Renowned for its beauty and architecture, Belgium has been an LGBT+ hotspot since its gay marriage legalization in June of 2003. Belgium’s accepting culture has made it a popular destination for LGBT+ travelers seeking security and respect during their visit. Its largest city, Brussels, is not only the national capital, but it’s also the diversity capital par excellence with 183 nationalities. The city’s free spirit is supported by non-discriminatory legislation. It boasts a rich history, vibrant nightlife, and tasty cuisine with a lively LGBT community. Many visitors go to the capital to enjoy a night of partying at one of the countless events they host. It feels like just about everything is an excuse to celebrate. Brussels is also one of Europe's most dynamic contemporary art cities. This is due, first and foremost, to the artists living and working in the capital.
Table of Contents
1. General Tips
2. Transportation & Airport Transfer
3. Gay Hotels in Brussels
4. Sightseeing & Activities in Brussels
5. Restaurants & Cafes in Brussels
6. Brussels Gay Bars
7. Brussels City Gay Clubs & Parties
8. Brussels Gay Saunas & Cruising Bars
9. Gay Events in Brussels
10. Day Trips from Brussels
Brussels experiences all four seasons and there’s a chance for rain year-round. It’s best to visit during the shoulder seasons between March and May and September and October. Typically, this is when room rates dip and the weather is mild with lows in the 40s and highs in the mid-50s. Also, consider visiting for the Ommegang festivities in July, which is a renaissance-style festival to recreate the celebration when Emperor Charles V first entered the city. A visit at Christmas time is also quite festive with holiday decorations and a giant Christmas tree in the main square.
When deciding where to stay, consider that Brussels is one of the most progressive and liberal places in Europe meaning that most all places are LGBT-friendly. We recommend a location near the Brussels Gay Village (Saint Jacques neighborhood) located in the city center near the Grand Palace and close to all the attractions and gay hot spots both day and night. Brussels never sleeps, especially Brussels’ gay scene. Check out Rue du Marché au Charbon and rue des Pierres for a great variety of bars to have a drink, dance and enjoy yourself. This lively neighborhood is a perfect reflection of the capital's lively and warm character.
Transportation & Airport Transfer
Brussels Airport (BRU) is located in Zaventem about 8 miles northeast of the city center and in 2019 was the 24th busiest airport in Europe. It’s the hub for Brussels Airlines and TUI fly Belgium. The airport uses a one terminal concept and the terminal building consists of several levels. The railway station is located on −1, buses and taxis arrive at 0, arrivals are located on level 2 and departures are on level 3. Levels 2 and 3 are connected to the airport's two piers (A and B). Pier A mostly serves flights to and from the Schengen countries and the older Pier B is only used for flights outside the Schengen Area.
There are several options when traveling from Brussels Airport to the city center including train, taxi and bus. The train goes from the airport to Brussels Central Station every 10 minutes between 5am and midnight. It takes about 18 minutes and costs €12,70 (15 USD). For a more comfortable option, consider hailing a taxi that will take you about 20 minutes and cost around €45 (55 USD). However, be sure to only board official taxis. You can easily recognize them since they are blue with a yellow logo. There are also rideshare services like Uber and Poppy that usually cost a little less than a taxi. The airport bus arrives and departs at level 0 and there are two buses: Line 12 and Line 21. Line 12 operates Mon-Fri until 8pm and only travels to main stations with the last stop being Luxemburg Station. Line 21 operates after 8pm on weekdays and on weekends and has many more stops and ends at Hertog/Ducale station.
Gay Hotels in Brussels
If you're visiting Brussels, you'll need to find a place to stay. There aren't any gay-specific gay hotels or properties in Brussels, but the city is incredibly gay friendly.
NH Collection Brussels Grand Sablon – located on Brussels’ most beautiful square and near the Central Railway Station, it’s just steps from the Grand Palace and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts. Offering 196 premium rooms and suites, they all have a contemporary feel with a fresh, neutral color scheme, free Wi-Fi, 24/7 room service and a minibar. Guests can also enjoy the on-site award-winning restaurant, gym and meeting space.
Maxhotel – modern budget hotel located in the heart of Brussels. It offers 63 straightforward rooms with complimentary Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and rainfall showers. Continental breakfast is complimentary and there's an airy lounge featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, sofas and designer chairs.
Le Berger Hotel – what was once a clandestine meeting spot for a club of friends and their secret, has taken on a second life as a chic hotel with a scandalous past. Featuring vintage decor, the 66 cozy rooms come with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and a lux ambiance. Amenities include daily breakfast, an on-site restaurant and bar and terrace.
Thon Hotel Bristol Stephanie – 4-star hotel located on the lovely Avenue Louise, Brussels’ most fashionable shopping street. All rooms are air-conditioned and offer a stylish space to unwind with a flat-screen TV and private bathroom. Enjoy the on-site restaurant and bar featuring traditional and innovative French cuisine and daily breakfast as well as the spacious gym and sauna.
Vintage Hotel – charming boutique hotel with 38 unique and trendy guest rooms ranging from simple to the Airstream room that’s inside a fully renovated Airstream travel trailer. All rooms have free Wi-Fi and a private bathroom. Guests can also enjoy breakfast, the rooftop terrace, on-site bar and lounge.
There are many sites for apartment rentals including Airbnb and Vrbo. Both companies have inclusive policies and support the LGBT+ community. Prices are generally comparable to budget hotels, especially if you’re willing to get a room in a shared apartment.
There are even a few LGBT-oriented booking sites like misterb&b where you can rent a room from a local gay host. Founded in 2014, misterb&b is not a hotel or chain, but rather a booking site for rooms, apartments and homes. Similar to AirBnB, Vrbo and Booking.com, misterb&b is an online service, but it allows you to from gay and gay-friendly hosts around the world. They have hosts in more than 200 countries and territories with more than 1 million total listings. Understanding the gay scene is much more easily done with the help of a local and apartment sharing is one of the best ways to meet someone living in the city who knows how things work, where and when are the best nights to go out, and what places to eat at and which to avoid.Special Offer! Sign up with misterb&b and you will receive a free $10 credit to use on your first booking!
Sightseeing & Activities in Brussels
Mini Europe – miniature park located at the foot of the Atomium in Bruparck. Here you’ll find reproductions of 350 buildings and monuments and about 80 cities represented at a scale of 1/25. It’s a two-hour walk to enjoy the thousands of life-life figurines and live action animations in incredible detail. Book tour →
Atomium – an icon of Belgium, this is one of the most popular attractions in Brussels. This structure in the formation of an iron crystal was created for the World’s Fair in 1958. Visit to learn about the history of this unique monument, take in the 360-degree panoramic views and enjoy a meal at the Atomium restaurant 95 meters above ground. Book tour →
Chocolate Tasting Tour – indulge in your sweet tooth on this 2-hour walking tour and learn about the history of chocolate making by the master chocolatiers of Brussels. Explore the city center while sampling several varieties of chocolate from some of the most famous chocolate shops. Book tour →
Beer Tasting Tour – guided by a beer expert, this four-hour pub crawl with snacks and appetizers will take you by several historic landmarks and to some of Brussels’ oldest cafes. Sample a selection of brews including Geuze, fruity Chimay and superstrong Trappist beers while learning about the city’s famous brewing history. Book tour →
GAILY TOUR in BRUSSELS – Gay & Lesbian Tour – choose from several tour options including: the Classic Tour, Gay Tour & Marché au Charbon’s Secrets or Brussels by night Gay Tour. All walking tours are led by a gay/lesbian guide who will take you to some of the city’s most famous sites with a gay twist and focus on the LGBT community. Book tour →
Restaurants & Cafes in Brussels
Le Dillens – cozy French-style cafe with a quaint atmosphere offering modern dishes for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner. Stop in for a glass of wine or a drink at the bar and enjoy free Wi-Fi, outdoor seating and a lovely snack or meal.
Bar Recyclart – this no-frills alternative restaurant offers an entirely vegan menu that features seasonal produce with original dishes that promote healthy, ethical and natural cuisine. Come solo or with friends and have a seat at the long communal tables or enjoy the outdoor patio seating for a unique and tasty meal.
Mamma Roma Flagey – Roman style pizzeria with a friendly and simple atmosphere and display case featuring pizza by the slice. There’s a large selection of toppings to suit your taste and it’s perfect for an inexpensive and quick bite.
Arcadi – buzzing little Belgian cafe open from breakfast to late night with a large variety of cuisine, including vegetarian friendly and vegan dishes. We recommend the quiche and princess waffles. In the summer months, enjoy the ample outdoor seating with an ice cold pint.
Fritland – a trip to Brussels is not complete without a stop to this tasty fast-food spot serving up hot and crispy fresh frittes (fries) with a large variety of sauces to choose from. It's open late night and makes for a great snack after going out on the town.
Brussels Gay Bars
Le Baroque – in the heart of Brussels, this is where you can enjoy the “bear spirit” in a friendly and inclusive atmosphere. Situated near the Grand Palace, this is the spot for bears and their admirers to enjoy happy hour, guest DJs and a good time.
Amalgame – a short walk from the Grand Palace you’ll find this new gay bar by proprietors Jérôme and Marco. Great spot for a night of drinks and dancing. Check out the Flash after-party on Sunday night (Monday morning).
La Boule Rouge – cabaret and karaoke bar that hosts popular weekly drag shows and karaoke nights located in the center of old town Brussels. Stop in for dinner and drinks while enjoying a performance by a quirky group of showgirls.
Le Detour – Also near the Grand Palace, this is your quintessential gay bar in the heart of Brussels. Join the fun, friendly and outgoing crowd to enjoy a drink and hang out with friends or meet new ones. Outdoor seating is available out front.
Le Bélgica – a Brussels gay institution complete with cuties behind the bar, top-notch DJs and glittering disco balls over the dance floor. Drinks are cheap and you’ll find most people socializing outside. It’s a great stop after dinner or before going out to the clubs.
La Reserve – the oldest gay bar in Brussels with a pub-like atmosphere that’s friendly and cozy. They have a great selection of Belgian beers and attract a more mature crowd of both locals and tourists alike. On weekends, they turn up the excellent sound systems and the crowd fills in.
Station BXL – retro-themed and stylish gay bar and cafe located in Brussel’s gay district with free Wi-Fi. The crowd tends to be mature men and bears enjoying a great selection of beer and cocktails out on the outdoor patio along the street.
Le Dolores – quaint and cozy bar also located in Brussels’ gay district with an outdoor terrace along the street popular in the summer and winter. Stop in to pick up one of the popular gay magazines, Bruce or Tribu, for news and events in the gay scene.
Chez Maman – this place has become the benchmark Brussels cabaret cafe. Every weekend, Maman and her daughters perform on this now mythical stage. At Chez Maman, the stage is actually the main room's counter. This slab of marble has a magic that hundreds of people come to experience every week.
Brussels City Gay Clubs & Parties
La Demence – La Demence is undoubtedly one of the longest-running gay circuit parties in the world. Thirty years strong, it takes place 12 times a year, usually on Friday evenings or on the eve of public holidays and attracts thousands of people from all over Europe and beyond.
Revelation – Gay fetish dance and cruise party that usually takes place on a Saturday once a month at Bazar. It features international DJs, two dance floors, cruising areas, kinky gogo dancers and sexy performers. Check ahead for admission (discounts for guys under 26 years old).
Brussels Gay Saunas & Cruising Bars
Macho Sauna – located in the center of the gay district, this is the most popular gay sauna in Brussels. It’s a multi-level facility with lockers, steam room, dry sauna, dark room, cabins, outdoor patio and a bar. Drawing in a mix of attractive men, it’s busiest on Sundays and for the ‘After La Demence’ nights.
Sauna La Griffe – cozy gay sauna with a relaxing atmosphere right in the heart of Brussels. It attracts a mature crowd and their admirers featuring lockers, jacuzzi, Turkish steam bath, dark room, cabins, video room and a bar with drinks and snacks.
Stamm Bar – open 7 nights a week, this is Brussels’ premier fetish and cruise club where bears and their admirers come out to play. The venue has an industrial vibe with cruise areas and a dark room. Stop by for the naked party on Sundays.
Gay Events in Brussels
Belgian Pride – hosted by the Belgian Pride Association, this annual event has prospered since 1996. It takes place in May and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to celebrate at Pride Village and Rainbow Village. This is where you’ll enjoy acts, music, culinary specialties and the stand market to learn from many LGBTI+ organizations.
Pink Screens Film Festival – Brussels’ queer film festival organized by the non-profit organizations Genres d'à Côté and Cinéma Nova is an annual event in November. It lasts ten days and includes hundreds of fictions, documentaries and experimental films, long and short.
Day Trips from Brussels
Bruges – just 55 miles (88 km) northwest of Brussels, you’ll discover the city of Bruges which owes its name to the various bridges you will find in it. Taking the train is the fastest way to get there although the bus is only 30 minutes longer. Bruges was declared a World Heritage City in 2000 and is also known as the Venice of the North. It has a great Medieval period architectural heritage, which you can enjoy as you walk through the city. Book tour →
Ghent – it’s only 30 miles northwest of Brussels and hopping on the train makes for a quick 27-minute journey. What once was a prominent city-state in the Middle Ages, is now a port city at the meeting of the Leie and Scheldt Rivers. It’s known for having a pedestrian center and the Medieval 12th century Gravensteen Castle and the Graslei – a row of guildhalls beside the Leie river harbor. Book tour →
Antwerp – the journey from Brussels to Antwerp is approximately 40 minutes by train and just under an hour by car. This medieval city serves as a port on Belgium’s River Scheldt and was one of Europe's most important cities in the mid 1500’s as well as home to famed Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens. Today, Antwerp is known for its vibrant fashion and entertainment scene as well as a riverside fortress and impressive cathedral. Book tour →
Featured image: © visit.brussels – Eric Danhier
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