Brussels City Guide for Art Lovers


By Antoine Neufmars & Shira Wolfe

WIELS, The Humping Pact – Photo: WOTH

Brussels has a unique art scene that covers some of the best of the Flemish Masters, Belgian Surrealism, and bold, uninhibited contemporary arts. Not to mention the fact that it has one of the coolest contemporary cityscapes in Europe, which is still affordable and not overcrowded like its neighbours in Paris and London. Discover the diversity and raw artistic energy of Brussels through this carefully curated guide – a perfect accompaniment to your Brussels Gallery Weekend (6-9 September).


MUSEUMS

The Royal Museum of Fine Arts x Magritte Museum

The Royal Museum of Fine Arts – Photo: museum website

With over 20.000 drawings, sculptures and paintings from Flemish Primitives to the present, The Royal Museum provides the best overview of Belgian art. The magnificent building by Alphonse Balat was funded by King Leopold II. A must-visit to grasp the Belgian artistic heritage and identity. The Magritte Museum is connected with the Royal Museum, and boasts the richest collection of paintings by René Magritte.

Address: Rue de la Régence 3, 1000 Bruxelles
Website: The Royal Museum of Fine Arts

BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts

BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts – Photo: Christies Magazine

BOZAR has exhibition and conference rooms as well as a cinema and concert hall, which serves as a home to the National Orchestra of Belgium. It’s a jewel of Art Nouveau architecture designed by Horta. Up to 10 exhibitions a year are organised at BOZAR, and have included Luc Tuymans, Frida Kahlo, Gilbert and George, Wim Delvoye, Venetian and Flemish Masters. Its lively art department brings the cream of international contemporary creations to town. BOZAR also houses the Belgium Cinematek.

Address: Rue Ravenstein 23, 1000 Bruxelles
Website: BOZAR

MIMA

Maya Hayuk at MIMA – Photo: MIMA website

Founded in April 2016 along the Canal in Brussels, the MIMA’s mission is to be the defining museum of contemporary art. Located in Molenbeek – a poor neighbourhood which is sadly mostly seen in a negative light – it aims at breaking down barriers and reaching out towards a broad audience. Collections include works by Clare Rojas, Ari Marcopulous, Nicolas Karakatsanis, Elzo Durt and many more great artists.

Address: Quai du Hainaut 41, 1080 Molenbeek-Saint-Jean
Website: MIMA

Villa Empain

Villa Empain – Photo: Pinterest

A pure Art Deco heaven, Villa Empain was designed by Swiss architect Michel Polak for Baron Louis Empain. Today it houses a Centre of Art & Dialog between cultures of the East and the West founded by the Boghossian Foundation. This foundation aims to contribute to development and education through art, exhibitions, concerts, workshops, and film screenings.

Address: Avenue Franklin Roosevelt 67, 1000 Bruxelles
Website: Villa Empain

WIELS Contemporary Art Centre

WIELS – Photo: Brussels Museum

WIELS is housed in the Wielemans brewery building, and has been a contemporary art centre since 2007. They don’t have their own collection, instead putting on temporary exhibitions by national and international artists. Wiels has been described as “an international laboratory for the creation and the diffusion of contemporary art” and is the leading contemporary art institution in Belgium. Artists who have exhibited there include: Yayoi Kusama, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Edith Dekyndt, David Claerbout, and Francis Alÿs.

Address: Avenue Van Volxem 354, 1190 Forest
Website: WIELS

Kanal Pompidou

Kanal Pompidou – Photo: Kanal Pompidou website

Kanal Pompidou is situated in the 35.000 sq.m. former Citroën garage at Yser square. Before the final opening in 2022/2023, the Kanal Foundation decided to launch a year of cultural prefiguration on May 5th 2018. Over a period of 13 months, in collaboration with Paris’ Centre Pompidou, the public will be able to discover this mythical building through different exhibitions, huge installations, 10 original artworks by Brussels artists, and live performances.

Address: Quai des Péniches, 1000 Bruxelles
Website: Kanal Pompidou

MAD Museum

MAD – Photo: Arch Daily

MAD, located in the heart of the Dansaert district, has as its ambition to become the key meeting place for fashion and design in Brussels. It also aims to promote Brussels locally and globally as a creative hub where “created in Brussels” becomes a label of innovative and conscious design. Currently on: Uncovered, a retrospective of Pierre Debuschere’s works; Buy now pay later, a tribute to ecodesign; and Lost and Found, an installation at MAD Lab.

Address: Place du Nouveau Marché aux Grains 10, 1000 Bruxelles
Website: MAD


GALLERIES

Rodolphe Janssen

Sanam Khatibi at Rodolphe Janssen – Photo: gallery website

A big name in the Brussels gallery scene, Rodolphe Janssen started out with photography and has now also branched out into other art forms (painting, sculpture, installation). The gallery participates in major international art fairs (Art Basel, BRAFA, Art Düsseldorf) and represents artists Wim Delvoye, Sanam Khatibi, David Ratcliff, and Marcel Berlanger, to name but a few…

Address: Rue de Livourne 35, 1050 Ixelles
Website: Rodolphe Janssen

Xavier Hufkens

Xavier Hufkens – Photo: Antony Gormley

Another big name in the game, Xavier Hufkens is a leading gallery in Europe for contemporary art and is known to have introduced some of the most influential contemporary artists in Brussels at a time when they were still unknown. Representation includes Robert Mapplethorpe, Sterling Ruby, Thierry De Cordier, Nicolas Party and Louise Bourgeois. One of the most beautiful art spaces in the city.

Address: Rue Saint-Georges 6, 1050 Ixelles
Website: Xavier Hufkens

Mendes Wood

Mendes Wood Gallery – Photo: Mousse Magazine

Mendes Wood DM cultivates a program premised on conceptualism, political resistance and intellectual rigor. The intention is to exhibit international and Brazilian artists in a context conducive to critical dialogue and cross-pollination. Artists like Patricia Leite, Paloma Bosque, Francesca Woodman and Francesco Joao are shown there. Located in a historic townhouse in the Petit Sablons neighbourhood.

Address: Rue des Sablons 13, 1000 Bruxelles
Website: Mendes Wood

C L E A R I N G

CLEARING – Photo: gallery website

C L E A R I N G focuses on showing emerging art. The gallery supports its artists by producing works, exhibitions and books, as well as by working closely with public and private institutions. They represent artists such as Korakrit Arunanondchai, Calvin Marcus and Marina Pinsky – who all had their first gallery exhibition at C L E A R I N G.

Address: Avenue Van Volxem 311, 1190 Forest
Website: C L E A R I N G


NON-PROFIT ART SPACES 

La Loge

La Loge – Photo: Mousse Magazine

La Loge aims to develop a high-quality program that plays a critical role in today’s cultural conversations through specific and precise projects. Architects, artists, curators and cultural agents are invited to develop propositions in which they seek out the characteristic and the peculiar within their practices. La Loge is a space where ideas, discussion and presentation coexist. Public formats vary depending on the project; from exhibitions, symposiums, screenings, lectures, and performances to events’ series. The hotspot of the moment.

Address: 1050, Rue de l’Ermitage Kluis 86, 1050 Ixelles
Website: La Loge

Komplot

Komplot – Photo: Komplot website

Komplot is a curatorial collective of variable compositions and conditions. Concerned with nomadic creative practices and trends of specialisation, it operates as a platform for experimental art. More and more, it expands its agenda to interdisciplinary art practices that continuously search for new formats and discourses. Its projects can take different forms: exhibitions, publications, films, discussions, workshops, symposium, and events. Joseph Kusendila will present his latest work, western union, during Brussels Gallery Weekend.

Address: Chaussée de Forest 90, 1060 Bruxelles
Website: Komplot

Le Lac

Le Lac – Photo: Antoine Neufmars

Le Lac’s Motto is: “Because it is good to try once more to live differently”. It hosts pluridisciplinary events with a focus on music. The gigantic warehouse is dedicated to endless artistic explorations. A punk, artsy spirit reigns here.

Address: 36, Rue de Witte de Haelen, 1000 Bruxelles
Website: Le Lac

La Vallée

La Vallée – Photo: Emilie Danel

This former 5000 sq.m. laundromat is now a creative hub hosting more than 140 art start-ups and regular events. Check the Bledarte Collective for events promoting diversity and intersectionality with dj-sets, local street food and open mics.

Address: Rue Adolphe Lavallée 39, 1080 Bruxelles


SHOPS

Hunting & Collecting

Hunting & Collecting – Photo: website

Fashion and art intersect and intertwine in this store. Find clothes, accessories, music, decorative items, shoes and more, and brands like Acne Studio, Gosha Rubchinskiy and AMI Paris. The window displays are curated with local artists to add a contemporary, local touch to the space.

Address: Rue des Chartreux 17, 1000 Bruxelles
Website: Hunting & Collecting

Tropismes

Tropismes – Photo: website

The best and largest bookstore in Brussels. Located in Galeries Royales, the bookstore opened in 1984 after the space had been used for famous jazz club Blue Note for many years. Its book selection ranges from fiction to non-fiction, art, essays, social sciences, travel and youth.

Address: Galerie des Princes 11, 1000 Brussels
Website: Tropismes

Peinture Fraiche

Peinture Fraiche – Photo: So Barnes

Peinture Fraîche is a picturesque bookstore in Brussels. This bookstore offers a wide range of art books and special editions, a paradise for any book lover.

Address: Rue du Tabellion, Notarisstraat 10, 1050 Ixelles
Website: Peinture Fraîche 


FOOD

Noordzee

Noordzee – Photo: Noordzee website

Noordzee is a particularly unique fish shop, located on the famous Place Sainte-Catherine, in the heart of Brussels. A huge stainless steel counter where tourists mix with locals to sip on a glass of white wine while enjoying delicious seafood treats with their bare hands. The garnaal croquettes (13€ for two pieces) – or shrimps croquettes – are an absolute must. But you should also try their fried calamari, bouchot mussels, clams, fresh oysters, grilled tuna or their traditional fish soup, served with grated cheese and croutons. Wait for one of the bartenders to shout out your name as loud as they can.

Address: Rue Sainte-Catherine 45, 1000 Bruxelles
Website: Noordzee

De l’Ogenblik

De l’Ogenblik – Photo: Antoine Neufmars

Cozy eatery, established in 1969, with marble-topped tables, wood-panelled walls, subdued lights & bistrot-inspired cuisine. A classic in town. Located in the historic Galeries Royales, next to Tropismes. Politicians, authors, journalists and ministers have shaped the history of the place. The weekly lunch menu is affordable and the dinner menu is perfect for a chic night in Brussels. A must-visit.

Address: Galerie des Princes 1, 1000 Brussel
Website: De l’Ogenblik

Le Pré Salé


Le Pré Salé is located in the city centre, a 3-minute walk from St Catherine Square on the vivid Rue de Flandre. The restaurant is decorated in a simple yet traditional way. Opt for Belgian classics such as carbonnade, Moules Marinères or American. The food at Le Pré Salé offers an honest presentation of a simple, homemade, traditional dish which is there to taste good, nothing more and nothing less. Classic Belgian comfort food.

Address: Rue de Flandre 20, 1000 Bruxelles
Website: Le Pré Salé

Dam Sum

A big colourful room, an open kitchen, wall paintings in the style of street art. Here, the dim sum are homemade daily, right before your eyes. On the menu, besides the traditional fried noodles and wonton soup, you’ll find about a dozen types of dim sum, steamed, pan fried or deep fried, then served in small bamboo baskets. Their specialty is without a doubt the Xiao Long Bao. Go for Char Siu Bao or Chao Sou for an exotic side dish.

Address: Parvis de la Trinité 11, 1060 Ixelles
Website: Dam Sum

Le Mont Liban

Le Mont Liban – Photo: Antoine Neufmars

A Lebanese institution in Brussels. If you want to discover the cuisine of the country of the Cedars without leaving Brussels, go to Mont Liban. They have a special discovery menu and open buffet for their Sunday Brunch. Maître Georges is always there to welcome you. Houmous and Moutabal are the restaurant’s staples and will satisfy your stomach after a vernissage at the gallery next door, Rodolphe Janssen.

Address: Rue de Livourne 30, 1000 Bruxelles
Website: Le Mont Liban

Claire Fontaine

Claire Fontaine – Photo: Antoine Neufmars

Just off Place du Grand Sablon, this is a tiny but atmospheric tile-floored épicerie, fragrant with spices and home-cooked dishes – there’s a small kitchen at the back. It’s perfect for a nutritious and filling take-out sandwich or quiche, or you can stock up on oils, wine and boxes of pain d’épices (spiced biscuits). Next door are Mendes Wood Gallery and other antique shops in Les Sablons, the Saint Germain des Près of Brussels.

Address: Rue Ernest Allard 3, 1000 Bruxelles

DRINKS 

L’Archiduc

L’Archiduc – Photo: Voyage Blogs

Art deco room with high ceilings, half-moon balcony, pillars to the roof, a piano in the centre and a tiny corner bar. Your fellow drinkers are architects, intellectuals and artistic beauties and the bar-staff know their music as well as their martinis. Famous for jazz sessions too, the owner might tell you about the times Miles Davis used to come in and jam. Listed as one of the World’s Best Bars.

Address: Rue Antoine Dansaert 6, 1000 Bruxelles
Website: L’Archiduc

Daring Man

Daring Man – Photo: Antoine Neufmars

For a typical Brussels atmosphere, head to the Daring Man, in the “bruin bar” (brown bar) district close to place Sainte-Catherine. It barely fits 40 people, and that’s what makes it so nice. Next to a good selection of Trappist and out-of-the-ordinary beers (try a Gageleer), you’ll discover an artistic (not artsy) and healthily uncommercial attitude. Martine, the owner, is a quaint character of the Rue de Flandres.

Rue de Flandre 37, 1000 Bruxelles
+322 512 43 23

Chez Richard

Chez Richard – Photo: Brussels Kitchen

Behind its Parisian looks, the terrace is probably one of the friendliest places in town, a happy melting pot of individuals from all possible horizons, at any time of the day. New life has been brought to this renowned institution. The food is definitely one of the reasons to come to Chez Richard, as most of the cooks have worked in Nicolas Scheidt’s kitchens and seem to have a really good idea of what they’re doing. Go for the Argentinian beef, the clams and the shrimp croquette. Located in the Sablons, it is often the favourite stop for art dealers and collectors on their way to openings.

Address: Rue des Minimes 2, 1000 Bruxelles
Website: Chez Richard


HOTELS 

Hotel Le Berger

Hotel Berger – Photo: website

This boutique hotel used to be a rendezvous hotel. Today, the beautifully renovated rooms in an updated Art Deco style make it a beloved destination which is hard to leave! The cinematographic atmosphere is reminiscent of the 1930s and each room has its own style and decor, named after a woman, as a hommage to the former mistresses of the place. The bar in the lobby, Vini Divini Aperitivi, is a popular cocktail destination. Go for the « Antoinette » or « Ambre » rooms.

Address: Rue du Berger 24, 1050 Ixelles
Website: Le Berger

Jam Hotel

Jam Hotel – Photo: website

Born of a brutalist block along Chausée de Charleroi, the hotel’s interior celebrates its industrial heritage with ample concrete, metal and raw wood on show, woven amongst modern and stylish interior elements. Everything feels clean, de-cluttered and simple. It has a brutal industrial-meets-stylishly-natural feeling throughout the building. There is a rooftop bar and pool, and the Sunday Brunches are a favourite destination for the young and artistically inclined.

Address: Chaussée de Charleroi 132, 1060 Bruxelles
Website: Jam Hotel

The Dominican

The Dominican – Photo: Design Hotels

Built on the site of a Dominican Abbey in the centre of historical Brussels, The Dominican has style and swagger – a tone set by the flaming torches at the entrance, and the suite of stately, stone-flagged public rooms set around a courtyard. Yet there is also an emphasis on modern comfort and ease. It’s located in the relatively quiet pedestrianised zone of central Brussels, a stone’s throw from La Monnaie opera house, and a three minutes’ walk from the Grand Place. It is also within easy walking distance of the Cathedral, all the key museums, and the best shopping streets. The building is the former home of Jacques-Louis David, who painted the famous painting ‘Napoleon Crossing the Alps’, in the early 19th century. The Dominican is self-consciously stylish: the effect is grand, but intimate in detail. It is part of the Carlton & Design Hotel Groups. This place is frequented by a well-heeled crowd.

Address: Rue Léopold 9, 1000 Bruxelles
Website: The Dominican


If you don’t have much time in the city and you’re having trouble choosing where to go, take a look at this interview with Brussels-based artist Antoine Neufmars. His favourite spots offer a full, creative experience of the city.