Capital of Belgium, ideally located in the heart of Europe whose Parliament it hosts, Brussels is a cosmopolitan city where a third of the population is from elsewhere. Some will remember only the beers that brewed there, others, chocolate which is a religion ; comics fans also flock here, partygoers do not miss any Démence party, some visit th Manneken Pis at every stay to discover its costume of the day... All agree on the human, simple side and warmth of Brussels’ inhabitants. The gay area is close to Grand Place with a large concentration of places in Rue du Marché au Charbon. Friendly, delicious and festive... Come and discover Brussels!
When to go?
The Belgian weather is easily grey... an invitation to spend more time in the city’s bars! Spring or summer are to be privileged for walks, but on the events front, the Démence agenda seems to rhythm the visits of a large crowd. December allows you to enjoy the Christmas markets which really are numerous and festive. The gay pride takes place mid-May. After gathering more than 100,000 people in 2014, the next March is on May 16th, 2015 which will be its 20th edition.
What to see
The Grand Place which Cocteau described as "best theatre of the world" is unmissable. It is an ancient large market surrounded by the magnificent Gothic town hall, houses with baroque and Renaissance facades… Closeby, the Manneken Pis statue, this little boy (his real name is Julien) peeing in front of groups of tourists, is unmissable. But there’s much beyond that. The Manneken Pis actually has a sister, Jeanneke Pi, located at Impasse de la Fidélité and the royal Saint Hubert galleries with its beautiful stained-glass canopy and elegant shops are nearby.
There is also a whole visit possible around Art Nouveau with the Old England building on the Place Royale as an example. North of the city the Atomium, the symbol of the expo 1958 is 102 meters high and represents an iron molecule. You can access it and get a beautiful view of Heysel park where it is located. There are many districts to walk through. Les Marolles and Sablon, a paradise for antiques hunters, the Royal district and its museum, Dansaert, Saint-Géry or Sainte Catherine for its designer boutiques and art galleries, Saint-Gilles or Ixelles with its beautiful buildings.
What to do
In the Capital city of comic strips, comics fans will find their heroes on twenty murals scattered in the various districts. There is even a Belgian Comic Strips Centre (rue des Sables, 20). Drop by also at Pink Art Gallery (Rue Haute 207), an art gallery with gay-related works from the 19th century to today. A little shopping to replenish supplies of chocolates, which are an institution there and often with a good quality/price ratio.
The Chocolate Masters House (maison des Maîtres chocolatiers) on Grand Place gathers the famous Masters but there is also a museum of Cocoa and Chocolate (Rue de la Tête d’Or, 9) not far from Grand Place. Not to be missed in the country as well: beer, an art at its top here. The Brewery Museum allows you to discover the different beer techniques and with visit completed with tasting. For your shopping, 250 Belgian Beers (Rue au Beurre 32) near Grand Place always has a good stock. Another kind of pleasure, RoB Brussels at Man2Man (Rue des Riches Claires, 11) or BorisBoy (Rue du Midi, 95) for leather or latex equipment and many of other toys. There is also 2be (Rue du Lombard, 31) for really nice designer swimsuits and t-shirts.
Tomato with grey shrimps, croquettes, waterzoi, Flemish carbonades... Brussels’ not just about mussels and fries, even though they are excellent! You will get great food in small taverns just as
in more trendy restaurants. Among real institutions the excellent fries baracks, and or more rare, those selling snails (delicious). Otherwise, beer is THE national drink with brewers matching every
tastes. The cafés and restaurant have substantial beer lists and some have their own production. Spinnekopke restaurant (Place du Jardin
aux Fleurs, 1) for example is one of our favourite places for authentic side and delicious cuisine.
On the friendly side, on Rue du Marché au Charbon, there is Plattesteen at n°41 which is a Belgian cuisine brasserie with a large terrace open for lunch and diner; at n°27, Station Bxl is a cosy restaurant and bar where you can eat on the go in a good atmosphere; at n°81, you will have a drink at Tels Quels Café, which is the LGBT center HQ; at n°90, La Moon offers fast food with good soups and a beautiful terrace; finally at the n°91, Fontainas is a gay friendly café bar which serves lunch and diner daily.
Even during the week, you can party until the early morning. Most establishments are concentrated in the historic centre near Grand Place (Bourse metro). Homage first to La Réserve (Rue Petite au Beurre 2a) which is the oldest gay bar of Brussels. It is warm and welcomes a rather mature clientele. Then we rush to Homo Erectus located in a 17th century house (Rue des Pierres, 57) and the Homo Erectus Classicus (Rue Marché au Charbon, 5) which are small bars that open at the end of the afternoon and which are very lively with a varied clientele. From 5 pm, there is also the Baroque (Rue du Marché au Charbon, 44) with a bear and leather clientele. Next door at n°40, there is Dolores, a real institution locally, which is a small bar with a mature clientele. Otherwise, there is also Christo Bar (Rue de la Fourche, 12) with good music and affordable prices. From 7:30pm, the young guys meet at the Boys Boudoir (Rue du Marché au Charbon, 25). They house and test strange sexy robots every weekend starting from January 2015.
Belgica (Rue du Marché au Charbon, 32) remains an institution of Brussels’ gay nightlife even if it is not as trendy as it used to be. Created in 1987 by Philippe and Filip, it is a stamkafé or popular café where artists and trendy gays met. It is still the most crowded bar with DJ. It opens from 10 pm (8pm in winter). Another institution, Chez Maman (Rue des Grands Carmes, 7) is a bar with live music and drag shows. Open on Fridays and Saturdays from 11pm to 5 am, the shows are on by 0:30 in the morning and are absolutely fabulous. Many people and a great atmosphere.
Lastly, Rue des Pierres, there is Le Cancan at 55 with its karaoke nights from Wednesday to Sunday starting at 8 pm; the Club at 45, a cocktail bar with a DJ from Thursday to Sunday, the Windsurf at 14 with a varied clientele (but unfortunately we come not cross the sexy surfers that names suggested) or the very recent Mad at n°32.
On clubs’ side, La Demence which takes place every month at the Fuse club, has become a real
event and attracts gays guests from all over Europe but also international clubbers. Guys of all ages and styles... Fashion victims, drags, leather, with muscles or not, but absolutely wild. More
than 2000 participants every evening and for Easter, GayPride or Halloween, it is a whole weekend of madness. Three levels, 4 bars, 2 dance floors with a good DJ programme. An ultra festive cruise in the Mediterranean is also organised in July from Barcelona.
There is also Hunkut at Steelgate (Rue des Chartreux, 52) with fetish nights, Revelation Party at Bazaar (Rue Capucins, 63) a friendly fetish with sexy dancers, Sunday T Dance at Smouss (Marché au Charbon, 112) or Gay Tea Dance at You (Rue Duquesnoy, 18).
Where to sleep
Bruxellesmabelle is the first guesthouse that opened in 1999. There are 4 rooms including one Chinese and one Egyptian. Les Ecrins (Rue du Rouleau, 15) near Sainte Catherine is a small hotel with very pleasant 15 bedrooms near the gay district. Not far from there, there is also Maison Noble (Rue Marcq, 10) with 4 rooms. Heart of Brussel (Rue de l'Epargne, 32) also offers rooms close to Gare Du Nord. Lastly, at the heart of the gay street, Downtown BXL (rue du Marché au Charbon, 118/120) offers 3 rooms for rent.
You can easily take a train to Brugges, beautiful Belgian Venice, Antwerp, capital of Flanders and second gay city of the country. There are also Mons, European cultural capital in 2015, Gent to discover the Flemish Masters at the sumptuous Museum of fine arts or Ostend called "the queen of beaches".
With plane or train tickets in your pocket and friendly accommodation booked, you walk through or take the tram or metro to the historic centre which concentrates most of the sights. LGBT magazines Rainbow House and Tels Quels are a good source information on what is going on during your stay.