I spent much of 2013 gallivanting around Europe, stopping in London, Edinburgh, Berlin, Prague, and Budapest, but Brussels was my home base. In the months I’ve stayed in the Belgian capital, I did my best to make the city feel a bit more like home and thanks to these locations it became so. A park near Woluwe, a café in Louise, a sushi place in Bailli, a bookstore in Arts Loi, and the main train station became my favorite Brussels hangouts.
Favorite Brussels Hangouts
This was an easy choice given that I stayed for a couple months near this lovely park. The area is fairly large and borders three Brussels neighborhoods. It also contains a couple of museums worth visiting. Finally, the east end of the park opens up to a wide avenue filled with trees that looks particularly picturesque in the fall.
Mer du Nord at Place Saint Catherine
This Brussels standup eatery is quite possibly my favorite eatery in the Belgian capital. It specializes in seafood and is only open for lunch and closes until it runs out of food (usually around 4 p.m.) The food is great and the prices are very reasonable. Mer du Nord is jammed packed with tourists and local alike. Its location is right on the southwest corner of Place Saint Catherine, a lively square filled with Asian stores, restaurants, and a Baroque church. The square houses the Brussels Christmas market.
Workshop Café on Louise
This was my alternative workspace for writing while I was in Brussels. I was looking for a café of sorts, not too cramp or loud, but also with a character and decent coffee and tea offerings. On Saturday afternoons when I’m not traveling, I would often come here for a couple of hours or so and write. Try their chai tea and lemon meringue pie.
Makisu on Rue du Bailli
It’s probably my favorite cheap place to eat in Brussels, outside of the wheeling cart on De Brouckere that sells the best Belgian waffles. Makisu is a small eatery that sells only sushi rolls, or maki. It offers pre-made ones on the menu but patrons also have the opportunity to create their own. Being a sushi purist, I generally went with the spicy tuna and shrimp tempura. The prices are also relatively inexpensive. It’s possible to get two rolls and a beer and pay less than 15 euros.
Filigranes on Avenue des Arts
It was a pity that I only found out about this place towards the end of my stay. A good friend of mine introduced me to the location and seeing as I’ve always loved hanging out in bookstores, I started coming here on weekends when I’m not at Workshop Café. The bookstore is large, encompassing almost an entire city block and it has a wide selection of English books. There’s a bar in the middle of the store that sells coffee and light snacks. The bookstore also holds plenty of events including book signings and readings.
Gare du Midi on Sundays
The market at Gare du Midi is definitely one my favorite Brussels hangouts and the one that I miss the most. Every Sunday, from 10 a.m. onward, until around 4 or 5 p.m. a huge flea and farmers market engulfs the area surrounding the train station. This is where I would go to buy my weekly groceries. There are stalls that sell bread, meat, cheese, fruits, and vegetables. There are also pre-made food vendors that sell olives, all sorts of tapenades and spices. The best thing of all, everything is cheap. I’ll spend 20-25 euros and I’d come home with at least four grocery bags full of food.