If you love experiencing nightlife as much as you value exploring “daylife” when you travel, you can’t visit Belgium without checking out the Belgian nightlife scene. Beyond the world-famous beer, did you know that Belgium also has specialty liquor, pumpin’ techno clubs, and a strong festival scene?
Here are the top 5 must-do’s for nightlife lovers visiting Belgium.
1. Indulge in Belgian Beer – especially the ones brewed by Monks
Belgian beer is world-renowned and needs no introduction. You can indeed find extensive beer menus at restaurants and cafes all over the country – and if you’re really, really into beer, take it to another level and stay at a specialty hotel for beer lovers.
Did you know that the Belgians’ favorite beers are brewed by monasteries? Trappist beers are hard to come across and you’ll need determination and luck to get them. First of all, you’d have to make a pilgramage to the abbeys to buy the beer. Second, the monks don’t brew beer for profit. So, once their needs are met, they stop brewing… they’ll make no more, no less. There are 6 Trappist breweries in Belgium (and one in the Netherlands). The most famous one is Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren, about 90 minutes drive into the countryside from Brussels.
2. Go to a Techno Club
Belgian cities are not known as destinations for techno tourism, as their European peers like Berlin and Amsterdam are. However, there is definitely a thriving underground scene. And because the clubs are not popular destinations for “techno tourism”, you’ll have a great time there dancing with locals. Clubs often feature home-grown Belgian talent, giving intimate and friendly vibes to the parties.
In Brussels, check out Fuse – the closest to a Berlin-style night club you’ll find in Belgium. In Antwerp, go to Cafe D’Anvers.
Once a year, over a weekend in October, the music collectives of Brussels get together and throw the Brussels Electronic Marathon. This event showcases local electronic music talent in 30+ venues across the city for a weekend, including clubs, museums, stores, and even a laundromat!
3. Visit a Music Festival
Many nightlife enthusiasts know that Belgium is home to the largest and most sought-after electronic music festival in the world, Tomorrowland (all 185,000 tickets sell out within minutes). It’s hands down, the largest music festival in size I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to plenty!) Other than the quality music and the enormous scale, the thing that impressed me the most was the people at Tomorrowland, especially the Belgians. I met plenty of Belgians who even brought their parents to the festival. Now that’s a country that knows how to party!
Besides Tomorrowland, there are many other outdoor summer festivals which are not as well-known internationally, but just as fun and popular with locals: Dour Festival, Rock Werkter, to name a few.
4.Try Belgian Liquor
Although Belgium is not as famous for its liquor as it is for its beer, it does produce some quality alcohol!
Elixer d’Anvers: The national liquor of Belgium, an herbal liqueur from Antwerp that’s won many awards since its inception 150 years ago – Belgians swear by a shot of it a day for good health.
Mandarine Napoleon: A delicious liqueur inspired by Napoleon’s favorite drink, a French cognac flavored with Valencian and Sicilian tangerine peels.
Jenever: Before there was Gin, there was Jenever – the national liquor of Belgium and the Netherlands. Hasselt is the nation’s capital for Jenever; at one point there were 150 Jenever distilleries there. Not only is home to the Nationaal Jenevermuseum, there’s also an annual Jenever festival, where they convert a water fountain in the town into a free-flowing Jenever spring… Oh my!
5. Go to a Street Party
If you need more proof that Belgians love to party, visit a city-wide street party. There you’ll see that from the children to the old, people are all singing, dancing, and drinking (ok, maybe not the children) on the streets all day and night. Gentse Feesten (July) is a great example, where more than 2.5 million people go through the city in the 10 day period.
Other big street parties include Carnival (February), Zythos Beer Festival in Leuven (April), and Gay Pride (May)