As a fairly small city, Brussels doesn’t have the quantity of bars and clubs on offer in some of the bigger cities in Europe. But, from cozy neighborhood bars serving delicious beer to chic cocktail places and a smattering of excellent clubs, the city more than makes up in class what it lacks in numbers.
Brussels has completely reinvented itself in recent years to accommodate the influx of travelers looking for a quick fix of its electric nightlife. And it’s something of a two-paced place: there’s an early evening wave of diners and drinkers and then, just as they’re going home, a cavalry charge of clubbers comes sweeping in.
The European quarter does have a smattering of bars, although they tend to be a little dull and filled with European Union workers talking shop over their briefcases after a hard day at the office. Most visitors would be better off staying near the Grand Place, which is packed with little ‘estaminets’ (atmospheric old café-bars).
For a somewhat wilder introduction to Brussels nightlife, visitors should head towards the Rue du Marche au Charbon. The heart of the gay scene in Brussels – though perhaps a touch exhibitionist for some – it’s also home to some of the very hottest bars and clubs in the city.
Ultra-hip, this area is a little on the expensive side, but it’s definitely worth putting some extra money aside for. A couple of its clubs are renowned not only in Belgium, but also in France and Germany.
On a weekend, the city pulls in clubbers from across Europe as they come together to enjoy a host of top DJs. On the cheaper end of the scale, not far from the Grand Place, the Place St Géry and the Rue de Chartreux probably constitute the mainstream heart of the city’s nightlife. There are plenty of bars open late in this area and most enjoy a lively mix of local students and visitors.
On the live music front, Brussels is famous for its excellent jazz clubs (which build up to a real head of steam in May with the city’s Jazz festival). In the Ixelle district (and neighboring Matongé), meanwhile, there are music venues with a more scruffy, alternative feel.
If a night out in Brussels starts off slowly with dinner, before moving on to a few beers in one of its relaxed bars, it almost inevitably then peaks with a great, sweaty climax in the city’s top-notch clubs; there’s something irresistible about Brussels’ nightlife that’s immensely satisfying.