My favourite not-to-be-missed bars in Belgium
Travelling is an important part of my life and what I love the most about my bar adventures is that there is always a special relationship between a city and its bars. They serve as important cultural hubs and are the main sights of my trips and they always reflect the spirit and lifestyle of the whole city. Even though Belgium is known as the beer country par excellence, it has a small but fine selection of cocktail bars. In preparation for your bar visits here are my favourite not-to-be-missed bars.
Bruges – a heavyweight sightseeing spot – was my first stop. Within a radius of 400 metres you’ll find a picturesque old town with canals, historical buildings and many cultural sights. In 2000 Brügge in German, Brugge (Broo-ghah) in Dutch and Bruges (Broozh) in French and English was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It feels like being in a huge outdoor museum and I loved strolling through its narrow streets.
Why Antwerp? They say Antwerp is laid-back, charming and unassuming. The perfect city for connoisseurs I would say. The ancient guild houses with their picturesque façades alternate with modern architecture. While the seductive smell of freshly baked waffles wafts through the cobbled streets of the old town, Antwerp is a wonderful place to explore on foot. Flower shops, creative concept stores, chocolate manufacturers, fries shops and second-hand boutiques line the squares, while street musicians provide the right background music. Between all the sights, cafés and bars invite you to linger. Join me on a sip to my recommended bar stools in Antwerp.
For a time, Ghent was one of the biggest cities in Europe. In Ghent, you can both revel in the past and live in the present. Today, Ghent is more of an insider tip and home to the country’s largest university with about 75,000 students. The city has a unique character: small enough to be cosy, big enough to sparkle with liveliness topped with an international flair. It’s also a city of music, art, festivals, good food and even the veggie capital of the world. But my focus, as you know, is on the liquid pleasures.
Ghent has many different drinking concepts to offer: From contemporary, sustainable to hotel bars and themed bars, everyone can find something to suit their mood. Here are some special bar tips for romantics and music lovers to explore.
If you’re in the mood for romance, there’s no getting away from Rococo. This is a very special place because of the unique and lovely owner Betty who welcomes you as if you were a guest in her home. And indeed, the place looks like a cosy living room with a romantic open fireplace. You can share a large table with others or share more private moments in a corner. Candlelight, open fire, live music from time to time, this place has an enchanted atmosphere for the senses.
Love is in the air and in the glass.
Betty creates her own love potion, the Liqueur d’amour. Ooh la la! Betty promises a night full of passion after drinking it. I had the famous Rococo coffee and an extra liqueur d’amour into the bargain. As to what happened that evening, I’ll drape it in a veil of secrecy, just as Betty does with her formula.
Important to know: This is not an ordinary bar with a bar counter which separates Betty from her guests. Expect Betty to guide and entertain you and share some interesting stories about life. She runs the place all by herself. The clocks definitely still tick differently here and that’s a good thing too.
If you’re in the mood for music, another hidden place in this town can be reached through a very narrow alley. If your ears are crying out for some jazz, Hot Club Gent is the in place to be. Hot Club’s recipe is based on live jazz concerts and jam sessions in all its colours and forms paired with hot, soft, strong drinks and a selection of well-known and lesser-known Belgian beers. The place is spacious and, apart from the main room, offers a small upper floor with sofas and a cosy (heated) inner courtyard.
Another place to treat your ears is right in the centre of the city, next to the Korenmarkt. Manteca offers local beer and decent cocktails. It is a place to socialise, listen to music, play a game of chess and dive into the city’s vibes.