Bringing Up Belgium: Exploring The New Brussels

Often left forgotten in Paris’ shadow, Brussels is finally having a moment in the sun, and it’s got nothing to do with the European Union. Belgium’s capital has been lifted up by a gaggle of arty types, and now it’s well and truly on the rise. Boasting bijou bistros and hipster hideaways, Brussels has finally joined the adults’ table. Looking for a European jaunt that’s a little less ordinary? Brussels might just leave you surprised.

Sample the Street Art

Despite hosting any number of Eurocrats on any given day, Brussels has a much edgier side that is worth seeking out. Head to the area near Sainte Catherine’s church, for instance, and you’ll be in for a world of surprises. Having been transformed into a makeshift open air studio for French street artist OakOak, the area is brimming with urban murals and paintings. Making use of the environment to its very limit, OakOak has created a sort of three dimensional mural, playing with existing signage, buildings, and drain covers to restructure the place. It’s all about creativity and play, and after having visited the area, you might just see the urban environment anew. 

Stay For A Night (Or Two) 

Brussels packs in hotels like no other city, and while you won’t be pushed to find a good spot per square footage, it pays to hunt for gems such as Jam Hotel. A former design academy, Jam Hotel is fashionable to its core, all open fires and sheepskin rugs. Fully equipped with its very own rooftop bar and balcony pool, the place is a world apart from the stuffy corporate joints you might be used to seeing. Better yet, the hotel is no stranger to a soirée or two, and over the course of your stay, you might be privy to locally concocted pizzas, vintage arcade game nights, or table tennis tournaments. The world awaits!

Fill Up On Local Fancies 

Chocolate is practically Brussels beating heart, and while you’re in town, it pays to get your hands on a great bar or two. Maison Renardy offers up some of the best confectionery in town, giving you a chance to rest your weary feet and test out the best local delicacies. Artisanal coffees and teas come served with individual chocolates, and the richest cakes and tarts are always on the menu. Looking for the best slice? Arrive before 3pm to avoid any disappointment.

Hit the Shops

Not content to be just Brussels best concept store, Urban Therapy is also one of the best social enterprises in town. Championing local up-and-coming designers and craftspeople, the store stocks a range of goods, from handcrafted leather goods to new designer tees. Feeling a little crafty? Show off your creative side on the community wall and help to fill up the social mural. The likes of terrarium workshops, musical brunches, and tea tasting sessions are also part and parcel of Urban Therapy, so make sure you browse the company’s upcoming events.

Sun Yourself

Public parks are all well and good, but when you can find a spot of green off the beaten track, it’s well worth taking full advantage. Such is the case with Egmont Palace Gardens, one of the most charming areas in the entire city. Complete with a Peter Pan statue, rolling green lawns, and La Fabrique en Ville, one of the best brunch places in town, the park is bursting with possibility. On the grounds of the city’s former palace, Egmont Palace Gardens are regal to the core, showing off the city in an altogether more luxurious light.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.