CITY GUIDE: BRUSSELS

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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.

STAY

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.

PLAY

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).

GAY

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

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