Contents for Brussels : Arriving in Brussels | Transportation to Downtown | L’Archiduc Bar | Restaurant ‘t Kelderke
Contents for Antwerp : Getting There | The Bronze Bar | Café d’Anvers | Hangar 41
Arriving in Brussels. The airports serving Europe’s major transit hubs, such as Frankfurt, for example, are typically well designed with a number of well-thought-out logistical details and Bruxelles-Aéroport easily maintains this standard. It’s highly efficient and movement from its entrance, to ticketing, through security and onward to departures is organized and thankfully, methodical.
― Your arrival from the States will be at the B Gates. Proceed through Customs before obtaining your luggage and then continue to ground and rail transportation.
― Transfers to Flights within the EU. If you’re transferring through Brussels to another EU destination, proceed directly from Gate B to Passport Control and then Gate A for your connecting flight.
The Information Desk is located within the Arrivals Hall, much larger than most, and staffed with a number of people who are more than willing to assist. They’re all excellent resources, too, for traveling to the downtown area and where to dine, etc.
Transportation to Downtown. Rental cars, taxis, and complimentary shuttles for nearby hotels are all in abundance. To travel by train service, which runs like clockwork every 15 minutes, proceed to the basement level for transport to the downtown area’s North, Central and Midi stations. The Airport Bus Line is also available. Located on Level 0 below the Arrivals Hall, the bus travels in 30 minutes to the city’s European Quarter. And if you want to travel to Paris, the Thalys high-speed rail leaves the airport at mid morning―a trip worth taking if for no other reason than to grab a meal in Paris, and then return. No kidding.
L’Archiduc. I was hesitant to visit the bar, at 6 rue Antoine-Dansaert, a few blocks from the De Brouckere metro station, only because it’s so famous I was concerned it would end up being disappointing or worse, a tourist trap. I was proven wrong on both counts. The art deco bar, located in the city’s fashion district, is famous among jazz aficionados as it was a frequent haunt of Nat King Cole and Miles Davis. Live music is still played there and it’s not uncommon for it to remain open all night until sunrise. The bartenders make great cocktails and the list of apéritifs is good (the Kir is moderately priced.) The beer is equally good and the Golden Queen Bee label is exclusive to the bar. I highly recommend going.
One would expect to find great, French-influenced dining in the country so its easy to forget Brussel’s Flemish character. You need to make the effort, therefore, and dine at ‘t Kelderke, located at Grand-Place 15 near the De Brouckere station. Traditional and hearty food is the norm and the beer is brewed on-site. The atmosphere inside is extremely friendly and it’s easy to sit with regular patrons who always welcome travelers. Weather permitting, the outside tables may be open but it can be difficult to find a seat. Its worth the wait, however, as the people-watching on the Grand Place is notable. Recommend items on the menu :
― country-style paté “Monk terrine”
― scampis with tomatoes and cream (the dish is extremely rich so you may want to share between 2 people)
― warm goat’s cheese “chavignol” with honey
― mussels from Provence
― Flemish style beef & onion stew with beer
― sautéed Sole “Meunière”
A must-have for dessert is the flamed pancakes with ice cream. Its rich so plan on sharing.
Antwerp / Antwerpen / Anvers. When traveling to Belgium, set aside a couple of days to visit Antwerp, the capital of the country’s Flanders province. About an hour from Brussels via rail, it’s the country’s best kept secret as it has a pub and bar scene few cities in northern Europe can match. Getting there is simple as trains from Brussels’ Midi Station to Antwerp’s Centraal leave every 20 minutes or so. Reservations are not required making a spontaneous trip there even more tempting.
No trip to Antwerp would be complete without visiting the Hotel De Witte Lelie nv’s Bronze Bar, located near the city’s Grote Markt and easily within walking distance from the Keizerstraat station. The boutique hotel has been built from three renovated, 17th century town houses and is a great destination for happy hour. The drinks are a little pricey but well worth it and the interior is beautiful and intimate.
Later on, plan to spend the night celebrating at Café d’Anvers, within a very short distance from the Sint-Pietersvliet station and in the heart of the city’s red light district…but don’t let that scare you. Not to be confused with a coffee-house, this former church now features some of the best EDM, house music, and nightlife in the city. There is no entrance fee before midnight; the dress is casual; the music scene is lively with DJs from all over Europe; and the mix of people, from those in the city’s fashion district, to locals, to international travelers, cannot be beat.
Located at 41 Sint-Michielskaai on the banks of the Scheldt River is Hangar 41, near the Sint-Michielskaai station. The contemporary cafe and bar should also be on your list of destinations in Antwerp. If you can find space on Hangar’s terrace, grab it for drinks as the views of the river―and the people watching―are impressive. You’ll be shoulder-to shoulder with the area’s fashion and arty types, all of whom are actually approachable. The bar and wait staff are unbelievably good-looking and handsome. They’re down-to-earth, however, and very friendly. The bar serves great drinks and the cafe’s menu is light, elegant and very good. The Sunday brunch is excellent and features sparkling wine, juices, coffee and espresso beverages, breads, pastries, eggs, and meats and cheeses.