I have been living in Brussels for few months now but I have to admit this city still remains a mystery to me. It is not an easy place to get to know – with two main languages, European Union institutions, a mixture of cultures and styles it takes a while to find your paths here.
Below few places I have discovered, but I am sure this is just a beginning!
Most of my days and definitely my weekends start at Charil (rue Ste-Catherine 34) – the best bakery I have discovered so far, not only in Brussels, but generally in Europe. It helps it is just around the corner from where I live at the moment although I have no doubts I would make it there even if I had to travel from the other side of the city. I can officially confirm I am addicted to Charli’s bread after I was almost counting days for the bakers to come back from their holiday and open the place again. Two very long weeks when I would have given a lot for a little piece of their baguette blanche, le campagne bread or famous pain au chocolate.
I can hardly think of a better Saturday morning than espresso, a croissant with homemade blueberry jam and freshly squeezed orange juice at Charli.
If you are looking for good coffee check OR café – they select and roast their beans and serve one of the most outstanding espresso in this part of Europe. Their little bar at rue Auguste Orts 9 is always packed with trendy coffee lovers and is a perfect place for a little break during the day.
For lunch check the local institution, a little fish bar called Mer du Nord (Rue Sainte Catherine 1). By any means it is an exclusive or posh place but it gets crowded since early morning. A wonderful mixture of local freaks, tourists, young families on their ways for a weekenxd stroll, trendy girls searching for sales…
The staff, a collection of Brussels’ strangest characters, makes sure that you get the experience you deserve – just be careful about their sense of humour. You order, local seafood, fish, fish soup or tuna burger with a glass of chilly white wine, will be loudly announced with your name or a random nickname the waiters thought was funny.
At the same square, opposite to Mer du Nord, there is place widely recommended as truly Belgian – La Villette (Rue du Vieux Marché aux Grains 3). This traditional old Brussels tavern with red checked tablecloths, more than 40 types of beer and seasonal food is perfect for a dinner on a lazy day. And afterwards try their Crème brûlée à la Chimay– I can guarantee it will be the best crème brûlée you have ever had.
Those who are looking for more modern cuisine should head to rue de Flanders. I haven’t yet checked all places there but my culinary intuition is telling me I am going to find few treasures there.
So far Ihave been to Henri (rue de Flandre 113), a nice minimalistic-style place led by 3 young food lovers, which has become so popular that reservations are necessary a long time in advance even for lunch on a week day . The food is simple but with a little twist and the menu changes every three weeks.
Selecto (rue de Flandre 95-97) – another modern spot, not cheap, not that typical (they don’t even serve Belgian fries!) but with a wonderful selection of meat and fish.
They define their own concept as “bistronomie”, a high quality version of the traditional French bistro-cuisine in an informal setting. Definitely works for me!
Place Saint-Géry is where young, beautiful and successful meet in Brussels. So if you feel like becoming a part of the city’s high society try these places:
– Mappa Mundo – with international crowds, Latin rhythms and the best mojito in town
– Roi des Belges – traditional Belgian bistro on the ground floor and cool club with live music on the first floor, something for everyone
– Zebra – a trendy place for the hip and beautiful
And if you feel like shopping after your aperitivo then try trendy shops at rue Antoine Dansaert and rue des Chartreux – a paradice for fashion lovers.
Those who look for a more traditional and quite environment will enjoy a cup of very good tea in nearby AM Sweet (Rue des Chartreux 4), a lovely little café run by a charming couple and their dog called Cezanne.
A trip to Brussels wouldn’t be complete without chocolate! At Place du Grand Sablon you will find all the greatest chocolatiers – Godiva, Leonidas, Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini, you name it and it is there. My personal favourite is Patrick Roger (Place du Grand Sablon 43), a French chocolate maker, whose shops serve also as a display area for his giant sweet creatures. Just check yourself what he is up to this season.
No-one will be disappointed with Pierre Marcolini’s pâtisserie (Rue des Minimes, 1 and Place do Grand Sablon 39) either, another treasure I have discovered here.
Food at Sablon is really nice too, a little bit pricy though. I like Lola (Place du Grand Sablon 33), a wonderful modern place and a more traditional Au Vieux Saint-Martin (Place du Grand Sablon 38).
Les caves de la Nonciature (Rue des Sablons 7),which made it to my list of 5 best wine bars in Europe, is perfect for a glass of wine before your dinner and nearby Pixel (rue Ernest Allard 39/41) is my favourite spot in the city for when I want some quiet time with my book or Saturday newspaper.
Last on the list today is Fonteyene The Kitchen (107 Rue Gérard) which I discovered just when I moved to Brussels and searched for a place to live here. It is a bit further from the tourist attractions (take metro lines 1 or 5 to Merode station to get there) but definitely worth the trip. A perfect place for a nice, quiet lunch.
And after lunch why not to take a walk in Parc du Cinquantenaire, one of the nicest green spots of Brussels?
More about Brussels you can find here.
And I will be letting you know about new places I discover soon!