Never a city to shy away from the surreal, Brussels has taken to its skies and its waters for extraordinary dinner concepts, has sprouted a bar where over 3,000 kinds of beers lie in wait for overwhelmed travelers, and has for two decades been the home to both a techno temple and an iconic drag bar. The heart of Europe knows what makes an unforgettable night on the town, as proven by these 10 options.
A dinner overlooking the Brussels skyline
Heading an originally Belgian initiative, the “Dinner in the Sky” folks have taken gourmet chefs and their guests to the clouds in over 40 countries by now. Still, returning to the Brussels firmament for a month every year remains a key priority for the organization boasting a surreal experience. Time and time again, some of the capital’s best chefs take to the stoves of open-air restaurants suspended by cranes, overlooking nine steel balls, a glorious 17th-century main square, and other major landmarks. The rollercoaster ride-style seats fill up fast, so getting your reservation as soon as possible is essential.
The 2017 edition of Brussels’ Dinner in the Sky is set for June. Be kept up to date on reservations opening up via email here.
An underwater dinner at Nemo33
If dinner in the Brussels skies has been made possible, what about dinner in Brussels waters? Though less accessible to the general public since a diving license is required, scuba enthusiasts recently got the opportunity to have an underwater rendezvous over lobster and champagne. The gourmet plunge to the spherical, futuristic-looking restaurant called “Pearl’ is about a five meters (16 feet) dip. Once inside, it’s off with the scuba gear, and guests can choose to dine either in their swimming attire or even their most stylish outfits.
Nemo33, Rue de Stalle 333, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 332 33 34
A mixology and veggie dinner at Hortense & Humus
In early 2017, gastronomical wunderkinds Nicolas Decloedt and Matthieu Chaumont joined forces to open the doors of Hortense & Humus, an upscale-feeling yet reasonably priced restaurant that seems poised to become a Brussels showpiece. While Decloedt busies himself in the kitchen by making light veggie dishes that could turn a brown bear vegetarian, French mixologist Chaumont whips up original cocktails and mocktails infused with homemade syrups. The food-cocktail couplings are well thought out, and lending even greater harmony to the experience is the setting: a pastel-colored former teahouse with a Sistine Chapel-esque ceiling, luxurious but never gaudy.
Hortense & Humus, Rue de Vergnies 2, Brussels, Belgium, +32 474 65 37 06
Splurge on Belgian beers at Délirium Café
Oft-mentioned in guide books as the venue with the world’s largest selection of commercially available beers, a certain kind of local will scoff at the mention of Délirium Café and their 3,000 brews. Admittedly, you’ll find tourists here by the dozens if not hundreds—it’s a large yet homey three-floor space offering a sea of Belgian beer, after all. What you’ll also find if you manage not to be put off by the cool kids, however, is a ton of like-minded beer lovers. And what’s not to love about spending the evening with a new international friend, swapping recommendations, and sampling obscure regional brews you never knew existed?
Délirium Café, Impasse de la Fidélité 4, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 514 44 34
Travel back in time at Le Cirio
When the craving for nostalgia is high, head to Le Cirio on La Bourse. After the closure of Le Falstaff on the other side of the square, the Brussels icon is one of the last grand establishments left over from a turn-of-the-century fondness for café opulence. Its lush interior, half-Neo-Renaissance and half-Art Nouveau, has remained almost entirely intact since 1886 and so has its place in the world as a dimly lit hideout ruled by nostalgia. When in doubt, order a “half-and-half.” The venue’s all-time favorite drink consists of half a glass of champagne and half a glass of white wine and has become a Brussels classic.
Le Cirio, Rue de la Bourse, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 512 13 95
A locals’ pub crawl at the Rue de Flandre
Au Daringman, Au Laboureur, Café Merlo, Monk—the list goes on. The “brown café” may be a dying breed, but in the Vlamingsesteenweg or Rue de Flandre, there’s still a nice smattering of these traditional Belgian watering holes to be found. These golden oldies are frequented mainly by locals, making the street a top-notch opportunity for a pub crawl the old Brussels way.
For a party
A drag cabaret at Chez Maman
Maman and her girls never fail to entertain, as is well known by frequenters of this iconic drag bar. A knock on the door will let guys—women usually aren’t allowed—into this intimate weekend establishment where the bar counter doubles as a podium. Gay in both the modern and the old sense of the word, Chez Maman celebrates occasions such as Halloween with special themed shows and great fervor.
Chez Maman, Rue des Grands Carmes 7, Brussels, Belgium, +32 465 39 29 35
Go all night at renowned techno temple Fuse
In short, Fuse is the Belgian techno club to beat. Over the course of more than 20 years, the Marolles institution has built a reputation for steady excellence, easily attracting the biggest DJs and the most dedicated melomaniacs to Brussels’s old working man’s quarter. Once per month, there’s La Démence, a huge, mostly shirtless gay party that’s been part of the ride since the beginning.
Fuse, Rue Blaes 208, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 511 97 89
Lindy hop dancing at Madame Moustache
Tuesdays are for polka dot skirts and bowler hats at Madame Moustache on the Sainte-Catherine Square. Both amateur and avid practitioners of dances like the Lindy hop and quickstep find a haven here every second night of the week when the parquet dance floor sees couples shuffling, twisting and turning to the tunes of a live band. The interior is a stir-fry of carnivalesque kitsch, encouraging themed outfits and wicked moves.
Go underground at Recyclart
Part community center, part art gallery and part underground club, Recyclart is an exciting hybrid hiding underneath Brussels’s railway tracks. The former railway station—covered up in graffiti—switches freely between Berlin-esque techno parties, local photographer exhibits, and acoustic concerts.
Recyclart, Rue des Ursulines 25, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 502 57 34