One of the best ways to get to know a city is to visit the pubs and bistros favored by the locals. In Brussels, Belgium, where beer culture reigns, an old-fashioned Saturday night pub crawl is a bucket-list adventure. Planning a Brussels getaway? Check out these eight traditional bars, or estaminets, for unforgettable Old World experiences — and some fabulous Belgian beer.
A La Mort Subite
Rue Montagne aux Herbes Potagères 7, 1000 Ville de Bruxelles
Don’t let the bar’s name scare you. A La Mort Subite, or Sudden Death, isn’t a prediction about your health. It’s the name the original owner, Theophile Vossen, gave to his brewery, and eventually, to the pub itself. Today, the fourth-generation Vossens operate A La Mort Subite in its original 1928 location, complete with its original décor and beer prices marked on huge mirrors.
In addition to the Mort Subite brews, which include a lambic white, you can sample a wonderful assortment of abbey and Trappist beers, including Chimay Dark and Westmalle Tripel. A small selection of foreign beers and wines are also available. Enjoy hearty Belgian fare such as omelets, cheeses, and sausages to complement your brews.
La Porte Noire
67, Rue des Alexiens, 1000 Ville de Bruxelles
Don’t be intimidated by this pub’s imposing iron gate and stark black door. Once you descend the stairs to the red brick cellar, you’ll feel at home. Once the kitchen for the Alexian Convent, La Porte Noire occupies a building dating back to the 16th century. Reclaimed and restored in 1995, the structure retains much of its medieval charm.
Expect to find 12 to 15 beers on tap and another hundred available in bottles, including a great choice of gueuze, a lambic fondly called Brussels champagne. If your taste runs to whiskey and scotch, you’ll appreciate the impressive collection of Irish and American whiskey and rare scotch by the glass.
This lively tavern features live music every week and whiskey tastings. Compared to the beer and whiskey menu, the food menu is distinctly limited, including only a few cheese selections and crisps.
A La Bécasse
Rue de Tabora 11, B-1000 Bruxelles
This quintessential Brussels beer house dates to the late 19th century. Henri Steppe purchased the building in 1877 and opened A La Bécasse. Following tradition, his descendants still own and operate this bar. A La Bécasse is a Brussels legend, famous with locals and tourists alike for its icy stone jugs of Jeune Lambic Blanche, a delectable white beer.
Waiters at A La Bécasse dress in a severe monk-like uniform, but the service is far from monastic. Enjoy delicious house specialties, including the large slices of rustic bread served with delicious toppings of flat cheese and meats, plus pub favorites like hot open-faced sandwiches and salads.
18, Rue St-Michel, 1000 Bruxelles
If you love to live like a local when you’re in Brussels, you won’t want to miss a night at Le Corbeau (the Raven). Decorated with plenty of wood and kitschy beer signs, Le Corbeau is the place to get exotic brews Delirium Tremens, Forbidden Fruit, and Kriek, a rich cherry-flavored beer. It’s also the place for an inexpensive meal of beef braised in beer or another local dish.
Le Corbeau is famous for both its chevaliers (massive beer glasses) and tabletop dancing. After 10 p.m., Le Corbeau transforms itself from a pub for serious beer lovers into a wild after-hours nightclub, where the drinking and dancing — yes, on the tabletops — go into the early morning hours.
Moeder Lambic Original and Fontainas
68 Rue de Savoie, 1060 Bruxelles
The Moeder Lambic Fontainas is famous for its huge choice of beer on tap. You’ll find more than 40 at any given time, plus an impressive rotating choice of bottled guest brews, both from Belgium and around the world. This site offers plenty of indoor and outdoor seating and is conveniently located near the Bourse. It’s the only place, outside of the brewery, where you can get a Cantillon Faro or lambic.
The Moeder Lambic Original is a tiny one-room pub in Saint-Gilles, offering several draft brews and about 400 bottled varieties to share. Neither place has a restaurant kitchen, but both serve a terrific assortment of cheese and charcuterie.
Rue du Chêne, 5, 1000 Bruxelles
If you’re touring Brussels, you’ll no doubt visit the Mannekin-Pis, steps from Le Poechenellekelder, or Puppet Cellar. As one of the oldest pubs in Brussels, the place is filled with an eclectic mix of kitsch and puppet collectibles.
Take the steep steps leading to the cellar and indulge in a huge assortment of blonds, browns, lambics, gueuzes, and Trappist beers. A selection of liquors and spirits, plus full hot and cold dish menus, are available, including the Kannibal and steak tartare the Brussels way, served in an open-faced sandwich.
Rue de Flandre 37, 1000 Ville de Bruxelles
Au Daringman represents one of the last of a dying breed of “brown” cafés and pubs, basically unpretentious working-class establishments where locals stop for a beer and chat with neighbors. Au Daringman is not touristy in the least, but an intimate, friendly feel and authentic, simple, somewhat shabby décor.
Martine, the proprietor at Au Daringman, makes excellent Belgian beer recommendations in the four main beer languages in Brussels: French, Dutch, German, and English. Sample inexpensive and deliciously prepared Belgian food with your brew in this cozy café and pub.
Au Bon Vieux Temps
Impasse Saint-Nicolas 4, 1000 Ville de Bruxelles
This 300-year-old Brussels bar is housed inside a Gothic building replete with stained glass windows, ornate woodwork, and a massive stone fireplace. Some visitors say drinking a beer at Au Bon Vieux Temps is almost a religious experience for Belgian beer devotees.
All beer is by the bottle here, with a selection of wine and spirits. Don’t expect any food, however. Au Bon Vieux Temps is strictly for imbibing.
Many of the bars call popular parts of the city home, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding great area hotels from which to launch your Brussels pub crawl.
If you love Belgian beer (frankly, who doesn’t?), why not visit a few of these famous pubs?