Sunday, June 11

A local’s guide to Brussels, Belgium’s relaxed, moules-and-frites flavored capital | brussels holidays

Illustration: Hennie Haworth/The Guardian


There is delicious Congolese food to be had in Brussels – a legacy of Belgium’s colonial history. For a lot of choice, I would go to Matongé, a buzzy, very multicultural area close to the city centre. I have two favorite restaurants there. Chez Malou Bomboka, at 104 Chausée de Wavre is very popular, yet the service is relaxed. Malou, who runs it, came to Belgium with nothing 40 years ago and now has a number of restaurants in Brussels. Its chicken wings are popular, but you shouldn’t miss out on the goat, which is street food in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I also enjoy Malou’s pondu, to cassava-leaf stew. The other good Congolese restaurant in Matongé is Inzia: it does a €20 buffet, with grilled goat, beans, plantains and peanut chicken stew. In Ganshorenthe Brussels district where I was mayor until last month, we have fine-dining restaurants such as Saint Daniel and Bruneau by Maxime Maziersbut also good spots for smaller budgets. Brasserie The Spoon is good for moules.


Basilica of the Sacred Heart
Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

When a footballer wins a match in England they usually run over to celebrate with their supporters, but when my son Vincent captained Manchester City to win the League Cup final in 2016, he stopped and went back to try to console the Liverpool players. Because of this a Belgian organization called Panathlon Wallonie-Bruxelles gave Vincent one of its fair play awards (he couldn’t make it to the ceremony, so I accepted it for him). We erected a fair play monument at a crossroads in Ganshoren close to football and basketball pitches, and to the tennis courts where Kim Clijsters won her first trophy, when she was 15. The statue is of four hands linked together.

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Pierre Company
Pierre Kompany. Photograph: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

There are three main attractions in Brussels: the Grand-Place, the Atomium, which was built for the Brussels World Fair in 1958, and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in my district, Ganshoren. This is one of the biggest churches in the world. The Mannekin Pis, the statue of a little boy in the center of Brussels, was recently dressed in the red-and-gold colors of Ganshoren, so I have to put in a word for that too.

I also like Jette, a leafy district a little further north, which is good for strolling. Near the station is a great-value meze and spare-ribs restaurant called Les P’tits Oswith bare-brick walls, wooden floors and menus written on a chalkboard.

Green spaces

One of the nicest woods in Brussels, the Bois du Laerbeek, is in between Ganshoren and Jette. There is a protected nature area, a pond and a river. My children used to be in the scouts, and every Sunday afternoon, their mother and I would drop them off and then go for a walk in the Bois du Laerbeek, and have a drink at its Norman-style chalet, which is a restaurant today . It is a very peaceful spot, with lots of birdlife to enjoy.

night life

I am not the best person to ask about drinking as I stick to Coca-Cola or sparkling water. But two good places for an evening out in Ganshoren are the Grand Dukeclose to the Basilica, and the Brochette du Chalet, just around the corner. Jacques Brel, the Belgian singer and actor, used to play on the first floor of the Brochette. It has a very 1950s atmosphere. the Moeder Lambic Original in Saint Gilles, south of the city centre, is famous for Belgian beers. And for a perfect plate of Belgian friestry Maison Antoine on Place Jourdan, near the US quarter.

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There is only one hotel in Ganshoren, the frederiksborg (doubles from €75 room-only), which is by the Basilica. The Bois du Laerbeek is a short walk away. When I became older, I said I would turn the area around the Basilica into more of a tourist attraction, and we are on our way to making it happen.

Born in the RCD when it was still under Belgian control, Pierre Kompany, 74was elected Belgium’s first black mayor in 2018. His are from him is the former Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany

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