As the second country in the world (after the Netherlands) to legalise same-sex marriage, and a true advocate of the LGBTQ community in Europe, Belgium had to have a capital that reflected its progressive values. While Brussels’s gay district is small, it occupies a spot right in the heart of the heart-shaped city, where there’s always a gay-friendly hang-out or open-minded party.
Where to kick back with a drink
This corner café on Rue du Marché au Charbon, the core of the Brussels gay district, is something special. Its large terrace on a smattering of car-free roads combined with a nearby babbling fountain brings together a bohemian, mixed clientele in search of an urban oasis. Le Fontainas has captured the hearts of many a Bruxellois – be they gay, straight, bisexual or unwilling to wear a label – with its slightly shabby ’70s decor, relaxed self-service and tasteful electronic DJ sets. It’s an especially lovely spot for a Sunday coffee, a daytime date or a chat with friends.
Behind a great deal of Brussels’s LGBTQ-oriented activities is the team of RainbowHouse. In addition to the Lesborama* film festival, art exhibitions, debates and readings, the community centre regularly hosts mixers and parties in its bar. The staff know gay Brussels like the back of their hands, meaning there’s no better place to find out about the goings-on or glean pro tips for galavanting around the heart of Europe.
Where a party can always be found
If there’s a place in Brussels where a diva can enjoy herself, it’s at Chez Maman. Glittering shows performed on the bar counter by Maman and her glamorous posse are the order of the day at this iconic drag café and cabaret where you knock to enter.
Weekly and monthly parties
Widely known as one of the most popular gay dance parties in Europe, La Demence is a monthly, pull-out-all-the-stops night at techno temple Fuse – one that LGBTQ partygoers cross borders to attend. Three floors are in use: one as a dark room and the other two as the dance floors where like-minded gay guys give the best of themselves to disco and dance music until seven in the morning.
Billed as “a party for cats of all breeds”, Catclub nights happen sporadically and tend to location-hop among unexpected venues, such as the old casino by Central Station. Catchy electronics and a boisterous crowd are guaranteed, though, and for once, the gay-friendly frolicking isn’t only for tomcats. When organiser Lady Jane says everyone’s welcome, she means it, and if you’re lucky, you might catch her spinning records at Le Fontainas on one Friday evening or another. Check Catclub’s Facebook page for upcoming events and locations.
Where to let your rainbow flag fly
Brussels is known to lure up to 100,000 revellers to the heart of Europe to celebrate Pride in one giant explosion of diversity and loving extravagance. Flashy floats, extravagant outfits and gay-friendly parties abound during the Pride parade, the culmination of two weeks of springtime cultural events when the LGBTQ community gets its time in the sun as well as shines a spotlight on a theme near to its heart every year in May.
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