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You’ve locked yourself out of the house, and it’s midnight.
Party hard: 10 Brussels clubs and bars to dance the night away
If you’re craving a bit of commercial dance and chart music, you’ll find it pumping in a church in Ixelles, to the south of the city centre. The kitsch gold decor and lights at Spirito are an ecclesiastical delight, but sadly, the door policy is less than saintly. Wear your designer labels on the outside, don’t go in a large loud group, prepare for standoffish bouncers and leave those trainers at home.
There’s a delicious, slightly illicit feel to slipping through the clandestine entrance of the decommissioned Brussels-Congres railway station and finding a party in full swing to a Funktion-One sound system. The forecourt, covered in street art, is the place to hang out with the chatty, arty and media-savvy, and catch a band before a session of late-night underground electronica in the depths of the station.
The week offers everything from rockabilly to batwave at this cavernous retro bar, but the rock’n’roll and swing nights on Tuesdays are the place for an exhilarating bop with the quiffed and inked of Brussels. Weekends get hot and very sweaty to old soul or the sounds of the 80s and 90s with a multigenerational party crowd from Europe and beyond.
Brussels’ incontestable inner-city temple of techno attracts international DJs. Get high on torrid, high-voltage beats till 7.00 with several hundred others, mostly with your hands up somewhere above your head. Despite its worldwide reputation, Fuse remains friendly, multi-culti, pretension-free and democratically priced.
After an evening on the pavement cafes of Saint-Gilles, dance your socks off to electro-funk and afrobeat at a friendly neighbourhood bar-room party. With open-minded locals and expats dancing between the tables and upfront by the stage in this exposed brickwork den before midnight, this is possibly also the earliest party you’re likely to find in Brussels on a Friday or Saturday night.
Dali’s is a gem of a place for an intimate weekend dance experience. Tucked away on a cobbled lane that houses some of Brussels’ more touristy fish restaurants, this unassuming bar with its red lip-shaped banquettes is a quirky homage to surrealist painter Salvador Dali. It comes alive after midnight as owner and DJ Steph and his friends take to the decks, with a blend of electronica encompassing deep house, rare groove and nu-jazz. Entrance is free, but slip the bouncers a couple of euro for their trouble when you stumble out at 5.00.
Gay Brussels is vibrant every night of the week around Rue du Marché au Charbon, a winding little street in the centre scattered with gay bars. At weekends, the party kicks off at Le Belgica, an atmospheric DJ bar at the top of the street that attracts guys of all shapes and sizes, the young and young at heart. Loud, funky and fun, shirts come off in the heat, and the crowd spills out on to the street. If it gets too stuffy, move across the road and shake it on down to Madonna and Rihanna with the pretty boys and their admirers at Le Boys Boudoir, then head to Chez Maman, where mother and her girls get up on the bar with their stilettos on to lip-synch to all those anthems you never admit to knowing, and there’s a live show on Saturdays. Late on Sundays the action moves to the glitterballs and sunken dance floor at You with a mix of tunes from the 60s to the noughties.
This article first appeared in The Bulletin autumn 2017