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Saint-Gilles | © Moyogo/WikiCommons
Saint-Gilles | © Moyogo/WikiCommons

A Local's Guide To Saint-Gilles: Top 10 Things To Do And See

Picture of camilla colavolpe
Updated: 12 April 2017
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

Centre Culturel Jacques Franck | Courtesy of Camilla Colavolpe

Centre Culturel Jacques Franck | Courtesy of Camilla Colavolpe

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

Unbridled talent, 2013, BONOM | Courtesy of Camilla Colavolpe

Unbridled talent, 2013, BONOM | Courtesy of Camilla Colavolpe

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 Verschueren or 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

Go vintage!

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

Friterie de la Barriére | Courtesy of Camilla Colavolpe

Friterie de la Barriére | Courtesy of Camilla Colavolpe

Be spoiled for (beer) choice at Chez Moeder Lambic

Beer is an official staple in Belgian culture, so this list would not complete without mentioning one of the greatest Belgian and international beers selection pubs. Chez Moeder Lambic, an authentic wood-paneled bar located strategically at rue de Savoie, is the ideal place to go for an apéro or after dinner nightcap, or possibly both. In addition to its remarkable beer selection, this bar stands out from the crowd because of its competent waiters that will guide you through the bar’s vast selection and recommend the best brews to satisfy your taste buds.

Opening Hours: Mon-Sun, 4pm- 3am

Chez Moeder Lambic, rue de Savoie 68, Saint-Gilles, Belgium

Chez Moeder Lambic | Courtesy of Camilla Colavolpe

Chez Moeder Lambic | Courtesy of Camilla Colavolpe

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 

Pierre Paulus Park | Courtesy of Camilla Colavolpe

Pierre Paulus Park | Courtesy of Camilla Colavolpe