A fascinating mix of African cultures and Belgian bohème, Matongé is one of the most eccentric and trendiest quarters in Brussels. It is a buzzing business and meeting place full of colors, noise, music and a variety of smells. Infinitely charming, Matongé is a must-experience in the Belgian capital.
Named after a lively area of Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Matongé area came to being in the late 50s with the influx of Congolese students in Belgium and developed into an authentic African quarter after Congo gained their independence in 1960. Nowadays, it is a true melting pot of cultures co-existing in peace along Chaussée de Wavre, just off Porte de Namur, steps away from the European Quarter and one of the most expensive shopping streets in Brussels, Avenue Louise. If you want to experience Matongé like a true Brussellois, check out our tips.
Take a stroll down Chaussée de Wavre
You can feel freedom in the air the minute you start walking along this vibrant street, the main artery of Matongé. People casually roam without a care in the world or a need to be anywhere. Dive into the melodic noise of friendly encounters, absorb the smell of dried fish coming from the picturesque grocery shops, plan an exotic vacation to one of the African destinations offered exclusively by the travel agencies in the area, or do some window shopping at the traditional fashion boutiques. An impressive number of hair salons and barber shops act, in a way, as local community centers, and on occasion, you may be offered a complete makeover or even just a shave.
Pop into an African food shop
On your way down the street, by all means, do some grocery shopping in the African food shops, which are lined up one after the other. This is the only place where you can get your hands on exotic and delicious vegetables like cassava, yam, plantain, extremely hot chili peppers and all other kinds of plants, fruits, and spices. When at the cash register, look around for the somewhat suspiciously packaged peanuts (in a simple see-through bag or in a used water bottle) — probably the best peanuts you will ever taste.
Watch an arthouse film in Cinéma Vendôme
A must-visit for film lovers, this old movie theatre shows independent and arthouse films with a focus on French-language cinema. Right in the heart of Matongé, the dark rooms of the cinema are perfect for a cozy Sunday evening.
Grab a bite at Soleil d’Afrique
A small pedestrian zone on Rue Longue Vie (squeezed between Chaussée de Wavre, Rue E. Solvay and Rue de la Paix) welcomes you with an olive tree, the symbol of peace, into a heaven of delicious (and cheap, for that matter) African cuisine and special local cocktails. Grab a seat at a communal table in Soleil d’Afrique and order an assiette mixte or its veggie version to get a taste of everything on the menu. Top it up with a Viagra cocktail (a mix of rum, ginger, sugarcane and lemon) — ginger apparently increases the male libido by up to 17 percent, hence the name.
Spend an afternoon in the sunny terrace of L’Athénée
Just at the back of Saint-Boniface Church on a square unofficially named by the locals (with a proper sign and all) after Patrice Lumumba — the first democratically elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo — you’ll find the colorful chairs of L’Athénée. The lovely neighborhood café is perfect for a lait russe and a good book in the afternoon or a beer with friends in the evening. Enjoy the sunny terrace outside or the cozy typical Belgian bar atmosphere inside in the company of a laid-back artsy crowd and great indie music. A funny fact: this is one of the few Belgian bars where you get your beer in whatever glass they have (usually every brand has their own glass), but don’t hold it against them, they take life too lightly to care.
Buy awesome Belgian goods at Belgikïe
Swing by the hip design shop Belgikïe (the name combines the French Belgique and the Flemish Belgïe) and buy a cool item by a Belgian designer. Founded by two architects, Gladys and Pouria, the shop offers a great variety of T-shirts, jewelry, bags and wallets, gadgets, the famous Brussels Ketchup sauces and all other kinds of curious stuff. A cool thing that a shopper might find in the store is a T-shirt that reads ‘Embrasse-moi, idiot’ (‘Kiss me, you idiot’).
Drink a fresh raspberry juice at Stam
Just across the street from Belgikïe and a stone’s throw away from L’Athénée, you’ll find the delightful terrace of Stam Café, one of the newest additions to the neighborhood. It is a great spot for brunch, lunch or dinner, with tasty burgers and fresh juices to die for. All throughout summer on Thursday evenings, you can also enjoy live jazz music. The name means tribe or clan in Flemish, and this is exactly what it is – a place to meet and mix with like-minded people.
Stam Café, Rue Bouré 1, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 851 34 90
Stock up on Belgian beer at Beer Mania
The Beer Mania shop offers the largest selection of Belgian beer in the world in one place. Here, you can discover more than 400 local beers, including some very rare finds, as well as a variety of beer glasses. If you are not sure what would be a good choice for you, ask at the counter for professional advice. They also have a few tables inside and a garden for tastings.
Beer Mania, Chaussée de Wavre 174, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 512 17 88
Try out unique dresses in Look 50
Don’t miss one of the oldest vintage shops in Brussels, located between the beautiful Saint-Boniface main square and the busy shopping street Chaussée d’Ixelles. Nowadays, Look 50 offers a mix of new boutique models, cool shoes and accessories, as well as vintage clothing dating back all the way to the 50s. Their dresses are particularly lovely, so make sure to try on a few, and if you can’t find your size, just ask the salesgirl as not everything is on display. Aimed mainly at the female audience, the shop also offers some men’s outfits.
Look 50, Rue de la Paix 10, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 512 24 18
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.