Best of Brussels

He hasn’t lived there his whole life,  but the city of Brussels fits Elias Papoudaris like a glove. At the age of twelve, he moved with his parents, who are of Greek origin, from the Flemish province of Limburg to Brussels.

Amen

‘It takes some effort to get there, (15 minutes by taxi from the centre of Brussels), but in the end you’ll find yourself in seventh heaven. Amen is the restaurant run by celebrity chef Pascal Devalkeneer and architect/jewellery designer Pili Collado. It is situated on the corner of the street, with invitingly arranged white outdoor seating. Inside, the space is suffused with a homely warmth thanks to the wooden furniture. The staff are friendly and capable, and that comes as no surprise: Devalkeneer is also chef at the two-Michelin-star restaurant Le Chalet de la Forêt. In Amen, he goes back to basics. This manifests itself both in the restrained interior and also on the menu. You will find mostly seasonal products and the sommelier will gladly inform you about the exclusively organic wines. Plus, the gorgeous bull’s heads water carafes are for sale: €65.’
RUE FRANZ MERJAY 165

Le Pain Quotidien

‘Le Pain Quotidien now has branches all over the world – this bakery chain can be found from New York to Mumbai. But the very first bakery was opened in Brussels in 1990, by Alain Coumont on Rue Antoine Dansaert. This is the place to get breakfast, a cup of green tea, a healthy lunch, or indulge in the delicious caramel and lemon cakes. All the food is fresh and organic and the takeaway veggie quiches are not to be missed.’
RUE ANTOINE DANSAERT 16A

“QUOTE.”

Magritte Museum

‘The Place Royale is surrounded by imposing neoclassic buildings from the nineteenth century. One of them houses the Magritte Museum. Boasting around two hundred paintings by the Belgian surrealist painter, this multidisciplinary collection is the biggest in the world. It comprises oil paintings, gouaches, drawings, sculptures and painted objects, plus advertising posters, musical scores, old photos and films made by René Magritte (1898-1967). The artist painted ordinary things, but positioned them in unexpected ways. I personally like to dream away by Magritte’s cloudscapes, a  recurrent theme in his paintings. The works are beautifully lit in a relatively dark hall, making the outside world, bathed in sunshine, almost as surreal as the works of art themselves.’
PLACE ROYALE 1

Pierre Marcolini

‘An addiction to chocolate is easily cultivated in a city like Brussels. Chocolatiers line the streets here, but Pierre Marcolini is my favourite. I don’t buy the chocolates for myself, but I do like to give them as presents for special occasions.’ AVENUE LOUISE 75 M

Bozar

‘After visiting the Place Royale and the Magritte Museum, you cannot miss the nearby Bozar. The Paleis voor Schone Kunsten (Centre for Fine Arts) is located in an art deco masterpiece, designed by Belgian architect Victor Horta. Horta himself described the building as, ‘a highlight in my career’. The Bozar is the place where all the arts converge. You can listen to concerts, visit exhibitions and go to conferences. Bozar Café Victor is also a worthwhile destination. After visiting one of the exhibitions, my friends and I like to stop by here for drinks and a chat. And to order some of the delicious shrimp croquettes!’
RUE RAVENSTEIN 23

Smets Premium

‘Of course, all the big fashion chains can be found in Brussels. But those who’d rather avoid the mainstream shops and opt for something really special, are also catered for. The avant-garde district of Dansaert, near the Oude Graanmarkt, features shops with collections from famous international and Belgian designers. One of my favourites is Smets Premium, which started out as a fashion pop-up store and has now become a household name. The store is currently located in a beautiful building with an atrium. Smets Premium not only sells clothes for both women and men, but also stocks jewellery and furniture. They have a considerable clientèle; you can spot fashionistas, footballers and ‘the cool kids’ who have saved up and know exactly what they want; exclusive Yeezy sneakers by Kanye West, of course.’
RUE DE NAMUR 68

Comic book route

‘I grew up with comic books such as Suske en Wiske, Jommeke, TinTin and Asterix. For me,  walking through Brussels is like a trip down memory lane. You turn any corner and can be immediately surprised by a huge mural of one of the heroes from these comic books. Tintin is located in the Stoofstraat, close to the Manneken Pis.’
COMIC BOOK ROUTE

Café le Fontainas

‘To say the crowd in Cafe le Fontainas is  diverse, would be an understatement. This, however, makes it a special place. Here, you will find a mix of young and old, students and fortysomethings, way-out characters, creative types and expats. It’s a top spot to meet friends between the pink walls and hanging plants whilst enjoying a ‘half & half’ – a typical Brussels drink, half a glass of white wine mixed with half a glass of cava. At the weekends, there’s a DJ and it gets busy; in the summer months it is delightful to sit on the terrace. While you’re there, why not pop into café Charbon just opposite, another favourite in the city.’
RUE DU MARCHÉ AU CHARBON 91