LAST UPDATE: 17th May 2019
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Going out in Brussels? Yes, but where? That’s The ultimate question of any newbie, tourist or occasionally even local in this town. This guide will try to give you a quick and non exhaustive overview of the Brussels Nights.
The menu of the article is the following:
- VIP’s club
- Communities club
- DJ’s Temple
- Alternative scene
- Concept Parties
In Brussels (and probably in many other cities around the World), the Golden Age of clubs is over.
But there are still some clubs in town who find their public… So I thought about different categories in order to explain to you how I see it!
The VIP’s Clubs
They are known for their wonderful decoration: “fabulous”, “glamorous”, “luxurious” is the type of terms you’ll find in any description of those places. That’s a type of club which will put more money on its decoration than on the DJ’ salary (except when they invite a famous one).
The crowd is “classy”, “BCBG”, “Posh” and A VIP area will definitely be part of the club. To be allowed in that area, you’ll need to book a table and buy few bottles of alcohol.
The music is known as mainstream: similar to what we can hear on FM radios: it can be electro (think David Guetta or Laurent Garnier and generally EDM more than techno or house that you enjoy at the Berlin’s Berghain club for example), they can have some R’n’B nights or Hip Hop (and this would preferably be 50cents than the latest Gilles Peterson remix).
That said, those two venues are amazing: Spirito used to be a Church, Mirano is a former cinema theater from the 30’s.
The Bloody Louis attracts a young crowd and there’s often a very long queue at the entrance.
You can add the Sett Club ideally situated in the beautiful Tours and Taxi building and the Birdy to the group , if you like the style that wants to be both sophisticated, expensive and yet urban and hip-hop…
Another club is well known for many years (in the location since 1989!) is called Jeux d’Hiver, and it’s in the middle of Bois de la Cambre. It is mostly patronized by the Golden Youth (with a postal address in Uccle for example).
A couple of years ago, the Jalousy Private Cocktail Club opens its doors. Everything is on the name… They have this concept of secrecy and accessing with a password that changes every week. Sorry, but I’m Not On The Guest List, so I will never even try to try…
The Communities clubs
I wasn’t sure of a name to give to this category of clubs. I came up with this idea of ‘community’ because when I think of them, I instantly have an idea of the type of community of people they will attract.
The You Night Club is known to attract the youngest crowd (and LGBTQIA+ public on Sundays).
If you’re not looking for trendy maybe you’ll like Le Cactus: the club known to attract people over 30 and even older… A bit like the Nostalgia Club offers retro-disco music if you’re a fan of strange time travel where the venue and the music remain the same and where the people are also the very same ones… just getting older!
The Gay community has a long habit of enjoying a dedicated night on Sundays. For instance the You Gay Tea Dance (at the You), or monthly La Demence parties (at the Fuse) and the parties “Bénédictions – rituels exceptionnels (now held at the C12 but not on Sundays). Most of the LGBTQI+ nightlife is held in specific bars or parties, like Sunset Club (at rue des Riches Claires), Chez Maman, Cabaret Mademoiselle, I can only advice you to go to the Rainbow House for more info. I also refer – here under – to some parties in the communities.
The DJ’s temples
If you’re looking for a specific type of music, including all its subcategories, you’ll have to follow the DJ’s. The good ones, the ones we can call artists. Those clubs are known for their more alternative music. They are a paradise for Night Owls!
The Fuse definitely falls into this category: you’ll find there the best of the best of the local and international electro scene. I’m afraid that’s the only real place for a full clubbing experience… but some other new clubs are entering the game and offer a very decent night.
There’s Madame Moustache.This bar and club organize several parties every week. Frequently there’s a live concert to start the evening. On their website, you can find all the different types of parties they have. It can be very different from a night to another. It’s possible that someone who’s going to Madame Moustache on Thursdays will never go there on Saturdays and would hate the place if s/he does!
Very close to the Grand Place you’ll find the Zodiak. They have a great program, nice crowd and the price is ok, not to mention that they seem to have a friendly approach when it comes to the door and who’s allowed to get in!
The C12 has also very quickly gain a good reputation and is quiet trendy! Ideally situated in a gallery of the Central Station, it’s already an invitation to travel the whole night long…
The newest club in town is La Cabane opened by a collective of DJ’s and record label called Play Label who offered us amazing rooftop electro parties those recent years, in the center. They have found a venue in Boitsfort, a very green district of our city.
The Barrio, in the Marolles, always seem to have great parties going on. so check their agenda to find out what they are up to!
Then you have venues that are for rent, so depending on which party promoters you are following, they might rent rooms here and there: It’s the case of Bazaar, in Marolles and Bodega, in Molenbeek. So they look like a club, but they’re not… don’t show up without being sure there’s a party…
When talking about going out, the first thought goes to bars: even if you’re going to a party afterward, you’ll need to meet with all your friends for a first drink somewhere, right?
Bars and cafés get it perfectly and they try to keep people longer with a DJ set or sooner thanks to a live band. Some bars are hybrid: between a bar and a club. For example the Bonnefooi, in the Center. They have a real program many evenings of the week. I find it great early in the evening… After a certain hour of the night, the atmosphere might be a bit sketchy (at least for me).
All those places have a musical program and you should find a specific atmosphere nearly every night of the weekend.
I also have to give the name of Dali’s Bar. That’s now several years that this place is a temple for electro music with a very nice selection. It is situated right in the most touristic area of Brussels, a street where I suggest any visitor avoid nearly everything. As the French grammar, this rule knows few exceptions: Dali’s Bar being one of them!
If you want to spend the night dancing on the tables (and if you are around 19 years old), you should definitely try Le Celtica in the center…
Don’t get into the trap of the Club Clandestin, in a small street of the Sablon area. Despite its name and situation, it’s not a clandestine, secret, hidden gem hard to find for the outsiders. They are misusing the name and the place usually attract posh people over 30 but can be more eclectic depending on the party organized. Note that certain nights, they give the stage to bands playing live.
There’re plenty of other bars all around town: most places with a bunch of cafés are in three districts:
Saint-Géry area is full of bars. I talked already about Bonnefooi, but you should definitely visit my favorite bar in the area is Café Central (but from a night to another music can be very different, as they’re not afraid to explore various genres) and check La Machine, which host many live music events, including groovy jam and the Café Floréo has always something going on too.
In the same area, there’s Lord Byron (see below more about it) and the legendary Archiduc known for its jazz concerts since 1937! The Archiduc have seen generations of night owls, each generation having their own reasons to like it, and to hate when it’s not like it used to be “in their time”…
Let’s talk about the “flemish quarter“: in Sint Kathelijnstraat, the Bar des Amis and Café Monk always find their own patrons who seem to have a lot of fun. Not too far from there, the Kafka reopened recently and is now called KFK Hope. It’s also a great place to check.
From Sainte-Catherine, if you take the Vlaamsesteenweg, heading to the canal, there are few great bars like Roskam, Daringman and at the end point (despite its name) the Midpoint is a great spot. That’s also where the Café Walvis is situated, with (sort of) view to the Canal.
In the same canal area, the Kumiko is often offering parties and concerts’ nights.
It’s worth mentioning the many other bars in the Sint-Jacobs Wijk: that is where most of the LGBTQIA venues are situated (even if I have the impression that is more the “G” represented than any other letter)…
The district has several areas with bars where you can enjoy your night. For example, there’s Place du Châtelain (on Wednesdays), Plux (on Thursdays), Flagey (mostly on Fridays – but Thursdays can be also lively or any other night if the weather is nice), and few other very great spots. In Flagey the Café Belga is the most notorious, and Le Pantin probably the oldest one, but the Flip, L’Amère à boire, le Murmure or the Black Sheep also find their public…
And of course, I need to mention the area around the Cimetière d’Ixelles, which is THE student area. So it’s very busy during weeknights, with bars like le Tavernier, Waff, L’Atelier, le Gauguin and many more.
The heart is the Parvis de Saint-Gilles: more for drinks, but sometimes you can find a Dj set at Café de la Maison du Peuple. Also, closer to the town hall, le Café de la Pompe has Dj sets sometimes. La Vieille Chéchette is also a very cool associative bar where you can sometimes enjoy a concert, and same goes for the bar called Chez Mon Ex and the Crix Café.
And thousands of another little street with hidden not so hidden gems!
Bar Rouge: was one of the most infamous bars in town at a time (many years ago). It’s a very small bar, now in the center. I don’t recall that it was officially an after-party bar, but I still have to meet or to hear about someone who got the idea to get there before 2AM. Inside, it’s very small, all red and crowded. Year after year, generations of night owls lost track of time inside this place… Honestly, I haven’t been there myself for ages (and didn’t try it since they moved)… but I hear from time to time that the place is still running and well!
But let’s talk about what is, in my opinion, the heart of Brussels’ nightlife: the alternative scene and the independent concept parties.
The alternative scene has many venues in different areas of the city, but somehow nearly all of them are along the Canal…
Let’s take the map and start from Haren: that is there that is located since years a venue called Black Buddah. Recently they have received a bit of public money that should help them continue their activities, so it’s good news.
You walk or bike from there in direction of the Center, and you arrive first at Tours & Taxi, you find there Barlok in a big warehouse. They usually have a very rich program: concerts, exhibition sometimes and that goes on quite late at night, very punk, dogs might be part of the crowd. It might be good to know that the occupation in the warehouse is not going to last as the whole area (together with the Magasin 4, the concert venue nearby and AlleeduKaai) is going to become a park at the end of 2019. But it is said that while Magasin 4 will be relocated during the renovation, they will be able to get back to a new venue in the park (in 2023 or so…).
Let’s keep going with our walk, direction Yser. That’s the Sainctlette square and that is where you can find a venue dedicated to music called St Klet, the name is playing with the name of the square and the word “Klet” (which in Brusseleir means someone who is good-for-nothing). The collective – who are good at their thing and who’s behind the venue organizes workshops and other activities around music. So among those from time to time, there might be a party. I would recommend you to follow Mentality as they are also organizing events in other venues…
If we cross the big avenue, here we are in 1000 Brussels, so basically the outskirt of the center. You can see there the “Small Castel” (Petit Château), and that’s in a street alongside that building, you can find Le Lac which is quiet known for their concerts nights, exhibitions, etc.. Their doors open usually on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. More recently, a couple of former members of Le Lac opened their own – smaller – venue called “Un Peu” which is not too far from their previous home. The usual day when things happened is Friday, events are a mix of exhibitions, concerts in the basement, and welcoming people to hang out.
If you cross the Canal, you are in the Molenbeek’ side and that’s where there’s a basement “club” called Chez Jacques. It’s hard to follow their activities (last time they updated their FB page was in.. 2014!) but I can assure you that some parties are still held there.
Let’s keep going along the Canal in the direction of Mima. You can sometimes stumble upon a a party at the venue occupied by le Collectif Au Quai. While they do not organize parties themselves anymore, they still open their doors to other collectives for that purpose.
After that, your path can bring you around two moving bridges : “Pont de Gosselies” for pedestrians (the first of the sort in the City, as you can still use the bridge even when it’s in its higher position) and “Pont de l’Hospice” that poetically stops all cars communication between the two sides of the canal. That is in the blocs around those two bridges that you’ll find Recyclart. While it’s not (only) a club, as the association has several mission that goes far beyond the nightlife, you can find great parties going on there and a very welcoming atmosphere with their big concert/party room, the courtyard, the restaurant… Since their move in Molenbeek (in an temporary occupied building), the crowd is following them, so I believe this new chapter will be fruitful and give us all great memories.
In the same area, across the bridge, you can see l’Uzinne, also a temporary occupation with some parties going on there from time to time.
And a very quick mention of even more temporary places that will end soon: the first is Decor Atelier, it’s the workshop of a scenographer and is welcoming from time to time different type of collectives that can have their party going on there…
The second, you’ll find it if you keep going on in the canal, direction Anderlecht. At some point you’ll see an old brewery, that is the Brasserie Atlas, who is home of a group of students who live and organise different activities usually concerts and/or exhibition. The night is not going to late for the sake of their neighbors, so that’s a good place to start your night, not to end it.
While in Anderlecht, you can also make your way to another former industrial building which is called Studio City Gate, again a temporary occupation but a bit more official and for a longer period so we should be able to enjoy the venue and the many association, collective, groups that have their space there) in the coming years. Among them you have Volta known for their rehearsal spaces for musicians and concert nights. The collective got its name from their former occupation which was in Ixelles, in Volta street.
If you do the tour during the Summer, you might want to check De Koer. They started their activities in de courtyard of the Academy of Fine Arts of Anderlecht. During the Summer 2019, they will move to a more public space: being the Place des Vaillants in Sint-Guido, and it seems that they have received some subsidies to create a party room in the basement of the Academy, so it’s good to follow what they will be up to in the near future.
A group of people get together and decide to organize a party. They have an idea: a certain type of music that they like may be mixed with some other forms of art (Vj, painting, …. ). In general, they create what they feel is missing in the Brussels scene.
Then they’ll start to organize that type of party on a regular basis: weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly or when they feel like doing it. It depends on the partnerships they can find.
The venue will depend on the concept, the finances, the network of the team: at times it will be held at the same place (and even in the same venue as many other concept parties), sometimes, they will move from a place to another. Some even make it part of the concept to find new places!
The most popular ones in Brussels are Under My Garage, Leftorium, Anti Tapas, Strictly Niceness, Los Ninos, Zukunft, Catclub, Opus, Last Days Of, Giraffes & Penguins and the parties by the label Global Hybrid Records, Leaving living Dakota and many many more….
But of course, you can find parties for any type of people: if you fall for the “VIP” category, then try the Just A Night or Les Folies Bourgeoises and LGBTQIA+ community will love the Dansez-Vous Français parties, Bénédictions parties at C12 or the Gay Haze parties that are very inclusive and top qualities. Or, if you’re looking for the alternative equivalent, you should check the soirées Chaudière.
And if you are a night bird that never want to go to sleep, try Non Peut-être and their after parties.
Parties can be thrown in squats (occupied buildings), some are organized by associations: they have a dinner, a concert or a performance followed by a DJ set… The music is not the essential criteria, but you can have awesome surprises.
You might have noticed that most of the places to go out are in the triangle Center-Ixelles-Saint Gilles, but now and then Saint-Josse, Molenbeek, Anderlecht, Schaerbeek or other areas are on the nightlife map… Jette has been showing some activity too, not to mention Uccle!
During the Summer, you might want to attend an open-air party that can be anywhere in the city…
Last but not least, there are parties organized during a specific event: festival, exhibition, a new album release for an independent label, … But while I’m adding those last info, I can tell that you’re lost again… No worries come back here to read the weekly agenda to get some more specific ideas!
And if you are a nerd about everything around nightlife: health, policies, well-being of the public and neighbors, etc.. Check out the 24H Brussels page and invitation to advocate on the subject.
Cover Picture: taken in Berlin – July 2014