Brussels may not scream Speedos and sunscreen, but when the big ball in the sky is ablaze and the city’s thermometers are on the up, the Belgian capital has plenty of places to cool off.
From sun-drenched terraces and rooftop parties to pop-up al fresco food events, here’s how enjoy the sunshine in Brussels.
Swimming in the city
When the mercury begins to bubble and dreams of a crystal-blue swimming pool start appearing like a mirage in front of your sunglasses, fear not: the hippest (and perhaps the most hidden) spot in Brussels right now is the Jam Hotel’s rooftop bar – which comes complete with its own pool. The bartenders are gratifyingly gallant with the ice in their legendary gin and tonics, so soak up the sun in a deckchair or kink and coil into a sweet summer submission thanks to one of their pop-up yoga sessions.
It’s hip to be square
Sun seekers will fall in love with Saint-Géry Square, it’s a crowd-pleaser with plenty of choices between sunny and shady areas. Keep cool with a fresh juice from the Zebra Bar or get a beer in Le Roi des Belges. You can’t miss the Halles Saint-Géry – a stunning Flemish Neo-Renaissance style building bursting with history that now houses a café and hosts various exhibitions and concerts. Once you’ve finished exploring inside, get a stoemp (Brussels’ richer version of a stamppot, mashed vegetables usually served with sausages) at Be my Stoemp and bask in the cool of the hall’s impressive shadow.
If you start to overheat, try a chose (a house mocktail made with grapefruit juice and tonic water), an iced latte or a local 'Bruxellensis' beer from Chez Franz. One of the most Belgian cafés in town, this is where locals come to mingle in the cosy atmosphere over long brunches, sophisticated jazz evenings or an Italian aperitivo.
Café Belga is home to one of the capital’s largest terraces, overlooking the Place Eugène Flagey and the shimmering Ixelles Ponds. Mixing tables and loungers, it is busiest when the sun is out. At weekends, a market invades the square selling everything from trinkets to bed sheets as well as a beautiful range of foods such as oysters, rotisserie chicken and heaps of fresh fruit and vegetables. The market is also right next to the iconic Frit Flagey fritkot (a traditional fast food kiosk often serving fries), which is well worth a visit. Belga also hosts seasonal events including tastings, exhibitions and concerts.
Brussels has a trove of terraces and roof gardens dotted around the city, perfect for warmer weather. Stop for a frothy homemade lemonade or a gargantuan portion of brunch on La Fabrique en Ville’s leafy terrace as you people watch passers-by strolling in Le parc d’Egmont. Next to the chic and high-end shopping district, Avenue Louise, the magnificently restored orangery is a peaceful haven of elegance oozing zen vibes and sweet aromas. Expect delicious treats in the form of tartines, pastries and a variety of homemade breads and jams amongst a casual, chic atmosphere of summer raffia hats and polo shirts.
Shady in the morning and sunny from lunch until sunset, Café Walvis boasts an impressive terrace overlooking the canal, at the end of the hip Dansaert street. Enjoy a relaxed lunch and order a pintje (a glass of pilsner) or a juice while reading a sun-dappled paper in this minimalistic, wood-panelled scene.
Feel like getting high? Take the elevator to the wood-decked rooftop terrace of the Chelton Hotel and take in Brussels’ cityscape from a height. After spotting the Atomium, relax on one of the chic, minimalist loungers and wait for the sun set over the city streets.
A moveable feast
Foodies of Brussels are making the most of the city's wealth of green spaces and produce suppliers, culminating in the conception of Sauvages. This event (held on Thursdays, from May to October) is described as ‘wild dining’ and gives you the opportunity to indulge in local delicacies, outdoors. Always held at a different location, revealed only on the eve of the glorious mess, the al fresco experience hosts about 60 diners who can feast on a buffet of Belgian and French cheese, provincially produced spreads and a selection of natural wines. Book your place in advance (€27 all included). If the weather is moody, the organisers always have a sheltered plan B.
Another classic pairing, Apéros Urbains brings music and sunshine together in an outdoor party that hits town every Friday, from May to September. The eclectic music-drenched event is held in a different outdoor space each week so check their website to find out where you'll be laying your picnic blanket. There are plenty of drink and food stalls, as well as an onsite cocktail mixologist, but people are welcome to bring their own. There is no fear of running dry or going hungry though as the event partners with a bespoke wine shop, a local brewery and Belgomarkt – the first supermarket to offer exclusively Belgian products.
Located on the outskirts of Josaphat Parc, one of the city’s most beautifully luscious green spaces, the Live Central Park restobar has 100 beers to quench your thirst. Restore your energy levels with a snack and simply enjoy the greenery and views from the outdoor terrace. Alternatively, stroll further into the park and head for the Buvette Sint-Sebastiaan which serves some of Brussels’ best fries and homemade mayo.
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