A Nightlife Guide For Brussels

Whichever venue you choose, Brussels will be sure to have something that fits your specific entertainment tastes. Bring along your sense of adventure and prepare to have a brilliant time.

Overshadowed by the reputations of neighboring cities like Paris and Belgium, Brussels is not known for its nightlife as it is for its breweries. Even if the choices may seem to be a bit sparse at first glance but the quality is not. Nightlife in Brussels is so much more than just pub crawling; it is teeming with things to entertain you through the late night hours. There are cocktail bars that vary from the established been-there-for-years sort, the avant-garde, the bizarre, to the nearly but-not-quite nightclub type. There are also cafe theaters, dinner shows, a traditional puppet theater, cafe cabarets, nightclubs, concerts, cool jazz clubs, opera, and ballet. From pubs to nightclubs, Brussels offers you some exciting choices of things you can do while you explore the wonders of Belgium. In this article I'll outline a few of Brussel's hotspots, a quick guide, if you will, to the racier side of Belgium.

One thing you will have to remember when considering a night out in Brussels is that timing is everything when it comes to clubbing. The majority of Discotheques and night clubs do not open their doors until 10 PM, and even then the party doesn't truly get started until at least 11 PM. Now, if you have decided to start your evening early, you can always kill some time before the clubs open by having a walk to the Place Brouckere. This Square is one of the centers of Brussels nightlife. It's also a great place to have a beer and chat a bit with friends.

The nightclubs, bars, and discos in the Lower City are generally more relaxed and pay less attention to dress codes than those of the Upper City. A lot of these nightclubs are private clubs, especially those in the Upper City, but the good news is most are willing to allow a one night membership. Remember ultra casual dress isn't recommended when attending one of these stylish clubs. They can be rather picky about the clientele they allow within their walls. Also, it would be wise to ring ahead to ensure your club of choice is still in existence. Nightclubs in Brussels often change ownership or close all together at a moments notice. A good example of this is the Lop Top which had been in business since the early nineties but is now morphing into an entirely new bar. Still a haven for the youth of the city, it will now be a bit more modern and upbeat. 29 rue DE L'Ecuyer

A bar that plays host to the young Flemish intelligentsia of Brussels is The Kafka, where the vodka flows like water and the conversations range from the ordinary to the existential. The dusty old interior is a fabulous place to sit back and relax after a hard night dancing at one of Brussels many nightclubs. 6 rue de la Vierge Noire

Located in a former clothing shop with its old-fashion decor, Le Soleil is actually a bit quiet in the mornings and early afternoons. It's a good place to have a tea and read a good book. Later in the afternoon the pace picks up a bit and if the weather is fine, the terrace will fill up quickly with locals and tourists alike. It is a lovely place to have a beer and have a chat with the locals. If you fancy a bite to eat, nothing grand mind you, Le Soleil offers this as well. Try the tartines, which is a slice of bread with cheese, cold cuts, and cottage cheese. Brilliant stuff! Rue Des Capucins 63

La Mort Subite, "Sudden Death" is a must when you visit Brussels. This brasserie has its own brand of beer which is basically lambiek-based. They also serve the unique Peach beer, which is so sweet that, without overpowering the taste of the gueuze, a bitter local beer served in most bars in Brussels, it takes away the bitterness without destroying the taste. The decor is that of an old turn-of-the-century Brussels cafe that has not seemed to change since it opened in 1910. It is a great place to hang about and meet chums old and new. 7 rue Des Montagnes aux Herbes Potagères

Le Sud has been transformed over the years from an unsafe death trap to a fairly trendy nightclub. It has risen like a phoenix out of the ashes of bad wiring and leaky plumbing to attract a crowd of young "underground-hipsters" all of whom seem to be addicted to peanuts and Le Sud's vodka-citron. Le Sud is composed of three rooms, all of which offer you a different experience. You can dance in the main room to top 40 rock-and-roll, the cellar is dedicated to the music of the 70's and 80's, or if techno-pop is more your style, the smallest room of Le Sud is for you. The decor is decidedly Middle Eastern with a hint of American influence. There is a first time cover charge of roughly 2.50 to 3 Euros. You will be given a pass that will give you free access to the club for a year. Once you get beyond the grumpy bouncer at the door you will have a lovely time. 45, rue de L'Ecuyer

Chez Johnny is a unique, kitschy, self styled one of a kind "party room". The music varies widely from top 40, oldies to French love songs. It isn't glitzy or glamorous but more than makes up for it with the quirky little activities they have to offer. They have DJ battles, table dancing competitions, karaoke, and something they call "Quart d'heure American" which is literally, "American quarter of an hour". What this is, is a chance for the ladies to grab the cutie at the bar they have secretly been drooling over and have a lovely long slow dance to some truly sappy love songs. Also please keep in mind for the less coordinated amongst us, Chez Johnny also offers free dance classes. Please check their website at http://chezjohnny.be for details. Chez Johnny opens its doors early and closes down with the chirping of the morning Lark. Covercharge is 6 Euros, free for the ladies before midnight. Chaussée de Louvain 24

One of my favorite night spots in Brussels is Le Cirio, arguably one of the most beautiful turn-of-the-century bars in town. It's amazing considering its location, between La Bourse and Grand'Place, that Le Cirio hasn't morphed into one of those cookie-cutter bars so popular now days. It has everything a person could want: gorgeous marble, shining brass, and even the little old "madameke" and her dog having a drink. An evening at Le Ciro is like going back into time. The moment you push open the door, the hustle and bustle of Brussels' modern traffic fades away into the distance and you are surrounded by dark wooded panels and sparkling crystal. By all means, please, order a beer or better yet, a half-and-half (mix of white wine and champagne) and relax a bit in Le Ciro's quiet atmosphere. Le Cirio a fabulous antidote to the run of the mill cafes and bars that leave you feeling a bit bored and washed out. 18 Beursstraat / rue de la Bourse 18

The Trendy Bar is located on the groundfloor of the site of the former National Institute for Radio Broadcasting. This boat-shaped building, erected in the 1950s has recently been restored and has now become a cultural center for Brussels which boasts a concert hall and audiovisual center. The cafe, which is new, utilizes the bar that was originally built for the building in the 1950s. The atmosphere, which, like its name is a bit on the trendy side. The background music, mostly hip hop and techno blares out at you and can be a bit overwhelming at times. It is usually crowded with all sorts of people from students, starving artists, and occasionally a few brave mature people. Drinks are ordered at the bar and any food you desire is ordered from the entrance to the kitchen. Place Saint-Croix 1050

The Zebra is over crowded and noisy. It is, however, the "In" spot for the young people of St. Géry, Brussels. Since it isn't quite as scary during the afternoon and early evening, I suggest you visit The Zebra when you can get a seat on the terrace and enjoy your dinner unmolested by throngs of youngsters. You can enjoy live jazz on Thursday evenings. 35 Place St Géry Tel: +32 (02) 511-0901

If you are in search of blaring techno music and are keen to dance midst well-groomed metrosexuals, the main room of the Jeux d'Hiver is for you. If French pop is more your style, make your way to the second dance hall within the Jeux d'Hiver. This is one of the "special" clubs I mentioned earlier. I guarantee you will be turned away by a staunch, serious faced door man if you arrive at the club in less than fabulous style so please dress appropriately.

The Mirano Continental, a converted a movie cinema, was one of Brussels first discos. Ultra exclusive, it is known for its fairly laid back, mature crowd. If you are fortunate enough to get in, the Mirano offers an assortment of music to dance the night away but primarily stays with a blend of techno, garage, and house music. Unlike other exclusive nightclubs where you must be a clone of the latest supermodel, the best policy to follow is to be clean-cut and avoid tennis shoes. Open daily from 11 PM to 4 AM. Chaussée de Louvain, 30, Leuvensesteenweg, 30 Tel: +32 2 2273972

If you are looking for a truly unusual experience, a bit of "Necrophilia Nights", make your way to the Grand' Place to Le Cerceuil. French for coffin, this nightclub is decorated with skulls, darkness, coffins and the like. Drinks are served out of "skulls" and are enough to kill your wallet. If you are into the Goth scene, you will adore this bar. If not, you will be sadly disappointed. harringstraat 12 or Rue of the Harangs Tel +32 2 512 30 77

Whichever venue you choose, Brussels will be sure to have something that fits your specific entertainment tastes. Bring along your sense of adventure and prepare to have a brilliant time. You won't regret it.

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