75% increase in the number of people asking for help from the Brussels Centre for the Treatment of Sexual Violence (CPVS) since the ...
European Commission outlines possible action against the rule of law crisis in Poland
In a speech at the European Parliament plenary on Tuesday morning, Commission president Ursula von der Leyen listed three options for action against ...
PFOS contamination found in air around 3M factory
Months after unsafe levels of the chemical PFOS were discovered in the water and soil in the vicinity of a 3M factory in Antwerp, in addition to in ...
Belgium is global leader in plastic recycling and bioplastic innovations
Belgium is among the best-performing countries when it comes to innovation in plastic recycling and researching alternative plastics technologies, an ...
Lidl reopens all Belgian shops as strike actions end
Lidl has confirmed that all its shops in Belgium will reopen on Tuesday following six days of closure across various branches due to strike actions. ...
Brussels Christmas Market will once again return on 26 November
It may only be October, but the news that Brussels will get back its Christmas market this year means that seasonal celebrations with Glühwein ...
New coronavirus infections above 3,000 for first time since May
The number of people testing positive for coronavirus has skyrocketed to the highest rate since the start of May 2021. Between 9 and 15 October, ...
Brussels Airport adds 10 flight destinations this winter
Some 130 destinations will be served from Brussels Airport this winter, the company announced on Monday, just a few days before the start of the ...