The guinguettes are back in town: Celebrating Brussels' summer bars
Hot town, summer in the city… well the sun is finally making an occasional appearance and where better to enjoy some rays than in one of Brussels’ array of summer ‘guinguettes’?
The name guinguette refers to a popular cabaret restaurant that developed at the end of the 19th century in the Paris region. Often located on river banks, they were a place to relax and have fun. Brussels does not enjoy a river, but it does boast a selection of stunning parks – and this is where its Barc family of guinguettes – or summer bars – have made their home.
The new kid on the block – Bar Vincent in Evere’s Parc Bon Pasteur, has opened already, offering the Barc range of home-made, home-cooked eco-friendly food, drinks and pastries (the pasteis de nata from Brussels stalwart Forcado Pastelaria, Saint-Gilles, are amazing). With the emphasis on local produce, think Kombucha ‘living tea’ not Coca Cola, and hummus and chickpea wraps rather than cheese and ham baguettes, more substantial fare is also available.
This weekend (from 29 April), it is the turn of guinguettes Fabiola (Parc Roi Baudouin, Jette), André (Parc de Laeken) and Henri (Parc Georges Henri, Woluwe-Saint-Lambert). Then on 6 May, Maurice (Parc du Cinquantenaire, pictured) will roll down its shutters, followed on 17 June by a special ‘vélo-guinguette’ (café on wheels) at Ixelles’ Abbaye de la Cambre. Finally, in an especially bucolic setting at Forest’s Parc Duden, on 1 July, Guinguette Emile joins the band.
And it’s not just refreshments and hearty snacks, expect a whole programme of activities from art to yoga. Maurice for example, the ‘big boss’ of the pack, will host Lindy Hop, salsa, street theatre and ‘boules’ competitions this year.
All these happy places can be enjoyed from 10.00 to 22.00, with food available from midday. They are open daily, rain or shine, until 24 September.
Sky high sipping
If the great outdoors is not for you, more sheltered spots to take in the sunset and a cocktail are the stylish rooftop terraces in some of Brussels’ most beautiful hotels, among others.
Although it doesn’t open until 2 May, Soko Rooftop bar (pictured) overlooking the Sonian forest is so popular, it’s recommended that you reserve a spot now on its spacious terrace. Returning for its second season, this address on the 11th floor of the Crossroads Building at the Tervuren Four Arms crossroad offers an unbeatable view of the capital’s skyline and surrounding ancient woodland. It’s open from 17.00-1.00 until 30 September.
An eagerly awaited newcomer is Bar Tope (meaning, appropriately, ‘summit’ in Spanish) at the Hoxton, opening on 22 May in the Tour Victoria (the former home of IBM) behind the Botanique, with a panoramic view of the city. Open inside every day and year round from 17.00 to 1.00 (from 11.00 to 2.00 Saturday and Sunday), Tope’s terrace area will remain open until September.
In the EU quarter, one hot address is The Roof, situated, unsurprisingly, on the Sofitel Brussels Europe hotel’s roof in Place Jourdan. This is also an enticing place to be due to the creative cuisine of TV celebrity ‘JeanPhi’ - Jean-Philippe Watteyne’s gastronomic ‘The 140’ brasserie. If you visit Friday or Saturday night, you will be rewarded with a live DJ to liven up your drinks.
Another top quality rooftop bar is the beautifully designed Jam Hotel. With a bijou swimming pool and fabulous views, Perché rooftop (pictured) offers signature cocktails like the rum-based Dark n’ Perché and Thym Sour, as well as finger food and fondue bowls for sharing. It’s open daily from 17.00 in Chaussée de Charleroi.
A sky-high favourite is the five-star Warwick Brussels’ Secret Rooftop Bar in Rue Duquesnoy, where you can enjoy a drink or food with a premium view of the Grand Place. It’s open Tuesday to Saturday, 17.00-23.00 (last entry 22.00).
Last but not least, from summer 2024 (in a best case scenario), city revelers will be able to sip champagne by an eye-watering infinity pool at the stunningly luxurious Cardo Hotel in Avenue du Boulevard, Saint-Josse.