An Insider's Guide To Art Week Brussels

An Insider's Guide To Art Week Brussels

Where to go in Brussels and beyond
Where to go in Brussels and beyond

Brussels is much more than Magritte and Surrealism, moules-frites and Tintin comic books, unctuous chocolates, Art Nouveau architecture and delicious Belgian beer. This historic city is rich in culture, art and heritage. In this Brussels city guide, coinciding with Art Brussels and marking 50 years of Sotheby’s in Brussels, Gwendolyn Grolig from the Sotheby’s Brussels team takes us through her favourite spots around her home city, from boutique hotels to late night bars, fashion hotspots and space-age Modernist museums.

Gwendolyn Grolig

A s international contemporary art lovers make their way to Brussels for Art Brussels (25 - 28 April), and in honour of the 50th anniversary of our Brussels office, I'd like to share some insider tips on the very best the Belgian capital has to offer.

I have been living in Brussels for many years and regardless of its status as a crossroads between London, Paris, Amsterdam or Cologne, it definitely has a strong character of its own! Brussels might be small in comparison to those other European capitals, but is notably cosmopolitan.

While visiting Brussels, you will discover edgy contemporary art and Surrealist masters, see historical Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture, shop for great books and designer clothes, sample delicious food and coffee - have you had genuine Belgian frites? - and explore the joys of nature. So, here are my coup de coeurs - I hope you have a wonderful time in Brussels!

Chez Richard (Photo courtesy Chez Richard)

Exhibition: Celebrating Fifty Years of Sotheby’s Brussels “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Black?”

"Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Black" installation view at Sotheby's Brussels, April 2024

This month at Sotheby’s Brussels gallery, we are celebrating our 50th birthday in Belgium, with an exciting group selling exhibition, “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Black?” (18 April - 17 May 2024). Presenting a broad selection of well-known and newer names from Belgian art (and beyond), the curatorial concept was inspired by Barnett Newman's masterpiece Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue and takes a distinct perspective on Belgian identity and character via the nation's tricolore flag, providing us with the 'red, yellow and black' of the title.
The show has been curated by our own Emmanuel Van de Putte working with the renowned Belgian curator/artist François de Coninck. Together, the pair came up with the idea of a chromatic journey, art inspired by the flag's colours and their intrinsic properties and dynamics. The works on view span painting, sculpture, textiles and text. The curators have clearly enjoyed presenting the works in challenging and often provocative positions and juxtapositions, reflecting another, very Belgian quality - a vivid sense of humour and fun.
Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Black, Sotheby’s Brussels Avenue Louise 251, 1050 Brussels (open Monday - Friday, 9am-1pm and 2pm-5pm)  18 April – 17 May 2024


Hotel des Galeries

Hotel des Galeries (Photo Hotel des Galeries)

Minimalist, friendly, clean and stylish – these are all positives when it comes to finding a place to stay for a few nights. The Hotel des Galeries in the heart of Brussels has all these qualities and more, yet never feels overdone or too exhausting to deal with. Add in a breakfast buffet that actually puts you in a good mood for the day in the adjoining Comptoir des Galeries restaurant and friendly staff and you have Hotel des Galeries. Located literally in the roof of the very grand and historic Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert, a vast glass-roof arcade filled with luxury shops and cafes, you are in the heart of Brussels but once inside, will feel cosy and calm.
Rooms are well-designed and stylish. They are not the largest hotel rooms in Brussels, but certainly, in my opinion, the coolest. You can probably find more luxury, fancy spas and gyms in other hotels, but for a laid-back and happy place to lay your head for a few nights, you can’t go wrong here.
Rue des Bouchers,38, Bruxelles, 1000



The kitchens at Vismet (Photo courtesy Vismet)

For a casual meal, with good amuses bouche and very tasty sides, Vismet is the place to go. Superbly prepared fish-dishes are the speciality of the house, and I absolutely adore their amazing sole meunière. There’s an open kitchen, which is fun to watch in action, if you get a seat in its vicinity.
Vismet, Pl. Sainte-Catherine 23, 1000 Brussels

Chez Richard

Chez Richard (Photo courtesy Chez Richard)

Depending on the time of day, Chez Richard is perfect for a coffee, a drink, or a delicious small bite. Located in the chic, historic Sablon area, Chez Richard has a relaxed terrace where you can sit and enjoy the atmosphere of this salubrious square, filled with antiques dealers and chocolatiers. Go for their simple snacks, like the local specialty: shrimps and mayo.
Rue des Minimes 2, 1000 Brussels

Maison Dandoy

Maison Dandoy (Photo courtesy Maison Dandoy)

The home of Brussels’s world-famous biscuits and speculoos, Maison Dandoy is an ideal one-stop-shop to buy a taste of Belgium to take home. It’s a family business, that’s been open for over 180 years, baking hand-made, oven-fresh biscuits rich in flavour, sweet in scent and impossible to resist. The ultimate guilty pleasure – oh, and their packaging is gorgeous, too!
Maison Dandoy – multiple locations across Brussels


Saint Martin Bookshop

Saint Martin Bookshop (Photo courtesy Saint Martin Bookshop)

Head to the Rue Dansaert area to visit a true Brussels institution, Saint Martin Bookshop, specialists in exclusive art and artist books. The bookshop opened in 2020 in a perfect location - previously Maison Margiela’s Brussels boutique. Today, Saint Martin sells limited-edition artists books, rare catalogues of modern and contemporary artists, books for art collectors, and art and fashion magazines. A one-stop shop for quality art books!
Saint Martin Bookshop Rue de Flandre 114, 1000 Brussels


Stijl (Photo courtesy Stijl)

These boutiques for men and women, both in the rue Antoine Dansaert, are fashion playgrounds for style enthusiasts, dapper gents and the fashion-forward ladies. What's interesting is that most of these designs are crafted by alumni of the prestigious Fashion Academy of Antwerp, so you're basically indulging in some serious fashion academia. Sonia Noël, the owner, opened the avant-garde multi-brand shop in the mid-eighties and it is still relevant today!
Rue Antoine Dansaert 74, 1000 Brussels



Wiels (Photo by Andrea Anoni, courtesy Wiels)

South-west of the city centre in the municipality of Forest, lies this important contemporary art hub in a formerly industrial area of town, which has gradually been transformed into a residential neighbourhood. Wiels is housed in a former brewery building and provides studio workshops for artists in residence, café, bookshop and major exhibitions of national and international contemporary artists Oscar Murillo and the Belgian conceptual artist Jeff Geys are on view now.
Av. Van Volxem 354, 1190 Forest


BOZAR - Palaid des Beaux-Arts Brussels (Photo courtesy BOZAR)

Situated right in the middle of the Mont des Arts, where the upper part of Brussels meets the lower part, the Centre for Fine Arts (aka BOZAR) is the most visited cultural destination in Brussels. Whether you want to enjoy concerts, exhibitions, shows, or other artistic delights, the Centre for Fine Arts stands out among other cultural institutions, thanks to its vast multidisciplinary and diverse programme. Don’t miss the current exhibition ‘Histoire de ne pas rire. Surrealism in Belgium’ in which BOZAR celebrates the 100th anniversary of Surrealism in Belgium, with a major exhibition highlighting the famous avant-garde movement.
Rue Ravenstein 23, 1000 Brussels


L’Abbeye de la Cambre

L’Abbeye de la Cambre (Wiki Commons)

If you need a small break from the bustle of the city and yearn for some restorative nature, I recommend a walk in the park and surrounding of L’Abbeye de la Cambre. Strolling down through the well-kept gardens across multiple levels, the pond, and the lovely courtyard and church is very enjoyable. You can also appreciate the gorgeous residential houses in the neighbourhood. Simply a hidden gem in Ixelles.
Abbaye de la Cambre, 1050, Ixelles


Atomium, Brussels (Photo Christophe Licoppe)

The Atomium is a landmark Modernist building dating back to the 1950s and is today, the most Belgian of monuments - an international symbol only a short trip away from the centre of Brussels. It was originally constructed as a centrepiece for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair and as such, intended to be dismantled afterwards. Instead, following a recent overhaul and renovation, this striking icon of the atomic age still stands astride the city with its distinctive design making it instantly recognizable.
Inside the Atomium, one finds not only the most beautiful aerial view of Brussels, but also an astounding and surreal ride through its interior spaces that alone makes the visit worth it. With access to regular exhibitions themed around Belgium and digital arts, the Atomium ticket automatically includes entrance to the Design Museum Brussels (150m away).
Place de l'Atomium / Atomiumplein 1 B-1020 Brussels


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