Just a few minutes’ walk from Brussels’ Grand-Place, Kolenmarkt (aka rue du Marché au Charbon) is a street that knows how to party. Spot the rainbow-flag zebra crossings: it’s been the centre of the city’s LGBT scene since the 1970s. These days, classic haunts rub shoulders with newer arrivals, from cool cafés to vintage shops. But some things remain the same: come nightfall, locals and visitors alike stop by for a tipple on the buzzy terraces. We’ve lined up five of the hip neighbourhood’s hottest addresses.
Start the evening with a beer at this bustling café overlooking the baroque façade of Notre-Dame de Bon Secours. Behind an elegant, old-school exterior it’s a blast, with kitsch decor and a cool clientele. Drinks are reasonably priced and the counter-service snacks lean Mediterranean. Snag a terrace seat for the best people-watching.
Make your next stop this easy-going café-bistro. High ceilings and patterned tile floors give it a retro vibe. The classic cocktail list pairs nicely with the charcuterie boards, and the larger seasonal plates will set you up for a night on the town. In winter, the dining room turns cosy and lively; as soon as the sun’s out, the terrace tables become a hot commodity.
Amp up the glamour stakes and shimmy on down to this hot new cabaret and burlesque bar. Depending upon the night, lip-syncing drag queens, burlesque beauties, stand-up comedians, and even acrobats may squeeze on to the tiny stage. The drinks menu skews local and Belgian, and, impressively, there’s no cover charge.
If Cabaret Mademoiselle’s performers have inspired you, then this retro-inspired karaoke bar should fit the bill. Round up some friends, hire one of the private booths and channel everyone from Brel to Stromae. The plush cocktail bar isn’t bad for warm-up drinks and post-sesh tipples, either.
By chance or by design, many a Brussels night finishes at this louche late-night haunt. Come for the eclectic programming of local musicians, party-loving DJs and international artists, stay for the off-beat chat around the crowded bar. Upstairs, the mezzanine has a more laid-back vibe, with plenty of nooks and crannies for hiding away until dawn.