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Liquid gold: The finest spots for a summer apero
Jardin Rooftop (pictured above) is hard to beat when it comes to its surrounding urban scenery. With an almost 360° view of the Brussels skyline featuring Grand Place, the stock exchange and the cathedral, it’s one of a kind. Expect a crowd in party mood, drinks, food and DJs.
Summer in Namur means a tipple at one of the many pop-up terraces on the banks of the Meuse. The floating pontoon of La Capitainerie is best for water sports and citadel views, while The Flow by Charlie’s Club is the spot for beach bar vibes and summer entertainment. For more than a light bite, Guinguette Mobile at La Plante serves gourmet food in a relaxed riverside setting (reservations necessary).
Soko Rooftop is the latest addition to the Brussels rooftop landscape, and undoubtedly one of the highest. Located on the 11th floor of the snail building (overlooking the Quatre Bras junction at Tervuren), the elegant hotspot offers treetops as far as the eye can see. There’s a clear emphasis on gastronomy: think sophisticated tapas, a varied drinks menu and brunch on Sundays.
Jam Hotel, an interior design gem in Brussels’ Saint-Gilles district, is particularly known for its hip rooftop bar, which features not only fabulous views but also a small pool. The ideal place to watch the sunset while sipping a perfectly mixed Negroni.
Guinguettes are the stars of Brussels’ sunny season. These refreshment stands, modelled after the Parisian summer drinking joints that emerged at the end of the 19th century, have undergone quite a revival in recent years. There’s one in virtually every park of the city, with the latest being Wolvendael in Uccle.
La Vallée, a co-working space and artistic hub by day, turns into a laid-back restaurant-cafe-bar after office hours. In a former industrial laundry in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Molenbeek, it boasts a beautiful courtyard lovingly decorated with lanterns. It also regularly puts on exhibitions, performances and other events.
Both the hip cities and rural villages of East and West Flanders host summer summer pop-up bars, whether on the banks of canals or on lush castle grounds. Find them conveniently gathered in the Leie river region’s tourist website. Some of them come with food trucks or activities for kids.
The Paddenbroek farm complex is an ideal pitstop during a hike or bike ride. In fields close to Gooik, just outside Brussels, its huge modern greenhouse is home to a family-friendly visitor centre and bar – with extensive beer list that’s heavy on geuze and kriek – and a terrace overlooking orchards and beehives.
The Westpunt restaurant has an enviable location on the edge of Hasselt’s U-shaped harbour where the Kolenhaven inlet meets the Albert canal. Its ample terrace can hardly be beat for urban summer vibes on the water. Order a meal grilled over a fire or simply a cava and grab a table, deck chair or spot on the steps leading down to the water. Sublime.
See U, a sadly only temporary initiative breathing new life into the former military barracks in Etterbeek, has transformed the historical site into an eco-responsible playground for young and old with an eclectic and packed agenda. There’s always something going on, from vintage markets and exhibitions to film screenings and yoga classes.
Beursschouwburg’s Rooftop is a small but mighty sheltered terrace on the fifth floor of the multidisciplinary art centre in the heart of Brussels. It’s known not only for its alternative vibe but also the unique views over the Bourse, best enjoyed with a beer brewed in the capital.
Kumiko, originally a Japanese restaurant in Brussels’ Dansaert quarter, develops a particular appeal during the summer: its large urban courtyard surrounded by red brick walls is not just a great place to tickle your taste buds with a donburi under an open sky, but it also hosts well curated music nights.
It’s a ZOOmer bar at Antwerp Zoo, complete with cocktails, deck chairs and a view of the Cuban flamingos. There are also regular live concerts of chanson, swing and Latin. The summer pop-up bar is open to everyone, whether visiting the zoo or not.
Alphonse Caravan-Bar is the ideal wandering water hole, serving artisan drinks from not one but two lovingly refitted retro vans. The nomad versions of Namur cocktail bar Botanicals by Alphonse can be tracked down in the city’s Parc Louise-Marie on Sundays and other spots in the region.
Occupying a 16th-century farmhouse in the rural area south of Charleroi, Biercée Distillery is a craft operation specialising in spirits and aperitifs. Its prized eaux-de-vie collection is made from non-treated fruit and its range of other alcohols and cocktails includes gin and rye whisky. Visits of the distillery include tastings.
Beerstorium, the new interactive virtual experience at Brasserie Dubuisson, takes visitors on a journey of its 250-year history at the Château de Ghyssegnies in Hainaut. Discover the beer-making secrets of the family business and enjoy a tempting menu of brews and beer cuisine at its Trolls & Bush tavern.
In Brussels’ two beer spas, not only can you drink beer, you can soak in it too. Bath & Barley in the city centre offers wooden vats filled with a mix of hops and herbs in which to relax, along with saunas and straw beds. The new Good Beer Spa, meanwhile, at Madou metro station, puts the beer tap at your fingertips and offers an air massage along with its tubs infused with beer, hops, malt and brewer’s yeast.
Sample local organic wines and tuck into a picnic of gourmet local fare at Château de Bioul, a 11-hectare vineyard in the Meuse valley. The Made in Bioul discovery trail offers visits of the castle, tree-filled garden and wine cellar. Tastings by bottle or glass are on the terrace, while pre-reserved picnic baskets can be enjoyed in the park or terrace.
Genval Lake may be a bit of a tourist trap, but the sheer beauty of this artificial stretch of water and the appeal of its stylish water-edge promenade make it an unmissable summer destination. You don’t have to wait for the sun to enjoy an apero at family-friendly water sport specialist Genval Yacht Club. Alternative spots for a refresher include La Clef de Verre and Café du Lac.
More from The Bulletin's summer travel guide
- Walk this way: Discover Belgium on foot
- Get your green fix at our favourite parks, woodlands and gardens
- Top spots for spectacular scenery
- The best culture this summer is outside
- Monuments and memorials to remember the fallen
- Delve into Belgium’s rich industrial past
- Local food at its finest
- Come on in, the water’s lovely
- The finest spots for a summer apero
- Big days out for all the family
- Seven cycling experiences to discover
- Top heritage sites for a fine day out
- Don't miss out this summer thanks to our agenda of events in Belgium