Hidden Brussels

an uncommon guide to 

my secret coffee bars

My secret downtown coffee bar:


It’s a bit of a squeeze inside this tiny coffee bar near Place Saint Géry. The interior has a cool retro look, a little Italian perhaps, with a coloured tiled floor, red Formica tables and plants hanging from the ceiling.


The women behind the bar make coffees on a vintage Faema coffee machine inherited from the previous owner. They also sell a selection of cakes as well as local beers by small breweries including a house beer called Illegal.


My secret arty coffee bar:


Clara and Elias run a coffee bar on the busy Chaussée de Waterloo in Brussels. A haven of zen design, the interior is decorated with whitewashed brick walls, plain wooden benches and quirky art.


They have added to the charm with a couple of benches in the walled back garden and two armchairs squeezed into the tiny conservatory. It’s the perfect spot for a flat white, a cake from Cookie Tree and a free glass of water.


My cool coffee bar:


Jens Crabbe’s coffee shop near the Brussels canal has become a hotspot with a young local crowd. The interior has a tiled floor, pale wood benches and a lunch counter hidden in the back room. This is a place to visit if you are looking for an exceptionally smooth flat white made on a shiny La Marzocco espresso machine.


My perfect little coffee bar:

My Little Cup

French barista Laurent is deeply serious about the coffee he serves in the tiny espresso bar he opened in Brussels in 2014. Located in the quiet Rue de la Croix de Fer behind the federal parliament, the American-style coffee bar is furnished in a bright, contemporary style.


Laurent gets his beans from the best suppliers in Belgium and France, and loves to share his coffee knowledge as he creates a perfect espresso.


My Nordic coffee bar:

Cafe du Sablon

This relaxed coffee bar in the elegant Sablon district of Brussels has embraced Nordic style right down to the letters in its name. Located in a raw concrete interior, it has perfected the Scandinavian look of pale wood, scattered cushions and international newspapers. The coffee is roasted on the spot in a machine in the corner.


My intelligent coffee bar:


‘Hi,’ a reader wrote, ‘You should take a look at Jackie on Chaussée de Charleroi. It’s a lovely local cafe with indie magazines and delicious cakes and a small but creative lunch menu. I think you will like it.’


So off I went on a rainy morning. The cafe is on a busy Brussels street with old mansions, trendy restaurants and trams rolling past. The coffee menu is impressive. Flip it over, and there is also a ‘Not Coffee’ menu on the back. The drinks are served on an elegant wooden tray. You can add a slice of homemade cake, if you want.


The interior is quite small. It quickly fills up. A lot of laptop nomads working on screens. But Jackie tries to persuade its customers to pick up a magazine from the racks on the wall. They have an inspiring range of design and lifestyle titles including Monocle, Drift, Delayed Gratification and The Brussels Times.    


My relaxed coffee roastery:


The Saint-Gilles crowd has been heading to this intimate coffee bar and independent roastery since it opened on Avenue des Villas in 2018. It's located in a quiet street near the town hall in a neighbourhood dotted with small and unusual shops.

The interior has a nonchalent charm with its Belgian tiled floor, ancient brick walls and tropical plants. The background jazz adds to the relaxed mood.


My happy little coffee bar:


Alice Dutordoir runs this arty little coffee bar and lunch spot opposite Bozar arts centre. It's a creative low-waste spot with little tables, artwork and stools to perch on in the window. The walls are currently decorated with Mathilde Solanet's striking linocut images of landmark Brussels façades.


The young team create excellent coffee along with homemade cakes and healthy veggie sandwiches. Definitely worth a look if you are in the area. Open every day of the week from early morning (7.45 on weekdays) to 5 pm.


Lionel Jadot restyled the interior at Woodpecker Drohme

My coffee bar at the forest's edge:

Woodpecker Drohme

There’s a stylish new spot on the edge of the Brussels forest for brunch or a Brussels beer. It occupies a historic building at the old Boitsfort hippodrome known as the Pesage (where jockeys were weighed before a race).


Abandoned for many years, the site was finally restored from 2004 to 2013. Designer Lionel Jadot was then brought in to decorate the interior in his fun, quirky style. And there are plenty of tables and deck chairs for sitting out in the sun.   


The cafe is currently run by the Woodpecker family. They already manage some of the city’s most relaxed cafes and kiosks in locations like Bois de la Cambre and Parc de Bruxelles. Here they have created another great spot for a coffee, beer or a healthy lunch.