Spend the Small Hours at Brussels’s Best Late-Night Bars

Brussels has plenty of late-night bars
Brussels has plenty of late-night bars | © Boris Karpinski / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Gareth Clark
23 December 2019

It’s after 2am and you don’t want the evening to end, but nor do you want to be yelling over deep house in one of the capital’s clubs or enduring the tourist staple Delirium bar in the city centre. The night is young, and thankfully Brussels is a city where the evening can just keep on going.

Bars in the capital rarely shut before midnight, but a select few keep on going until sunrise. Better still, there’s plenty beyond free-flowing Trappist ales and Dutch gins to keep those who just wish the night would never end entertained. So strap in for a bleary-eyed tour of the Belgian city that never sleeps…

Café Floréo

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Beer, Cocktails, $$$
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Café Floréo's dry martini
Café Floréo's dry martini | Courtesy of Café Floréo

Weekend DJ sets see the evening push on into the smallest of hours at this reliable, laid-back cocktail joint (think crowd-pleasing margaritas by the barrel) in the streets behind the old Saint-Géry covered market. The vibe is rather no frills, and it has the feel of a neighbourhood haunt thanks to there always being something on. Come the weekend, its 1930s café-chic vibe switches up a notch from the newspaper-reading, laptop day crowd to a rather more dance-ready clientele after 10pm. A worthy finale to any late-nighter.

L’Archiduc

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Beer, Cocktails, $$$
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L'Archiduc restaurant in Brussels, Belgium.
L'Archiduc restaurant in Brussels, Belgium | © Maurice Savage / Alamy Stock Photo

From ringing the doorbell to stepping through its threshold as sweet jazz washes over the Art Deco interior, this may be the granddaddy of the city’s music bar scene (it originally opened in 1937, though its current incarnation is around 30 years old). Django Reinhardt used to play at this place back in the ’40s, Miles Davis once jammed here, too, and it still feels like either could walk in at any moment. Though the clientele is of the rather buttoned-up variety, these days collars loosen in the small hours as the old fashioneds and martinis flow, and jazz of every creed gives way to modern chill-out.

Big Game Sports Bar

Bar, Beer
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It’s 3am, the World Cup of whatever is kicking off somewhere in Asia, and the evening is just starting. You need somewhere to drink a few beers and yell until your soul is hoarse, and you want to do it with 40 other like-minded folk dressed in the same shirt (or that of your sporting enemy). Big Game might have the look of every US sports bar, but it has around 60 screens and nightly DJs. While it does regress to the lamentable sports mean of Stella and Bud on tap, this is Belgium after all, and you’ll also find the usual Trappist gems by the bottle.

Le Cercueil

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Pub Grub, Belgian, $$$
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And now to the oddest bar in the capital. The spooky-kitsch Le Cercueil has no real reason to stay open until 4am; it exists mostly to thrill tourists looking to add a dose of weird to their Instagram. Yet, weekends see it fling open its coffin lid to latecomers, and if you’re in the mood for a slightly pricey rum-based cocktail and the kind of skeleton-themed decor that would make even Morticia Addams mutter, “Too much,” then it makes a fun night out. Take it for what it is: the so-bad-it’s-almost-good bar that has somehow stayed in business since 1974 while others flaked out. And it still has the energy for heavy metal under black lights at 4am. Respect.

Dalí’s Bar

Bar, Beer, $$$
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Dalí’s Bar lays claim to the title of the city’s oldest electro bar. The red-lip sofas of this Dalí-themed bunker, a stone’s throw from the Grand Place, have withstood the vagaries of over 20 years of cocktail spills and the sweat from those who venture into the musical pick’n’mix of its basement – usually some techno, maybe house, could be a guy with a didgeridoo. Who the heck knows? That it still exists is testament to the capital’s love of a niche and the enduring appeal of a place that still feels a little like it shouldn’t be but is. By the 5am kick-out, you may just feel the love, too.

Friterie Tabora

Bar, Restaurant, Belgian
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Not a bar per se, but staying up until sunrise requires sustenance, and while there’s plenty of kebab stalls, Brussels actually does great late-night food. Familiarity often breeds snobbery, but in a city famed for its double-fried frites, this De Brouckère-adjacent friterie is arguably the most consistent. Load up on sauces (samourai, a mix of ketchup, mayonnaise and harissa, is a gimme; brasil, a curried pineapple mayonnaise, for the more experimental among you), soak up the techno crackling from its speakers and give thanks that culinary wonders never sleep.

Chez Maman

Bar, Continental, $$$
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While the rest of the city slumbers, watching the city’s drag acts eviscerate their audience with the waspiest of barbs then serenade them with the most earnest of Celine Dion ballads feels like a stolen moment. This gay bar and drag show has been going over two decades now, clawing its way up from a few acts tottering on the counter (which now doubles as a podium), to owner Chez Maman even getting her own TV show. It’s still small and always crowded, but it sparkles until 6am, and if you can progress from a knock on the door to a seat at the show (not always the easiest of transitions), then you’re in for quite a night.

Bonnefooi

Bar, Cafe, Belgian, $$$
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Bonnefooi | © Komi Photo/Flickr

This two-floor stop-out off the Grand Place makes up in hipster-seducing decor (vintage photomatique, louche sofas, oversize chandeliers) what it loses in actual space. Its name translates as French-Belgian slang for ‘chance’, and it’s the kind of place you stumble across. DJs belt out experimental electro-jazz, and bands squeeze into a corner of the tiny bar as the packed-in crowd raises their hands blearily or dangle over the mezzanine balcony to a beat. Even as the universe ends and time snaps in on itself, there will be someone in Bonnefooi still trying to catch the bartender’s eye.

La Brocante

Bar, Cafe, Pub, Pub Grub, $$$
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So… the night is over, and you still don’t want to go to bed – well, there’s always La Brocante. The Marolles’s eccentric beer and jazz bar is a local favourite, but not one for night owls. The latest it opens is 7pm, as the area tends to clear out by then (it’s never had the best after-dark reputation). All the better, then, as it opens just before 6am daily to accommodate all the traders (the bar’s name translates as ‘junk dealer’) at the Jeu de Balle flea market. Grab a hearty omelette or pre-breakfast lambic beer, and be the first to hunt for bargains at the city’s voracious daily market. The perfect souvenir of your night.
These recommendations were updated on December 23, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.