Gay-friendly Brussels is one hip and classic European capital that’s easy to miss
Brussels ranks among the most international and sophisticated cities in the world. It’s the capital of a progressive country that passed gay-marriage legislation in 2003. It’s also a dynamic hub of modern architecture, cutting-edge fashion and fine shopping.
Brussels hosts Pride in May and a gay and lesbian film festival in January, and is home to the International Lesbian and Gay Association. In addition to Flemish and French, English is widely spoken and understood here. Although the euro is faring poorly against the U.S. dollar (as of late fall 2009, 1 euro traded at about US $1.50), Brussels is cheaper than many major European capitals.
Maximize your sightseeing value by purchasing a Brussels Card (www.Brusselcard.be), which costs 19 euros for one day and enables free use of public transportation and admission to some 30 museums.
The city is divided into Upper Town and Lower Town. Most of the wealthy neighborhoods, fancy shopping, museums and grand hotels are found here.
Lower Town is characterized by more working-class neighborhoods. But it’s near the small gay district, centered around rue du Marche au Charbon and rue des Pierres, near the Bourse.
Brussels is a city of gardens and parks with neighborhoods punctuated by verdant squares abloom with flowers. Stroll, jog or simply relax on a bench to soak up the sunshine in Brussels Park, near the sprawling Parc du Cinquantenaire, home to some prominent museums.
Although bar hopping is sedate there are plenty of options. Good gay bets include the TelsQuels CafÃ©, which is both a bar and the city’s gay and lesbian community center. Fans of drag shows shouldn’t miss the fun at Chez Maman. Le Duquesnoy caters to the leather-and-Levi’s bunch. Laid-back L’Homo Erectus heats up with funky music and a friendly staff.
Many hip hotels have opened in Brussels. The gay-friendly Be Manos is close to Gare du Midi/Brussel-Zuid train station. The on-site restaurants, Be Lella and Kolya, serve delectable food to a trendy crowd. Hotel Bloom is an artsy and affordable favorite. Across from the St. Catherine metro stop, Hotel Welcome ranks among the loveliest small hotels in Brussels.
For larger hotels, the Brussels Marriott has an enviable location near the funky St. Catherine and St. Gery neighborhoods. Metropole dates back to 1895 and is home to the chic, gay-popular cafe of the same name.
Whether to shop, dine, museum-hop or even hobnob in convivial bars, this clean, friendly and reasonably priced city has much to offer.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 06, 2009.