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Winter warmers: Nine of our favourite cosy Belgian cafes
Two local barmen have set up a romantic cocktail bar in a secret cobbled courtyard off the Sablon. It occupies a 16th-century brick building that was once an inn. The interior has been turned into a relaxed candlelit space with quiet jazz playing in the background.
7 Rue de Rollebeek, Brussels
2. De Kat
De Kat is one of those old Antwerp bars where nothing much has changed in a hundred years. It still has the original wood panelling, mirrors and tiled floor. This is the perfect place to taste the local De Koninck beer served in a round glass known as a bolleke.
22 Wolstraat, Antwerp
3. Bar Belien
Barbelien Ulijn quit her job at bar-slash-laundrette Wasbar to open a new place on the opposite side of the street. She has recreated the mellow atmosphere of an old Flemish brown cafe using dark wood, mirrors and soft lighting. You can drop in for a coffee during the day or start the evening here with a cocktail.
9 Verlorenkost, Ghent
Three little rooms in this dark artists’ bar are crammed with odd objects, including an iron stove, oil paintings and a dusty South African parrot. Order a bowl of onion soup and a Belgian beer and you can forget about winter for a while.
55 Rue des Alexiens, Brussels
5. Le Cirio
This gorgeous cafe started out in 1886 as a delicatessen selling Italian specialities. It attracts older couples during the day who come here to drink the house cocktail half en half – half Spumante sparkling wine and half Italian white wine. But a younger crowd takes over the tables in the evening.
18 Rue de la Bourse, Brussels
6. Du Parc
Head to Ostend for a healthy winter hike along the beach and then dive into the snug Art Deco interior of the Hôtel du Parc. Very little has changed since it opened in 1928. The old leather sofas, brass coat hooks and large mirrors are all still there, along with formal waiters in black aprons who glide around bearing trays of drinks.
3 Marie-Joséplein, Ostend
Jean-Louis Hennart took over this 1930s Art Deco bar more than 25 years ago. He’s lovingly preserved the old armchairs, the shiny brass railings and the intimate atmosphere. But more importantly, he’s also kept alive the bar’s long tradition of jazz concerts, with après-shopping performances on Saturday afternoons as well as concerts on Sundays. Open long after most bars have pulled down the shutters for the night.
6 Rue Antoine Dansaert, Brussels
The perfect place for an afterwork drink, La Pharmacie Anglaise is in a stunning 19th-century building that once sold medicines to British folk. It was originally a pop-up, but the owner has decided to stay. The interior is crammed with old armchairs, vintage suitcases and curious laboratory equipment. Best to reserve a table as it’s quite small.
66 Rue Coudenberg, Brussels
Founded in 1515, this ancient Bruges bar 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. The perfect dive in winter when the old iron stove is burning and the locals are hunched over their Trappist beers.
2 Blekersstraat, Bruges