Belgium: the European capital, home of the Red Devils, the incubator of surrealism and nation of the painter René Magritte. Belgium is famous for many things, but perhaps more than anything it is regarded as the world capital of beer. In terms of offerings, Belgium has one of the largest selections of beer in the world. The variety is undeniable. With low, high, spontaneous or mixed fermentation processes, Belgian beer has something to satisfy all tastes. It would be a shame to visit the capital, Brussels, without sampling some of the goods.
Brussels, the nation’s capital and the capital city of Europe, is famous for many things. It’s known for the Grand Place, the Royal Palace, the Manneken Pis and its many museums. Nothing, however, can beat the hopping selection offered by its many bars. Their scope is difficult to find anywhere else. When visiting Brussels, there’s little excuse to not pay a visit to some of the city’s fine drinking establishments to enjoy the best that the nation has to offer.
To help you to explore this town and sample the best Belgian beers and other beverages, Wimdu has concocted a list of the best bars to visit in Brussels. Our selection of unique and intriguing establishments strikes a balance between well-known staples and lesser known venues worthy of note. This eclectic list of bars is not ranked in any particular order. It will hopefully offer enough insight for you to find the perfect place for yourself in this incredible city. To book accommodation for your stay inBrussels, check out our unbeatable list of rooms and apartments.
Please be aware that while the beverages mentioned in this article are undoubtedly delicious, they should be consumed with care and in moderation.
The Daringman Bar
According to a review in the ‘The Guardian’, the Daringman is one of the best beer bars in the world. This small bar offers an amazing range of brews and also gives you a typical and authentic Brussels bar experience. With only 40 seats, the atmosphere of this ‘Bruin cafe’ is intimate and friendly. The selection of Trappist beers is both rare and unique. At the Daringman you will experience a cross section of Belgian society. Both Dutch and French are spoken by the locals that frequent the bar.
We recommend that you sample the Gageleer, the Omer or the Papegaei – beers that are difficult to find elsewhere.
The Café Belga
Located on the Place de Flagey Square, overlooking the beautiful Etang d’Ixelles Pond, is Café Belga. This trendy bar is popular during the summer months due to its large terrace. It also boasts a spacious interior that can be enjoyed during less than ideal weather. It makes a great place to enjoy a drink with friends while enjoying the atmosphere and music on offer. The Cafe Belga is often frequented by locals. It is known for selling a great selection of beers at reasonable prices, which explains its popularity. The bar has a varied clientele and is also popular with celebrities.
The Floris Bar
The Floris Bar is a venue unlike any other and is noteworthy due to its popularity and originality. The Floris, unlike many bars in Brussels, is popular for its absinthe and gin. Locals will tell you that no trip to Brussels is complete without a trip to the Floris. The bar is highly regarded for its wide variety of strong liquors, several of which are difficult to find elsewhere. The place attracts a motley crew of punters, being popular with various locals and tourists alike. The warm and friendly evening atmosphere has been described as unmissable. It is especially festive at weekends when locals unwind after a long week of work. It’s well worth sampling one of the many absinthes or, if you can’t handle neat spirits, an absinthe cocktail.
Moeder Lambic Fontainas
Owing to its superb selection of beers and cheerful staff who do not hesitate to offer recommendations according to your tastes, the Moeder Lambic is regarded as one of the best beer bars in Brussels. Located in a quiet part of the city centre, it boasts beautiful decor and a pleasant atmosphere. Its wide selection of Belgian beers is regularly updated and the staff will help you discover what best suits you. The Moeder Lambic is one of the oldest bars in the city and can be considered the perfect drinking establishment.
À La Mort Subite
Keen to take a journey back in time? À La Mort Subite will transport you back to a Brussels atmosphere comparable to that of the early 20th century. It boasts a charming and traditional interior. The bar, from which the beer of the same name originates, is managed by the Vossen family. The family is now in its 4th generation of running the establishment. This beer buff’s paradise will present you with one of the widest selections, with Lambic, Gueuze, Trappists, abbey beers, Belgian beers and imported varieties all on offer. The name À La Mort Subite, which translates roughly as ‘Sudden Death’, comes from a game invented in 1910.
While this list aims to focus predominantly on beer specialists, we will allow some exceptions. This way we can give the most honest overview of the best bars in the city. While Floris is king of absinthe and gin, the Hortense reigns supreme when it comes to cocktails. Hortense is not just a bar, it’s an experience. From an inner courtyard, stairs lead you into a vaulted candlelit basement that feels as though it belongs to a bygone era or another world. You’ll find yourself greeted by the cocktail menu accompanied by a glass of water and a bowl of popcorn. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a delicious drink with friends or as a couple. The cocktail list is short but bursting with originality and flavour. Beware, however, that as with most classy cocktail bars, prices are rather high.
The Poechenellekelder is an unusual establishment located close to the Grand Place, opposite the famous Manneken Pis. It owes its unique and difficult-to-pronounce name to a famous puppet figure in Brussels. The bar features rather peculiar decorations. Puppets hang from the ceiling alongside paintings from bygone eras, which explains at least part of its popular appeal. The waiters are known to be enlightened beer lovers and can offer advice on which beer would be best. It all depends on your personal tastes. Their enormous beer menu offers some rather strong Belgian specialities, with higher than normal alcohol content, such as Tripel Karmeliet.
One of the first sentences often uttered by locals when talking about Supra Bailly is the line ‘it’s great! The beer is only €1.50’. While it’s certainly rare to be able to enjoy some of the best beer in the world for such low prices, this not the only thing that makes Supra Bailly a great place to enjoy a pint. The bar is welcoming and offers a festive, albeit crowded, environment in which to drink. Staff are active and friendly, and you’re even able to change your choice of beer if you don’t enjoy it. The bar has existed since the 1930s and features a terrace, so you can enjoy the last rays of the sun on a warm summer’s evening while sipping your favourite tipple. You can also take advantage of the local dishes on offer, which are great value for money.
A meeting place for many students, the Tavernier is perhaps the most popular bar in the Ixelles Cemetery, near the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Open from 10 am, you can enjoy a coffee in the sun on the terrace, or sip a beer on one of the many sofas inside. Despite the large size of the bar, it’s not always easy to find somewhere to sit due to its popularity. In the evening a festive atmosphere grows within the establishment, and the Tavernier is particularly well known for its free jazz concerts on Wednesdays, as well as for hosting some of the best DJs in Brussels who play there from Thursday to Saturday. The drink of choice at the Tavernier has to be the Mojito, but the bar also offers a wide selection of beers and cocktails. Service at the bar is good and the prices are affordable.
The Bier Circus has an impressive catalog of Belgian Beer on offer, with several hundred different varieties available to hop lovers. Patrik, the boss, has carefully selected the tap list through painstaking research in small breweries unknown to the supermarkets, resulting in a unique collection that cannot be found anywhere else.
Despite the impressive selection, it’s unlikely that you will be served beer in a glass that does not match the brew. For this reason, the selections of glasses are almost as impressive as the beers themselves. The cosy and quiet atmosphere is perfect for sampling a selection of beers with friends and family, and the restaurant of the Bier Circus is well regarded for its range of Belgian specialities.
The Scottish artisan brewery, BrewDog, proudly boasts the slogan ‘beer for punks’, and has rapidly become a major player in the Brussels craft beer scene. Located in the very heart of the city, the bar is located in a converted Air Terminal building at Sabena. With more than 200 seats and a maximum capacity of 500 people, it’s one of the largest beer bars in Brussels. The decor incorporates some of the terminal furniture as a nod to the previous function of the building.
As well as showcasing their own impressive range of Scottish craft ales, BrewDog Brussels also serves a wide selection of local Belgian beers such as La Cantillon and Jandrain-Jandrenouille. Opened in September 2015, this well-positioned bar is still in the process of proving its worth, but has already made headway to become one of the most popular newcomers in the area.
Owing to its wide selection of beers, cheeses and cold cuts, the Monk is an ideal venue to sit daydreaming alone, with a partner or with a group of friends while enjoying the impressive fare on offer. Here you’ll find an interesting selection of beer, including Trappist varieties and the legendary ‘Westvleteren’, which is rare even in Brussels. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed and the furnishings, typical of a pub environment, are composed of tables and wooden benches as well as a piano for music. Don’t be surprised if you hear Dutch, as the Monk bar is mostly frequented by Flemish clientele.
La Porte Noire
Decorated in the style of an old medieval tavern with wooden tables, exposed brick arches and a traditionally styled bar, you’d be forgiven for feeling as though you’d landed in Tolkein’s Middle Earth. The beer list comprises more than 200 varieties, and the bar also boasts around 60 different whiskeys for you to try. With its cosy, old-fashioned interior and live rock music, you’re bound to experience an atmosphere that would be difficult to find anywhere else. The wrought-iron portcullis-style entrance might be a little off-putting, but rest assured that the bar is a lot friendlier than it looks from the outside. The staff are welcoming and able to advise on the selection of beers, and luckily for those wanting to experience a real Brussels bar, the venue is frequented mainly by locals.
How could we make a list of the best bars in Brussels without mentioning Delirium? This craft beer bar offers a tap list of monolithic proportions. With more than 2,000 a la carte beers, the legendary venue holds the world record for the largest variety of beers served in one establishment. It’s hardly surprising therefore that so many customers come from all corners of the world to sample what’s on offer.
With the selection of beers being too big for a thorough analysis of the drinks menu, it’s fortunate that the servers are at your disposal to propose a suitable tipple based on your personal tastes and preferences. The bar stocks beer from over 60 nations, with Belgium being the most represented country. When staying in Brussels, be sure to visit the Délirium Café. This beer temple should be an essential part of your journey.
The Brasserie Cantillon
The Cantillon isn’t actually a bar, but a visit to this place is a must for anyone wanting to sample great beer in an atmospheric setting. Established in 1900, little has changed in the brewing process of this family brewery: Lambic, Gueuze, Faro and Kriek are still their specialities. The Cantillon Brewery is one of the most popular attractions in Brussels, and as well as serving a delicious selection of beers they also offer guided tours to allow visitors to discover the processes involved in traditional brewing. During the tour, patrons are given an overview of the history of the brewery, followed by a tour before the final and most important stage: the tasting.
Two glasses are included in the entrance fee of €7, then you can enjoy as many beers as you want by paying individually. A visit to the Cantillon will offer a fascinating glimpse into the origins of the legendary Belgian beer.
Acknowledgments: Bierebel, Happy Beer Time, VisitBrussels, Brusselscitytours, Cityzeum, Belgium-Tourism
Header image by Camilo Rueda López, via Flickr