Gay Vacations in Brussels, Belgium

Petite Rue des Bouchers at night in Brussels, Belgium
Petite Rue des Bouchers in Brussels, Belgium (Allan Baxter/Photographer's Choice/Getty)

Of all the romantic, spellbinding cities in Europe, poor little Brussels has a rather boring reputation of being the generic land of "eurocrats" who run the bureaucracy of the European Union and NATO, as this Belgian capital is also the capital to both of those monolithic institutions. Transatlantic jaunts to Rome or Paris may be sexy, but rarely do travelers head directly to Brussels—unless specifically on business. And this is a shame because this gem of a city has a lot going for it.

Brussels is a city laced with Art Nouveau architectural masterpieces—the local hero being Victor Horta, who designed much of the Avenue Louise area, Brussels’ oh-la-la shopping district. Other architectural wonders are the cathedral of St. Michael and Gudula, a 13th-century Gothic building, and the Hôtel de Ville, also in Gothic style and dating from the 15th century. Other works of art can be found in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, the country’s preeminent art institution with Flemish masters on display such as Rubens, Van Dyck, and Delvaux. More recent Belgian art includes comics such as TinTin and The Smurfs, and there’s now a self-guided Comic Strip Walk depicting famous Belgian comic-strip characters starting at the square called Plattesteen. Brussels is pricey but a shopper’s delight known for its fine lace and tapestry weaving, not to mention artisan chocolates.

The LGBT scene in Brussels is friendlier and cozier than Paris or Amsterdam, sprinkled with French karaoke bars and old-fashioned continental cabarets. You know it’s gay-friendly when the major monument in town—Mannekin Pis—is of a boy proudly urinating! Most of the gay and lesbian bars are around the magnificent old town square of the Grand Place, while Rue du Marche au Charbon (also known as Kolenmarkt) also has a collection of gay bars and clubs. There’s a big LGBT film festival and pride in May, and Belgium also has full civil marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

Published: 15 Aug 2008 | Last Updated: 29 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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