Understated but cosmopolitan, Brussels doesn’t skimp on creature comforts. Whether you’re sampling local craft beers or grazing on a late-night cone of piping-hot frites, this laid-back city has plenty to offer those after life’s simple pleasures. Even on a weekend break, there’s always time for one more indulgence. Arrive in the evening and you’re still in for a treat: cocktails at a neighbourhood café, perhaps, or a spot of late-night chocolate shopping. If you’re heading home early, make the most of your last few hours: browse the flea market for vintage finds, or breakfast in the sunshine. We’ve found eight things to do in easy reach of four hotels, so you can enjoy Brussels that little bit longer.
The city’s flea market is open every day from 7am – though canny collectors turn up earlier, as the dealers unpack their wares. Antiques and bric-a-brac are arranged on trestle tables or blankets spread on the cobbles, from china cats to tasselled lamps, gilded clocks to Tintin posters. Bargains in the bag, head for breakfast; you can’t go wrong with L’Aubette’s smoked salmon and soft-boiled eggs.
Amid the cafés clustered on place Ferdinand Cocq, this sociable newcomer’s a standout. Inside, it’s a mellow mix of old and new, with its geometric bar, green-and-white tiles and exposed-brick walls. Sip on a smoky mezcal sour, or ponder the list of eaux de vie, which runs from small-batch local gins to heady Venezuelan rum. It’s open until midnight – or beyond – every day bar Sunday.
The Grand-Place is even lovelier without its throng of admirers – so slip out before breakfast, ahead of the camera-toting crowds. Cobbled, medieval rue des Harengs opens on to the UNESCO-listed square, flanked by gabled guild houses and grand Baroque façades. Gawp to your heart’s content, then follow the heady scent of waffles for a breakfast fit for royals at Maison Dandoy.
This dignified chocolatier always keeps it classic, from its ribbon-tied boxes to the apron-clad assistants. It’s best-known for pralines, like the signature Manon Sucre, made with fresh cream, nougatine and walnuts. The Rue au Beurre outpost stays open until 10pm, Monday to Saturday, in case of late-night cravings: stock up on silky ganache hearts, or caramel nib-laced bars.
Every self-respecting local has a favourite fritkot – and it’s generally Maison Antoine. In situ on Place Jourdan since 1948, it’s still run by the same family, whose fluffy-centred frites are twice-fried in beef fat. Piled-high cones come slathered in your condiment of choice, from fiery samurai (a Belgian staple) to pimento-spiked sauce andalouse. It’s open until 1am, and 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Set on Saint-Gilles’ main square, this buzzy Italian restaurant keeps late hours – until 2am at the weekend. Take your pick of the upscale antipasti, from grilled octopus with guanciale (salt-cured pork) to a sublime beef tartare. Meanwhile, a persuasive cocktail list riffs on unusual ingredients; try the aromatic, whisky-fuelled Orientucky, with homemade oolong syrup.