Nestled on the edge of St. Gilles and bordering Ixelles is the delightful area of Châtelain, a place popular with Bruxellois and expats alike for whiling away weekend and evening leisure hours. Place du Châtelain and the surrounding side streets have a little something for everyone. Whether you have an hour or a whole weekend spare, be sure to visit this chic neighborhood in the Belgian capital.
Dine in style
Directly off Place du Châtelain is Rue de Page, a street with an array of restaurants that will take you weeks to get through. Choosing where to start is always the problem, but for old school glamor, you can do no better than La Quincaillerie. The restaurant is an institution of the Brussels seafood scene and housed in a former chandlery designed by a student of Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta. The former shop’s innumerable drawers now serve as an unusual background for the restaurant’s specialty, oysters by the barrelful.
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If seafood isn’t your style, next door you will find one of Brussels’ best curry houses, La Vallée du Kashmir, where expertly spiced dishes and subtly themed decor will transport you far from Belgium. Another charming alternative is the Italian restaurant Lasagna Tiramisù. Why offer a wide range of average dishes, when you can do two to perfection, and in huge variety?
Indulge in coffee and cake
Of course, not everyone wants a full-blown meal out, and Châtelain caters handsomely for a mid-afternoon coffee (cake optional). The evening establishments generally serve all day, and with corner locations on Rue du Page, Le Bar, and The Duke are perfectly situated to watch the world go by with a coffee and croissant. To restock your personal tea and coffee stores, stop by Eden for an extensive range of Japanese teas and coffee blends from around the world. Last, but by no means least, call in at Lilicup for a huge range of beautifully decorated and unusually flavored cupcakes. Eat in with a coffee or take a box home to share.
Mooch through the market
Wednesday afternoon sees Place du Châtelain’s artisan market draw crowds for mid-week food shopping in the open air. The quiet square comes to life come rain or shine, its market stalls brimming over with delicious food to take home or eat immediately. The after-work crowd catches the end of the market when grocery shopping gives way to a leisurely glass of wine and plate of nibbles. And, when night falls and the stallholders pack up their wares, the merrymaking often continues in the bars on the edge of the square, where friends old and new toast passing the halfway point of the working week.
Admire the stunning architecture
The streets around Place du Châtelain are full of beautiful buildings celebrating Brussels’ obsession with architecture. Meander the area admiring the tall slim houses with their ornate ironwork, beautiful large windows, and charming period features. You just might fall in love with your future home. For true housing inspiration visit the Horta Museum, the ultimate example of Art Nouveau accommodation and a UNESCO World Heritage site, on Rue Américaine. Built by Belgian architect Victor Horta, the building, which was his workshop and family home for twenty years, is a veritable time portal to the 1890s. Prepare to marvel at Horta’s interplay of engineering and nature.
Drink with the locals
Open almost all day and all week, the bars of Châtelain are perfect both for a coffee with the paper in the morning, and for late night revelries. The Red Monkey has a prime place on Place du Châtelain and is particularly popular during and after the Wednesday afternoon market. Its nearby neighbor Le Stoefer boasts a shabby-chic look and an impressive cocktail list. Just around the corner on Rue du Bailli is Supra Bailly. Unassuming and ever popular, this bar has friendly staff and always draws a fun crowd.
Enjoy live music
The bars in Châtelain don’t stop at drinks (and often food), there’s also a lively music scene. Finding out when and where to go, however, can often be more a case of luck than planning. Keep an eye on the blackboard outside Banco on Rue du Bailli for announcements of upcoming gigs, and be sure to check what’s happening at Le Chat Pitre on the corner of Rue de l’Aqueduc and Rue du Tabellion. If the windows are so steamed up you can’t see in, your ears are probably in for a treat from a local jazz musician.
Treat yourself to some new reading material
A good book will justify many a coffee and quiet sit-down in one of Châtelain’s bars or cafes, so make your way to Nijinski, a second-hand bookshop on Rue du Page. Tucked between restaurants, this quiet bookshop is fit to burst with books from around the world in a multitude of languages. You could spend hours poring over the selection, and some do. For a beautiful selection of new and niche books, visit Peinture Fraîche whose window display will entice all bibliophiles inside.
Shop for trinkets
Packed into this small area are dozens of beautiful boutiques, much promoting Belgian craftsmanship. Visit Rose for fun window displays and an eclectic selection of products sorted appealingly by color. Next meander down Rue du Bailli for a host of ladies fashion shops and several notable shoe shops, interspersed with trinket shops and cafés, essential to alleviate shoppers’ fatigue. For Belgian designers, pop into Mellow Concept Store.
Whether you sit outside the Red Monkey with a beer, or on one of the benches in front of Eglise de la Sainte Trinité, Châtelain is a people watcher’s paradise. Here, Belgian families rub shoulders with Eurocrats as stylish students bond with long-term residents. Popular with shoppers by day and hedonists by night, this friendly and fashionable neighborhood attracts people from around the city and beyond.
By Charlotte Griffiths
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