As far as nightlife goes, it’s likely you’ll be happy to while away the evenings in one of the city’s bars or café-bars – there are plenty in which you can drink until sunrise. If that isn’t enough, Brussels also has a clutch of established clubs, though most of the action revolves around club nights with moveable locations. It’s a fast-moving scene, so the best bet is to check out local websites to see what’s on. Brussels is a good place to catch live bands, with a number of especially appealing smaller venues such as Ancienne Belgique and Botanique. Along with Antwerp, the city is also a regular stop on the European tours of major artists, the big venue being Forest Nationale. Jazz is well catered for too, with several bars playing host to local and international acts, as well as the internationally acclaimed Jazz Marathon held every May (www.brusselsjazzmarathon.be).
The classical musical scene is excellent. The Orchestre National de Belgique (www.nob.be) enjoys an international reputation and the city showcases a number of excellent classical music festivals. Cream of the crop are the Ars Musica festival of contemporary music held in March (www.arsmusica.be), and May’s prestigious Concours Musical Reine Elisabeth (www.concours-reine-elisabeth.be), a competition for piano, violin and voice. Opera lovers should make a beeline for the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, which is much praised for staging contemporary interpretations of classic operas, as well as offering a more eclectic repertoire of music and dance. Indeed, the city’s dance scene has been impressing visitors ever since Maurice Béjart brought his classical Twentieth Century Ballet here in 1959. Now the main dance venues are the Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwberg and the Kaaitheatre, but the innovative legacy of Béjart lives on, with his old company (now called Rosas and led by Anne Theresa de Keersmaeker) regularly performing at Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie.
The big players in the Brussels theatre scene are the Francophone Théâtre National and the Flemish Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwberg, but the city also has an abundance of small theatres providing an eclectic programme from experimental theatre to political pieces and comedy. Most productions are performed in French and Flemish, but several American, Irish and British theatre groups put on high-quality amateur productions too.
The free, trilingual Agenda has the most comprehensive listings of concerts and events. Published every Thursday, it can be picked up in all main métro stations, plus some bars and cafés.