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Brussels Hipster City Guide for Travelers

The beauty of Brussels is that it hides so many of its charming features. The downtown area, though beautiful, is only interesting for so many tourists—and even then it can’t keep many young travelers’ enthusiasm.

But leave the city center and explore some of the other parts of town (Ixelles, for one), and you’ll quickly discover how much fun the city can be.

When researching this hipster guide for Brussels travel tips I came across the term “BoBo” or Bourgeois Bohemian. In all honesty, with Brussels’ reputation as the “capital of Europe,” BoBo is a more accurate description of many of the places to see in this travel guide.

What is a Bourgeois Bohemian and what sets them apart from a hipster? Well, not much. BoBos are just more likely to have and to spend more money. While there are plenty of thrifty and even cheap things to do in Brussels, if you’ve got the money, you might as well spend it. In Brussels, you can enjoy a very Bourgeois Bohemian lifestyle—even if you’re just in town for a weekend.

The beauty of Brussels is that it hides so many of its charming features. The downtown area, though beautiful, is only interesting for so many tourists—and even then it can’t keep many young travelers’ enthusiasm. But leave the city center and explore some of the other parts of town (Ixelles, for one), and you’ll quickly discover how much fun the city can be.

Sightseeing & Activities in Brussels

Hipster Guide to Brussels - Travels of Adam -
  • Embrace your inner child at the Belgian Comic Strip Centerthis museum is the heart & soul of the comic industry in Belgium. Comic Book Museum
  • Visit the Magritte Museum – I can’t rave enough about this museum. It’s well worth your time even if you’re not into surrealist art.
  • Belgium is known for chocolate, no doubt, and in Brussels, you can even take a short course and learn how to make your own chocolate. I did a chocolate workshop at Zaabär just off the trendy Avenue Louise.
  • Beer. Really, is there something that Belgium isn’t known for more than beer? Maybe frites, but we’ll stick with the drinking. There are hundreds of beer bars in Brussels, but if you wan’t to do something a bit more off-beat, consider a beer tasting at Spirit of Wallonia.
  • Keeping with the DIY theme (and yeah, hipsters like to make and to create), you can also take short courses on comic book drawing. I spent a few hours hanging out with Belgian artist De Marck who helped me work on my severely lacking drawing skills. Keep your eyes out for my forthcoming graphic novel, “Adventures of the Hipster!
  • And when it’s raining in Brussels, what is there to do? Visit one of the many independent movie cinemas. There’s the Galeries Cinema in the historic Royal Galleries and Cinemateque at Flagey Place which both offer English-language indie movies.
  • If you want a personal tour of Brussels, get in touch with the Brussels Greeters! This is a seriously cool experiment by They’ll hook you up with a volunteer from Brussels who will show you off the beaten track sites. My guide took around Ixelles and helped me spot many of the trendiest cafes and bars for an hipster like myself—and all those trendy Bourgeois Bohemians, too.
  • There’s an abandoned building just near the Comic Strip Center. It provides a nice panoramic of the city below and is a kind of cool place to explore. I wasn’t able to get inside the building when there, but the deserted park below and the empty plaza it sits in seemed to be a haven for graffiti and other tagging.

Shopping in Brussels

Hipster Guide to Brussels - Travels of Adam -
  • The daily flea market at Place du jeu de Balle offers a random assortment of junk. Yes, junk. But if you’re shopping for 1920s kitchen cutlery, you won’t find a better place to look in Brussels! Bizarre but fun for a good stroll.
  • Art Books? Try the spacious Libraire d’art in Galleries Royal St Hubert—downtown and easy to find.
  • Do you use the word dapper to describe yourself or your beaux? Check out the old-fashioned shops across from Librarie d’art. One’s speciality is gloves, the other hats.
  • There are a myriad of second-hand bookshops inside the 19th century Bortier Gallery off Rue Madeleine. You’ll also find a shop there that sells second-hand comics.
  • Second-hand clothing can be found at Les Petis Riens—”the small nothings.” There are a few shops scattered around the city and they’re working to make Brussels a better place. They employ workers who really need jobs—those on social welfare and the like—and to give back to the community, the shop also has an annual fashion show to showcase young Belgian designers.
  • Avenue Louise is where you’ll find Gucci and the likes, but there are also plenty of independent art galleries for some window-shopping.
  • The Vintage Market at Halles Saint Géry Vintage is just once a month but you’re certain to run into other hipsters there. The vintage market is the first Sunday of every month and you’ll find vintage clothing & kitschy, second-hand goods.
  • Veals and Geeks (website) is an indie record store in trendy and über-hipster Ixelles. They also run vinyl record street fairs.

Bars and cafes in Brussels

Hipster Guide to Brussels - Travels of Adam -
  • Cafe Belga – one of the trendiest cafes in town. You’ll hear Bjork and her ilk on the stereo. During the day it’s crowded with people hanging out on the sun loungers outside, in the evenings popular for enjoying some quality beers
  • Champagnotheque – Champagne bar where you can buy by the glass—a novelty for champagne!
  • À La Mort Subite – “Sudden Death” bar, famous for their Lambic beer on tap and a healthy mix of locals, tourists and funny old folks
  • Place Saint Boniface in the summer – lots of people hanging out in the plaza
  • Le Pantin – cosy bar with board games and chess sets for people to use
  • Recyclart – a non-profit cafe & art center (and in the evenings, it’s a nightclub) – some nights they even offer quirky courses such as woodworking or bread baking
  • Potemkine – good brunch, often has DJs and small concerts. Also shows free movies
  • Moeder Lambic – one of the best beer bars in town, ranked as one of the top 10 in the world, waiters are trained to recommend beers (mostly Belgian) based on your mood/taste

Brussels Gay Travel Guide

Hipster Guide to Brussels - Travels of Adam -

The LGBT and gay area of Brussels is centered along one main street in the downtown quarter: Rue du Marché au Charbon. On evenings (especially the weekend), it’s a popular spot for drinking and other shenanigans. Personally, I checked out the gay scene at La Fontainas which was a great cafe & bar. Grab a beer and enjoy the view on their outdoor patio—it’s one of the most popular gay bars in Brussels.

Food in Brussels: Best Restaurants

Hipster Guide to Brussels - Travels of Adam -
  • ExkiThese quick eateries are scattered around town and offer healthy, organic foods. A welcome break from all the unhealthy snacks so popular in Belgian cuisine
  • Frites, of course! – Best I had were at the stand at Place Flagey (Friterie Flagey Frituur). Fritland is also popular (and decent), but probably only because it’s the most popular in the downtown touristic areas. If you’re looking for a bit of, um, adventure with your fries, try the local “Pickle” sauce.
  • Arcadi Cafe – a hyper-local place that’s family-owned and downtown, too. Try a quiche!
  • Capoue – Generally, regarded as some of the best ice cream in town
  • Mamma Roma – Pizza for which you pay by the pound. They also serve up some interesting pizzas like “potato-truffle”

Nightlife in Brussels

  • Place Saint Boniface – The street just in front of the church offers up some affordable and quality restaurants. If you want to enjoy a summer night in Brussels without the partying but still a lot of people-watching and good times, consider checking out the cafes & restaurants here. Bonus: The street closes down for a summertime street-party at least once a year!
  • Saint Gery area near downtown, lots of people drinking outside in the summer. Great atmosphere and you don’t even have to hang out in one of the bars.
  • Weekly events such as Piknik Elektronik  (every other sunday in a different park, electro DJs) and Apéros Urbains (summer schedule) offer the chance to explore new parts of Brussels each week. While each started as more of an underground movement, these days they’re more popular as networking events for Bourgeois Bohemians and European Union socialites.
  • Recyclart – Located inside an underground train station, it’s a very hip atmosphere. Check their Facebook for parties.
  • Mr Wong – A trendy bar which offers a hip alternative to the nightclub scene. DJs every Friday and Saturday.
  • The Fuse – This club has been around for a while but is still one of the most popular nightclubs around.

Where to Stay in Brussels

Hipster Guide to Brussels - Travels of Adam -

Because Brussels is a popular business and political destination, finding affordable accommodation for a leisure holiday is sometimes challenging.

Recommended Hotels

  • Vintage Hotel — This cool boutique hotel is located just off Brussels’ most fashionable shopping street, Avenue Louise. With 29 unique bedrooms, the Vintage Hotel is probably one of the best boutique hotels I’ve stayed in. Each room is decorated with individual pieces of design furniture from the 20th century. And just to make the boutique hotel even more interesting, the Vintage Hotel has an Airstream trailer available to sleep in. Rooms from just $70 per night.
  • MaxHotel — At a great value, the MaxHotel is located within walking distance to the gay neighborhood in Brussels (and the Grand Place). Minimalist design makes the hotel a great budget hotel option with fast and convenient service. Rooms from $65 per night.

Brussels Travel Tips

Hipster Guide to Brussels - Travels of Adam -
  • You can bring your frites into the bars, no one will mind!
  • Keep your eyes open for street art by Bonom (map)
  • Try the Jupiler and Vedett beers – cheap & easy Belgian beers available at most places.
  • Grab a free copy of the Brussels “map for young travelers.” It’s got some of the best travel tips and they’ll even hook you up with additional maps if you’re looking for vintage clothing or skate parks.
  • The free weekly magazine Agenda has listings in English, French and Dutch for things happening in art galleries, clubs or music venues. It’s available at most of the bars & cafes I’ve listed above.
  • For hotel and hostel options in Brussels, check for special discounts & rates
Hipster Guide to Brussels - Travels of Adam -

As always, the best way to get the most local tips is to check out the local blog scene. Here are some blogs I found useful when exploring Brussels for the trendiest things to do, places to see and local events happening.

  • Best of Brussels It calls itself a city guide for locals, expats and visitors and it just does that and then some. There are posts about food, style and of course the major tourist attractions, too.
  • Brussels Life A very comprehensive site with information on Brussels restaurants, shopping and just about everything else.
  • Bruxelles la Belle This local blogger shares personal, hand-picked tips on her favorite spots in Brussels. Everything from fashion to food.
  • Cheese Web An English-language resource for Brussels with extensive reviews for things to do around Belgium.
  • For blogs and travel sites about Brussels in French, try the BXL Blog and My Brussels.

Did you find this hipster guide to Brussels useful? Be sure to check out my other hipster city guides!

  1. Don’t forget – one of my fave sites! great article – lots of tips! bookmarking now…

    • Adam says:

      Oh!! Thanks for sharing that site, too! I discovered it as well and really liked some of the articles on there but had already forgotten it by the time I put this together. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Micki says:

    Hi Adam, I’m so not a hipster :), but I loved this guide. Chocolate workshop at Zaabär, here I come!

  3. I traveled with a French girl in Oz who taught me the term “BoBo”. It’s very fitting I think. Great guide! I visited Belgium when I was 16, but not this in depth. I think I mainly just ate waffles and chocolate. I would love to go back and try out some of the things you mention here.

  4. Jane says:

    What a great review! You’ve put together a really good list of some of the best places in Brussels. And thanks so much for including me in your blog list :)

  5. Great guide…about the only place I can think of where it’s ok to be called BoBo:)

    • Adam says:

      You’re probably right, hah. I think the bobo culture is alive and thriving in Brussels!

  6. Raül says:

    Hi Adam,

    Thanks for the interesting tips.

    I might be mistaken as I cannot check the addresses but here you have some corrections or clarifications.

    The abandoned building near the Comic Strip Museum is part of the “Cité administrative de l’État”, currently under reconstruction to host the police headquarters.

    I presume Arcadia Cafe refers to Arcadi Café, at the back of the Royal Galleries.

    The Capone ice-cream probably is the Capoue. (

    While the Momma Roma seems to be the Mamma Roma (

    In any case, again, thanks for the trip.

    • Adam says:

      Hi Raül,
      Thanks so much for the amendments! I didn’t know about the abandoned building being under reconstruction. It was a pretty cool place for some urban exploring and it seems like a great location—so not too surprising that they’re trying to do some redeveloping. And thanks for the links for Capoue and Mamma Roma!

  7. Alison says:

    Great round-up Adam! Also if you’re looking for a great place to drink wine by the glass (outside of the main tourist centre) Etiquette Wines is fantastic!

  8. Cole @ Four Jandals says:

    We enjoyed Brussels but not as much as we enjoyed Bruges!

  9. Jennifer says:

    Heyyyyy Bobo! ;) I guess the Hipster infestation is complete. Ground zero, I believe, was the Pacific Northwest.

  10. Adam
    Love the definition of BoBos! I will add it to landlopers and vagabonds.
    Cannot wait to use your guide to enjoy Brussels.
    Thanks for the tips!

  11. Mélissa says:

    This article made me smile, Adam! ;D
    But, you did miss two very important spots of many Brussels Bobo’s and hipsters:

    – The whole Dansaert-Sainte-Catherine-rue des Chartreux area where the Flemish hipsters congregate. The über-hipsters of them all in Brussels!

    – Saint-Gilles, where everyone you meet on the Cafés of the Parvis de Saint-Gilles is an artist/writer/comedian/thetre director or something like that. ;) Must be all the Art Nouveau houses there that inspire them to come. ;) One of my favourite area of Brussels actually!

    And I do really recommend the Zaabar workshop… I still remeber our jaws dropping when the master chocolatier poured the bucket of melted chocolate on the marble countertop… ;)

  12. Love the article, but if you need more tips for food, is a whole website with only all the best bars, restaurants and tea / coffee places!

  13. Ljubi says:

    Hey Adam,

    Nice to read great things about the city I’ve been living in for 20 years!
    I so much agree with you, the bobo culture is alive and thriving here.

    Just like Melissa (comment above), I think you can add the Dansaert-Place Sainte Catherine area to your list because if there’s a hipster place in town, this one is the über-hipster, no doubt…and it happens to be my area ;-)
    You can find there the trendiest belgian designers (Maison Martin Margiella, Anemie Verbeke, La Petit Marcel de Bruxelles…), vintage shops like Oxfam f.i., trendy bars like L’Archiduc or typical belgian restaurant like La Villette. And the Vintage Market used to happen in the old building K-Nal (, a bit further before it was moved to the Halles Saint-Géry, 2 months ago.

    All our family little outings start or finish there. It’s one of the oldest and still trendiest area in town, old Brussels meets the new generation!

    Last thing: thanks for sharing some addresses I didn’t know! I often told my husband that we should embark on a bus and visit our city like tourists…

  14. Megan says:

    Dear Adam,
    I’m simply in love with your guide, it’s all I needed and more. But..where to sleep? I’m considering The Vintage Hotel, but I’m not quite sure. I’m looking for something cool, cosy with nice, relaxed atmosphere, could be hipsters and gay friendly as well. I just want to enjoy the best time with my boyfriend and feeling like at our home in Brooklyn would be dreamy.
    Thank you, all the best

    • Adam says:

      Hey Megan,
      Sorry I only just saw this message! Did you end up staying at the Vintage? I know of a few other nice hotels in the city as well..

  15. Terry King says:

    What a great guide! I have literally only just stumbled on your blog by change I will have to subscribe look forward to seeing more!

    • Adam says:

      Glad to hear it Terry! I’ve got some more hipster city guides – just use the navigation above

  16. M says:

    U forgot l’Archiduc in rue Dansaert, a jazz club from the 30’s… With the best cocktails in Town :)

  17. Merel says:

    Great tips! thanks. I will use your guide when I visit Brussels next month! Thanks!

  18. jane says:

    Thanks Adam this will be great for when I arrive next week! Made spontaneous booking today! Am coming from Australia for the Brussels Design Market and will be my first visit to Belgium. Any tips for great vintage finds whilst I’m there besides the Market? Cheers

  19. ebe says:

    Thanks for the guide Adam! These are great tips for things a little offbeat in Brussels. We’re contemplating a trip there for my birthday next month and this post may have just tipped the scale.

  20. Anna says:

    Hi adam,

    You write in one of the comments you know of some nice hotels in Brussels? I’m looking for something a little bit above the hostel price range, thought Pantone would be cool but unfortunately that’s fully booked for my dates. Maybe you have some tips? THX!

    • Adam says:

      Hey Anna – try The Dominican which is in the city center – they usually have availability. Rooms are nicer than usual but it’s nothing “out of this world.” Also nice is the Vintage Hotel.

      I’ve written reviews of them both here:
      – The Dominican
      – Vintage Hotel

  21. Joe says:

    Brussels is one of my favorite cities on earth and this is a great write-up. There are some great breweries to check out in and near Brussels. Just south, in Beersel, there’s Oud Beersel and 3 Fonteinen. Cantillon in Brussels is also worth a look. So. Much. Delicious. Beer.

  22. Laura says:

    Hey fellow wanderlusters!
    I’m planning a trip to Brussels in February and wondering where the best neighborhood is to stay for us in the 23-25 crowd? Thanks so much!

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  24. Sasha says:

    Hey there! I wondered where you found that abandoned building you spoke of near the comic strip center. I know the place fairly well and I honestly have no idea what building you can mean! :-)

  25. Maxime says:

    Hi Adam, this is a really nice overview of the endless possibilities​ in Brussels.

    You could also add the Délirium and Floris in the bar category. They are by far the most popular bars in Brussels (although a bit crowded with tourists).

    Have a great night out :-)

  26. Pete says:

    I’m cringing so much inside I may implode.

    Authentic stumptown Schlitz sriracha, typewriter bespoke ugh semiotics Pitchfork health goth messenger bag mumblecore disrupt roof party. Mixtape fingerstache actually whatever, mustache crucifix leggings cred Odd Future Banksy hashtag. IPhone 90’s normcore, hashtag Pitchfork hella artisan readymade master cleanse paleo semiotics brunch quinoa seitan. Distillery pickled semiotics, next level 90’s pour-over Godard Blue Bottle Truffaut sartorial. Bitters Austin beard tote bag. Plaid tilde Godard sustainable, pickled fixie heirloom pour-over pop-up small batch. Messenger bag tattooed tote bag 3 wolf moon, crucifix flannel pour-over Kickstarter kale chips 90’s XOXO single-origin coffee.

    • Paula says:

      Hello Pete!!

      I salute you for this amaze balls comment. On point to the core even so I am part of and against all the things you mentioned ! Hats off.

    • Jack says:

      this comment is brilliant. people, don’t come to Brussels, it’s terrible. I count the days until I get to leave this grey, soulless, vapid failed social experiment of a city.

  27. I lived in Brussels for a while last summer, right above Las Fontainas. I spent an absurd amount of time on that terrace but never knew it was a gay bar. Looking back I guess there were some signs…

  28. Renata says:

    Nice post but for person who lives in Belgium (close to Brussels) it looks less optimistic…

  29. review says:

    Excellent post. I am experiencing some of these issues as well..

  30. Zarina says:

    Hey Brussels fans,

    I’m coming to Brussels with some friends to celebrate my best friends 40th and looking for something special and unique to Belgium I can organise. Was thinking a booze brunch or something else. There are four girls so any recommendations would be great.

    Thanks in advance.


  31. Really nice tips, do u like to walk the city? Check my free walk of our capital.

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  33. Mark says:

    Thanks for posting such a well written guide to the city. Have been planning to visit the place for a few months. Your guide really helped.