Authentic Belgian cafes in Belgium
1) In de Verzekering Tegen de Grote Dorst
No one could really believe it in 2016 when In de Verzekering Tegen de Grote Dorst (Insurance against a Huge Thirst) was voted the best bar in the world. It is after all just a rustic local cafe next to the church in a Flemish village near Brussels. And it is only open for ten hours every week – on Sundays, holidays and after local funerals. But the website RateBeer has put it at the top of their ranking. Run by two brothers and their mother, the cafe stocks hundreds of Lambic beers produced in the local area, including some very rare bottles. The owners believe their bar became famous after a group of beer tourists ended up there after their bus got lost in the rolling hills. It has a rather austere 1950s interior, no food and no credit card machine, but it is truly authentic, with a mix of locals and beer enthusiasts creating a relaxed mood.
2) Leuven Central
This genuine Leuven volkscafé opened in 2015 in an abandoned corner cafe, near a plaque to mark the official centre of Leuven. The owners have carefully preserved the original interior with its wooden furniture, Stella Artois signs and rows of aspidistras on the window sills. They offer authentic Flemish bar food, like pistolets met hesp (ham rolls), homemade meat balls and even a basket of hard boiled eggs on the counter.
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The hotel closed a long time ago, but the cafe opposite the station in Wetteren is still called the Posthotel. Built in 1887, it was originally a coaching inn. The bar is decorated in Flemish Renaissance style with carved wood panelling and paintings of drinking scenes in the style of Pieter Bruegel. Other highlights include a sublime summer garden and concerts by indie bands.
4) Le Cirio
This gorgeous cafe started out in 1886 as a delicatessen selling Italian specialities. It was founded by Francesco Cirio from Turin, who made his fortune selling tinned tomatoes. He opened similar establishments in 18 cities across Europe, but this cafe in Brussels is the only one to survive. The interior was redesigned by Henri Coosemans in 1909 in the style of an Italian grand cafe. It still has the original carved wooden bar, gleaming iron chandelier and old signs advertising Cinzano.
5) Brasserie du Parc
Brasserie du Parc has hardly changed since it opened in 1928. The old leather sofas, brass coat hooks, large mirrors and tiled toilets are all still there. The coast tram still rumbles past the windows. Restored to its original art deco grandeur in 2023, the brasserie now attracts a lively mix of Ostend locals, retired Belgians and guests staying in the Hotel du Parc.
6) Café Vlissinghe
Founded in 1515, this is the oldest tavern in Bruges. It still has most of its original furnishings, including a wooden counter carved in the 16th century, an iron stove and a chair possibly owned by the Flemish artist Anthony Van Dyck. It’s best to come here in winter when the old iron stove is burning and the locals are hunched over their Trappist beers.
7) Ô's Arcades
Some Ardennes cafes can seem quite austere. Not this place opposite the church in Vielsalm. It’s a cheerful spot decorated in the style of an Ardennes farmhouse with old photographs, religious relics and ancient shop scales. The cafe brews its own house beer called Ô’Poil, which is only sold on the spot. The owner also serves good coffee and traditional hot chocolate, as well as traditional Belgian food.
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