Brussels has no beaches – that’s a fact of course – but as rare as it may be, summer lands in this city too and people find ways to make the most of the sun.
First of all, if you’re craving a beach you can find a fun cheap interpretation of a board-walk with some artificially created ‘beaches’ just along the canal. Bruxelles Les Bains (website) offers live music and DJs, an area where kids can play with the water and sports activities both in the water – although I’d be reluctant to have any kind of contact with the water in the canal – and on the sand. Pay €1 per person to rent a beach volleyball field or an area to play frisbee or rackets. On Saturday and Sunday evenings, in addition to the music, you can watch films at the open air cinema put on by Les Galeries Cinema. The programme is varied and includes classics as well as more recent films. They started with a cinekaraoke: the projection was a one hour mix of pieces from well known films where the actors were singing and the audience had to sing along, pretty fun eh! Benches are provided but most people prefer to sit on the sand. The only negative comment I’d make is about the sound system, which wasn’t powerful enough for the space, so I often had to rely only on the subtitles. Les Bains are also cool just for a walk and an exotic dinner as there’s a huge selection of little stands serving food from almost all over the world! Some prices are a bit ridiculous but you can eat very well.
The second option to face the sporadic heat wave is spending the day at one of the parks. Some people prefer picking small hidden gems like the park Egmont right behind The Hotel in Louise (map) where you can find complete relaxation and tranquillity. Parks like this provide a nice calm spot in the middle of the city centre and locals like to go there to read or play music or simply sunbathe half naked. I just want to digress briefly on this subject: coming from the countryside and from the seaside it took me some time to get used to seeing people in bikinis in a city park. I found it extreme, but now I must admit I understand the need and I’ve proudly adopted this custom.
Back to the parks, other people like to spend a little more time and energy moving away from the city centre and taking refuge in the big parks. One of the favourites being the Bois de la Cambre: a nice big park with both woods and grass and a lake with its own nice island right in the middle. As soon as there’s a decent Sunday the park fills with locals who choose to spend the day drinking, eating and enjoying the blessed sun. Some people, namely the Piknik Elektronik Asbl (website), had the great idea of organising picnics with electronic music as entertainment on a few Sundays during the summer. The concept is very simple, they set up a DJ station and organise for 3/4 DJs to come and play from 14:00 till 22:00. They also provide a bar and a food stand. If you don’t want to listen to the music you just have to walk a bit further away from the DJ station and you’ll have your tranquillity, otherwise you can find a nice grassy spot to lay down and do whatever you like while listening to some famous tracks.
Another recent initiative is the Jardins Suspendus (facebook page). Every Saturday, starting from 14:00 to midnight they offer drinks and music on the top floor of the parking 58 in the Saint Catherine area (map). Inspired by the American fashion of roof top events they created a ‘green’ space at the top of the tenth floor parking lot by bringing a few plants and some fake grass and the opportunity to get an original view of the city. The atmosphere is very laid back, as usual, and the attire and mood change with the hours: from more beach-like in the afternoon to club-oriented towards the evening, probably because the event has Mr Wong as a chosen partner for the afterparty (facebook page).