5 Hidden Gems In Brussels

Brussels isn’t all beer and EU bureaucracy, and this small city has more to offer than you may think! Nestled between its more famous neighbours of Paris and Amsterdam, it’s often overlooked as a destination but it’s packed with cultural gems and delicious food that you should make the trip to discover. There might not be many mainstream touristic spots, and what there is you can visit in just one day’s sightseeing. But what’s magic about Brussels are the hidden spots not featured in tourist guides - the parks, breweries, cultural events and community spots- that’s why each and every trip to Brussels will be a unique experience. So here’s five of the city’s hidden gems to check out on your next visit!

 

Bois de la Cambre

Belgians, like a lot of Mittel-european folks, are sadly not used to good weather, so the moment the forecasts announce a ray of sun you’ll see flocks of people pouring out into the parks and terraces. And when it comes to parks in Brussels you’re spoiled for choice. One of the best to visit is Le Bois de la Cambre, known in Dutch as Ter Kamerenbos. This is one of the city’s biggest parks, but and its best feature is hidden in the middle of Robinson Island, where you’ll find Chalet Robinson, a wooden bar serving exquisite Belgian ales. Next to the park itself is also the Cistercian Abbaye de la Cambre with the National Geographic Institute which is also worth a visit. Easily accessible from downtown by bus, Le bois de la Cambre will give you an insight into how Belgians relax. If it’s not raining, of course.

Bar Verschueren 

Brussels is a tiny city, but each of its municipalities has a unique vibe and you’ll find pockets of the city which are different from their neighbours. One of the most charming enclaves to explore is Saint Gilles, with its princely city hall and castle-like prison. But the most lively part of the “commune” is le Parvis, a pedestrian square dominated by a Neo-Roman church. There’s many well-known bars to check out here, but De Verschueren is the only one that still preserves its original art-deco furniture. With its minimal effort and an amazing vibe, the bar is unmistakably Belgian. If you’re lucky, the owner could be around and it’s never hard to start a conversation with him! The walls are covered with old football team’s medals and French speaking people are predominant- you’ll certainly feel like a Belgian here.

Vintage Marolles

Steven Spielberg's “The Secret of the Unicorn” is one of the best known adventures of Hergé's hero TinTin, who is fictionally based in Brussels. You’ll find graffiti, statues and all sorts of references to his stories all throughout the city centre and beyond. The movie begins with Tintin taking a tour in the most well known flea market in the city, Le Jeu de balle des Marolles. It's a must see and it's well known as the heart of this very fancy neighbourhood. But while you’ll see it described in all tourist guides, the surroundings of the main square are very much less known. 

Narrow streets and hidden vintage shops are scattered all around. One of these, located in Rue des Capoucins hides a spectacular shop where you will find all sorts of vintage items. Have coffee in the bar of this shop then ask for the toilet and you’ll be catapulted into something surreal along the external corridor which will make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time to a beguiling “decadence”. Unmissable!

 

Hidden Bars in Place Flagey

In Ixelles you’ll find Place Flagey, a large square which is where you’ll find food heaven, aka the best hand made fries in Brussels. There’s the old tv tower, a charming building made of red bricks which heralds from the 1950s which overlooks the wide square, so once you’ve taken a stroll around the square and feasted on fries, you’ll be ready to stop by some of the best bars in town. Check out Le Pantin for its underground atmosphere, Le Murmure for its easy-going attitude and L'Amère à Boire for the list of completely unknown Belgian beers which hail from all corners of the country. You just need to leave the centre of the square and get lost, and possibly tipsy, to discover a real Belgian way of life.

52 and the Secret Garden

Aptly named, since Brussels is full of places you wouldn't even know existed if nobody brought you here, 52 and the Secret Garden is a charming spot which has thankfully remained off most people’s radars. A tiny Italian restaurant, the owner will host you as if you’re at his own house and delight your palette with simple and inexpensive regional Italian dishes. Book a table before you stop by, and if it’s sunny, ask for a table on the terrace in the garden. Pass through the door from the noisy and bustling street into a little bubble of tranquility, complete with hearty Italian wine and the lightest of pasta - as all the best bubbles of tranquility are. 

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