Home of Magritte and Art Nouveau, the Belgian capital is brimming with cultural gems and more than a few beautifully designed spaces to eat, drink and take in the sights
Where to eat: iOda
Chef Cesar Hoed spent time in the kitchens of Hummus & Hortense and Nénu before creating his own cuisine at iOda. Hoed tapped designer Margaux Lejeune to imagine the bare brick walled interiors, which have been dressed with vintage chairs, tables, lighting, and tiles to create a homey atmosphere, earning her a nomination for the Commerce Design Brussels Award 2023, an initiative by Brussels Design September. This personal touch naturally also extends to the menu, and Hoed cooks what he likes to eat. As a vegetarian that means plant-based food is at the forefront, uniquely cooked on a chicken rotisserie to bring a roasted and smoky depth of flavour, although expect to see some local Belgian seafood, too.
Where to stay: MIX
Say hello to Brussels’ hottest new hotel, MIX, an ambitious hospitality and lifestyle venue that offers three restaurants, a food market, a co-working space and a health club to both guests and locals. Sitting in a 1960s functionalist building on the edge of the Sonian Forest, the hotel has been brought to life by Belgian designer Lionel Jadot and his team of creatives at Zaventem Ateliers. Salmon pink rooms, bronze fixtures, and warm lighting nod to the copper sheen of the buildings’ façade whilst handcrafted furnishings and bespoke artworks show off the artisans’ individual savoir-faire. The standout feature is the floor-to-ceiling windows, which offer sweeping views of the surrounding lush treetops.
Best rooftop: The Hoxton Brussels
After opening in the Brutalist-style former European headquarters of IBM earlier this year, The Hoxton Brussels has quickly become the city’s summer rooftop destination. The burnt orange colour palette, earthy woods, and an abundance of verdant cacti reference the Mexican-inspired snacking menu at bar and terrace Tope, which also serves up cocktails with a kick to match. Outside retro-style parasols add a playful touch and offer shade from the sun as you gaze across panoramic views of the city.
What to see: Brussels Design Museum
A striking red and yellow staircase by Jean Nouvel signals the entrance of the Brussels Design Museum, housed in a mirrored structure on the Heysel Plateau which reflects the surrounding vegetation. Inside, Lhoas & Lhoas Architectes reimagined the space with backdrops crafted exclusively from raw materials, think wood, steel, and aluminium, to contrast with the museum’s first permanent and colourful exhibition of plastic design pieces, from the everyday to iconic. A second permanent collection showcases modern Belgian design whilst temporary exhibitions can range from retrospectives to exploring design in various sub- and pop cultures.
Where to go for a drink: Badi
Brussels might be known for its beer, but Badi is known for its cider. Founders Victoria Merret and Maxime Bourdigal have put around 100 references of natural cider on the menu at their bar à cidre to share and revive the love for this often-overlooked drink. Each evening a small but thoughtful seasonal menu is served, think cold broth with soba noodles and roasted ripe peaches with crumble and cream in summer, whilst on Sundays cider’s traditional best friend, buckwheat galettes, are served up with various fillings for the ultimate pairing.
Where to buy bread: Boulangerie Pinpin
After teaching herself how to make bread during COVID, Manon Pinchart decided to turn her passion for sourdough professional by launching Boulangerie Pinpin with brewer and fellow fermentation fan Alexis Boisseau. Manon oversaw the design herself, eschewing the traditional homely decor associated with bakeries in favour of a minimalist, urban space where she could focus on baking without unnecessary distractions. Manon and Alexis’ creative flair and desire not to waste food leads to some unusual flavour combinations, think crusty loaves studded with orange confit and fennel or pastries topped with black sausage and peach, but the duo haven’t forgotten classics with crusty baguettes, buttery croissants and pain au chocolats also on the menu.
Best coffee and cake: Bautier Café
After hosting monthly lunches at her eponymous furniture store, Marina Bautier decided to create a permanent spot for her warm hospitality in the form of Café Bautier. Located on the ground floor of the store and furnished, of course, with her own contemporary designs, Café Bautier serves up simple but comforting plates of focaccia sandwiches, homemade cakes, and English scones (a nod to Marina’s years in London) all centred around local, seasonal and organic produce. The vegetarian-driven menu also serves up a kids meal on Wednesdays and Saturdays to welcome the whole family.
For Art Nouveau: Museum of Musical Instruments
Founded back in 1877, although in a different location, the Musical Instruments Museum is now housed across two of Brussel’s most notable buildings, which were formerly home to the Old England department store. The neoclassical building sitting on Place Royale contrasts with that of the 1899 Art Nouveau property next door, designed by Brussels architect Paul Saintenoy and one of the city’s masterpieces from the era. Inside, period details such as mosaic tiled floors and wrought iron lifts have been retained and lead the way to four galleries showcasing an impressive collection of 1,200 instruments, which are brought to life through sound, tours, and hands-on workshops.