Saint-Gilles, a trendy and multicultural southern district of Brussels, is evocatively dubbed the ‘village within the city,’ mostly due to its relaxed artsy atmosphere and cobblestone alleys. With its impressive list of things to do, see and — most of all — to enjoy, this area is worth a detour from the most common itineraries. Head south from the city center and find out why!
Discover hidden art nouveau gems
As this is one of the densest Art Nouveau spots in Brussels, you can’t really speak of what to do in Saint-Gilles without taking into account its several hidden architectural treasures. A number of artworks signed by the most prolific architects can be found all around this municipality, but a special mention goes to the ‘father of Art Nouveau in Brussels,’ Victor Horta. Musée Victor Horta, his former house and atelier converted into a museum back in 1969, is not only a world-renowned destination for all art enthusiasts but also the ideal starting point for a pleasant theme-based stroll. Interesting fact: few individuals know the Horta premetro station permanently displays structural parts of historic buildings (such as Maison du Peuple/Volkshuis and la Maison Aubecq) and are signed by the great architect.
Opening Hours: Tues – Sun, 2 pm-5:30 pm
Musée Victor Horta, Rue Américaine 22, Saint-Gilles, Belgium, +32 2 543 04 09
Get carried away in the incredible culture scene
In recent years, Saint-Gilles has emerged as a buzzing cultural hot spot, as its daily agenda seems to suggest. Exhibitions, Lindy Hop ateliers at La Tricoterie – Fabrique de liens and a superb movie selection are just few of the wide array of activities offered to both locals and visitors through its many cultural centers. Furthermore, keep an eye on Saint-Gilles’ annual agenda for events such as Parcours d’Artistes, Festival Cultures Maison – Festival de Bandes Dessinées et Productions Alternatives and la Foire des Vignerons — all of which give an authentic taste of the Saint-Gilloise life.
La Tricoterie — Fabrique de liens, Rue Théodore Verhaegen 158, Saint Gilles, Belgium, +32 486 88 29 96
Spot street art masterpieces in unconventional places
Did you know that Belgium has its own Banksy? He is called BONOM and his magnificent artworks have decorated the entire city since 2006. While down in Saint-Gilles, watch out, as his oeuvres are in the most unexpected places. They may be somewhere above your regular point of view, (hint: like the Unbridled talent work in Porte de Hal), or it could be right in front of your eyes, like the La Damoiselle, which is adorned on the façade of a delicious French corner restaurant.
La Damoiselle, Rue de Lombardie 28, Saint-Gilles, Belgium, +32 2 539 20 04
Make a deal in a typical Saint-Gillois market
Whether you fancy a tasty snack or the weekly food supply, every day there is a variety of opportunities to experience Saint-Gilles’ multicultural foodie side. Mondays are usually for the locals and the expats who blend together in the square right in front the Commune de Saint-Gilles, where they sip a glass of wine and savor local delicacies after their organic grocery run. During the week, it’s Parvis de Saint-Gilles‘ turn to open its stalls on the picturesque cobblestone square. The prime location of this market means there is also a long list of places to rest afterwards such as the Belgian Maison du Peuple, Brasserie Le Verschuerenor the ethnic Chana. But if you decide to head somewhere else, first pay a closer look to the premetro Parvis de Saint-Gilles — the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (both in French and Flemish) has adorned these walls since 1992 and is signed by the versatile Belgian artist Françoise Schein.
Finally, no Saint-Gillois market experience would be complete without checking out the Gare du Midi on Sundays. Get lost in the colorful food stall maze and make a deal around closing time. If you still have some coins to spare, try one of the delicious North-African delicacies at the only terrace on the entire market!
Place Maurice Van Meenen, Saint-Gilles, Belgium, Mon, 12:30 pm – 7 pm
A stone’s thrown away from the quiet and distinguished Ma Campagne area is a place that every vintage lover should check out. Lupinette, a charming concept store run by a lovely woman named Anne-Lise, offers a curated selection of clothes, jewelry and small furniture in a luminous environment. The best part is Anne-Lise’s mascot, Lupinou the cat, is frequently spotted furring around the shop. Don’t forget to check out this place for regular updates, events and unbeatable offers!
Opening Hours: Wed – Sat, 10:30 am – 8 pm
Lupinette Concept Store, Chaussée de Waterloo 345, Saint-Gilles, Belgium
Savor The Most Delicious Belgian Food In The Area
During the 16th century, St-Gilles’ gardens were mostly reconverted into Brussels sprouts fields, granting its inhabitants the nickname Koolen-Kappers (aka Brussels sprouts growers) for quite a long time. More to the point, if you wish to taste a proper Belgian meal, head confidently towards Chaussée de Waterloo (between Horta Premetro station and Ma Campagne), where within a few blocks you may find two highly recommended spots — La Cigale and Le Waterloo. Although very different in styles, both establishments offer a great selection. Bon appetit!
Chaussée de Waterloo, Saint-Gilles, Belgium
Have a totally different foodie experience at Café Des Spores
From appetizers to desserts, everything here is based around mushrooms, which makes Cafè des Spores one of the most original restaurants in the area. Good tip: If you fancy watching your meal being cooked (literally) under your eyes, ask to be seated upstairs!
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat evenings
Café des Spores, Chaussée d’Alsemberg 103, Saint-Gilles, Belgium, +32 2 534 13 03
Give the Belgian paper-coned pride a try
Not enough time for a proper meal? Then try Belgian street food par excellence! Served steaming in a paper cone with a generous dollop of your favorite sauce on top, Belgian fries are the perfect meal that can be savored either on the go or casually seated in a park. The Friterie de la Barriére is one of the most remarkable fritkots (aka chip stands) in the area, so enjoy this little piece of heaven!
Opening Hours: Mon – Thur & Sun 11:30 am – 5:30 am, Fri – Sun 11:30 am – 7 am
Friterie de la Barrière, Avenue du Parc, Saint-Gilles, Belgium
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun, 4pm- 3am
Leave the hustle and bustle behind for a relaxing space
As it can be overwhelming to be touring all day, why not go for a leisurely stroll in a park? While Saint-Gilles is not particularly renown for its green spots, there is a hidden space that must be pointed out — Parc Pierre Paulus. Originally conceived as Maison Pelgrims’ private garden, this is the perfect place to leave the urban hustle and bustle behind and get in touch with nature and/or find a spot to properly delve into a paper cone filled with fries and sauce.
Opening Hours: 7:30 am–8 pm
Parc Pierre Paulus, rue de Parme 69, Saint-Gilles, Belgium
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