Brussels: Four Ways to Try It

A fantastic melting pot of languages, cultures, and skin tones where anyone can find his or her niche.

BY Michelle Garcia

July 13 2012 4:00 AM ET

For unilingual speakers craving the historic sites, gastronomy, and cultural flair of Europe, Brussels is a perfect, under-the-radar destination. As the capital of not only Belgium but the European Union, Brussels has many English speakers (you can also get by with broken French or Flemish). The city is a fantastic melting pot of languages, cultures, and skin tones where anyone can find his or her niche, whether your interest is architecture, boozing, or comic books, to name just a few. Be sure to pass through the tiny gayborhood around Rue du Marché au Charbon, a friendly area just steps from the city center, and the historic nexus of Brussels, the Grand Place square.

Brussels for the Night Owl

Rainbowhouse: In the midst of LGBT Brussels is Rainbowhouse, a hub of activity and community. In addition to being a café, Rainbowhouse is the local LGBT center, providing a meeting point for dozens of groups, including Brussels Gay Sports and Egow, a largely English-speaking organization for women. Rue du Marché au Charbon 42; Rainbowhouse.be

You Gay Tea Dance: This party is full of gay and lesbian revelers putting the cap on another weekend each Sunday. Rue Dusquesnoy 18; LeYouGayTeaDance.be

Le Belgica: Your classic divey neighborhood gay bar, where everybody knows your name. Rue du Marché au Charbon 32; LeBelgica.be

Chez Maman: This drag bar may be tiny, but it packs a wallop with saucy, multilingual queens, a fantastic DJ, and mesmerizing bartenders. Just be prepared for some witty French banter between the performers and Maman, the bar’s queen mother. Rue Des Grands Carmes 7; ChezMaman.be

Velvet 69 and l Party: A decade after the only lesbian club in Brussels shut down, owner Carine De Mesmaeker started the Velvet parties. Now a thousand or more women flock to this bacchanal, with rotating locations approximately every six weeks, for a night of estrogen-powered excitement. Smaller than the Velvet parties is L Party, a strictly women-only monthly shindig with themes that invite the wearing of imaginative costumes. Velvet69.com and Facebook.com/LParty

Brussels for the Foodie

Resto Henri: This lively, warm restaurant sits right in the hip designer district, the Dansaert. People of all ages flock to Resto Henri for a plate of homemade cheese croquettes, salmon sashimi, and a heaping serving of mussels. Rue de Flandre 113; RestoHenri.be

Les Larmes du Tigre: Missing the comforts of your favorite Thai joint back home? Fear not. There are several Thai restaurants dotting the city, including this satisfying eatery. Rue de Wynants 21; LesLarmesDuTigre.be

La Brasserie de Bruxelles: We may call them French fries, but history shows that Belgians have had the jump on these delicious little delights for centuries: Chow down on a sack of pommes frites with aioli, curried ketchup, or traditional mayonnaise from a tiny hole in the wall near Grand Place or the cozy La Brasserie de Bruxelles, which serves high-end, traditional Belgian cuisine. Place de la Vieille Halle aux Blés 39

Royal Brasserie Brussels: Cute waiters dressed in Breton fisherman-style shirts, serving up beautiful plates of food—what more could you want? Rue de Flandre 103; RoyalBrasserieBrussels.be  

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