CITY GUIDE: BRUSSELS
The Belgian capital has loads to lure lady-lovers
Brussels: it’s the capital of Belgium and the seat of the European Parliament. It’s known for its fantastic architecture, its chocolate and its frites. Until now it has not been famous for its lesbians, but it should be because this city, just two hours from London by Eurostar, is a hive of queer lady activity, as DIVA discovered at the first ever Girls Heart Brussels weekend recently.
Brussels offers accommodation for all budgets. DIVA stayed at supermodern Hotel Bloom ( hotelbloom.com) where the huge, comfortable rooms (from €91) feature unique murals by young artists. The breakfast buffet is a treat – don’t miss DIY waffles from the camper van! For a more traditional experience try the Hotel Metropole ( metropolehotel.com), a Belle Epoque landmark that recalls Belgium’s Golden Age. Room decor ranges from merely swanky to massively camp. We’re talking orange faux-ponyskin walls.
Bilingual Brussels (streets have French and Flemish names) buzzes with arty activity, from its many museums and galleries to the comic-strip murals adorning its walls. Check out Bozar ( bozar.com) or make a trip to the Wiels contemporary arts centre, housed in a former brewery with a good cafe ( wiels. org). If shopping’s more your style,
Travel by Eurostar from London to Brussels from £69. eurostar.com visitbrussels.be
don’t miss the elegant covered arcade at Galeries St- Hubert and the Dansaert area for contemporary consumer thrills. Junk fiends, head to the daily Vossenplein flea-market and vintage shops along nearby rue Blaes.
The city brims with brilliant buildings, from the gothic splendour of the Grand Place to Art Nouveau gems (not to mention the HQ of the EU, if your tastes run that way). The worldfamous widdling toddler Manneken- Pis may wear the threads (he has his own dresser) but nearby his feminist sister, Jeanneke- Pis, raises money for Aids and cancer charities. Out of town, the extraordinary space-age Atomium towers over the site of the 1958 World Fair, its gleaming globes housing exhibitions and a restaurant, linked by escalators and high-speed elevator ( atomium.be).
All that sight-seeing made you hungry? Crisp frites and street- corner waffles are available everywhere, but when you’re tired of them, visit the lesbian- owned and -run restaurant Les Connes, for delicious fare that makes the most of local produce (set lunch €18, set dinner € 35, lesconnes.be).
The city’s LGBT hub is Rainbow House ( rainbowhouse.be). A cafe by day, it also hosts several busy lesbian clubs but if you yearn for glamour and over a thousand Euro-girls to flirt with, don’t miss Velvet 69 (bi-monthly, next event 10 January, velvet69.be). For cheeky, low-fi fun check out occasional queer lady party Mon Cul Ta Praline – my bum, your chocolate; it doesn’t really translate ( facebook.com/moncultapraline). Get the local lez/ bi lowdown from Despina Vassiliadou who rounds up the weekly highlights, recommends restaurants and reviews cultural happenings at her blog, sillylilly.net.
Aim to hit town when the city’s hosting one of its many queer events and you’ll find the scene extra-lively. Brussels’ lez/ bi calendar 2015 includes the European Lesbian Volleyball Tournament (3– 6 April, eulevoto.net), Brussels Pride (16 May, pride.be), queer film fest Pink Screens (November, pinkscreens. org) and women’s film fest Elles Tournent (September, ellestournent.be).
Or just let Jessica Gysel do the planning. Her Girls Heart Brussels weekends, an initiative of Visit Brussels, are aimed at promoting the city as a worthy destination for lesbians and bi women. The weekend packages offer luxurious accommodation and a winning mix of mainstream and LGBT fun and culture, enjoyed by a friendly bunch of women from France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. English (you may be relieved to learn) is the unifying tongue. The next weekend takes place 25–26 April, during the Art Brussels fair ( girlsheartbrussels.be).
WAY LOUISE CAROLIN FINDS THE BELGIAN CAPITAL HAS LOADS TO LURE LADYLOVERS