Brussels can hold its own with any international city when it comes to eating out, and whatever your taste, price range or preferred type of cuisine there is almost always something that will suit. Look out particularly for traditional Bruxellois dishes, canny amalgamations of Walloon and Flemish ingredients and cooking styles, whether rabbit cooked in beer, steamed pigs’ feet or waterzooi (for more on Belgian specialities). As for where to eat, the distinction between the city’s cafés, café-bars and restaurants is fairly elastic, and there are great places over the city, with particular concentrations on place Ste-Catherine and rue du Flandre in the Lower Town and place Boniface and place du Châtelain in Ixelles.
Drinking in Brussels, as in the rest of the country, is a joy. The city boasts an enormous variety of café-bars and bars: sumptuous Art Nouveau establishments, traditional bars with ceilings stained brown by a century’s smoke, speciality beer bars with literally hundreds of different varieties of ale and, of course, more modern hangouts. Many of the more distinctive bars are handily located within a few minutes’ walk of the Grand-Place and also in Ixelles, but really you’ll be spoiled for choice.
There’s no smoking in any establishment that sells food, along with bars and clubs.
Restaurant opening times are pretty standard – a couple of hours at lunchtime, usually noon to 2pm or 2.30pm, and again in the evening from 7pm to around 10pm; precise hours are given with the reviews below. At all but the cheapest restaurants, advance reservations are recommended, especially on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Bars and cafés
Belgians make little – or no – distinction between their bars and cafés: both serve alcohol, many stay open late (until 2am or even 3am) and most sell food as well. What you won’t find (thank goodness) are lots of the coffee house chains which beleaguer so many big cities.