Just 200 miles north of Paris, Brussels has shot to the top of Europe’s gay list, boasting one of the largest gay party scenes and a gay rights nirvana. The last 10 years have been a precursor for current day highlights with a mélange of bars, clubs, saunas and shops all extending their own friendly welcome. Its former conservative inclination has been overrun by annual parades and marches, all in the name of liberal living. Parties such as “La Demence” meaning “Insanity”, are a calling card for neighboring countries to step up to the challenge. The Gay Pride march is an equally rousing annual focal event drawing a worldwide following and bringing an international crowd through Brussels borders.
Chocoholics beware this is dangerous territory and a high-risk lure for anyone with a sweet tooth. Old world manufacturing and gourmet ingredients have earned Belgium chocolates their world recognition on merit alone. Piled truffles with champagne centers and bite-sized rounds forming chocolate mountains, adorn the windows of quaintly decorated shops. Your nose will lead the way with cocoa scents reeling you in for a little more of where that cam from.
Next on the foodie menu are mussels and fries, and Belgium has outdone itself once again. “La Brasserie de Bruxelles” is where you can find some of the city’s finest mussels in a typically French brasserie style setting. Moules marinère popping out of ample stone pots can be seen on most tables. If that doesn’t appeal try one of the other umpteen mussel dishes on the menu; you certainly won’t go home hungry, the portion size could feed a small family.
If you’re new to the city, “Rainbowhouse” offers its services as a gay and lesbian information center. Navigate your way to the heart of all gay life; the Saint Jacques district is rarely a disappointment. Only 10 minutes walk from the Eurostar terminal; this is an extremely convenient way to cut straight to the action. The thoroughfares here are some of the oldest in Brussels, and its discreet nature attracts many in search of a clandestine address. Pedestrian strips and narrow darkened streets all add to the imposing gothic scenery.
Nightfall brings out partygoers in all their frills and fancy. Cruising bars and fetish parties are plentiful. “Duquesnoy” spices things up with its ever-changing dress code. Underwear requirements are an optional extra if you pick the right night, but be sure to check their website before turning up at the door with the wrong kit on; you might find yourself in one of those sticky situations where you want the ground to open up and swallow you.
If you’re not that keen on stepping out in your birthday suit, sample a night at “La Belgica”. Giving the clubbing scene a miss but still oozing with action, this hotspot is a popular midway house. It’s pre-club atmosphere and roomy setting allows it the best of both worlds. Weekends are always busy with clientele quite happy to rub shoulders and bottoms as this trendy venue fills up with a friendly crowd.