During the past three years of “studying” Brussels I have learnt many things.
First of all, there’s pre-drinks for EVERYTHING. Even pre-drinks have pre-drinks., better you know this early on. Brussels is an expensive city for a broke-ass student, so getting your pregame right is key to being able to get wasted 7 days a week and still be able to afford food (by which I mean Aiki noodles of course). Finding a balanced cocktail for your toxical diet is an art and takes a lot of work and dedication. You will have to find out for yourself the right amount of tequila shots that you should pound before going out, whether you’re going to a party, lectures or shopping at Colruyt. Find the formula that works best for you and stick with it. In your freshman year, it’s normal to miss a couple of parties because you misjudged your capacities, dropped a comma or a zero somewhere in your calculations, and ended up sleeping face-down under the kitchen table in a pool of some unidentified liquid (let’s hope it’s just beer). That’s okay, we’ve all been there. But that excuse won’t fly anymore in your second year.
I would love to give you some advice on saving money while going out but I’m not really allowed to talk about this great thing that rhymes with “rugs”. Nothing like a great carpet to be flying around the dancefloor with Aladin-style. Just make sure your rugs are vacuum cleaned and safe. There’s a lot of rug-dealers all around Brussels, especially where I used to live in Schaarbeek, next to Liedts Square. I’m not sponsored by this specific rug dealer, I’m just a fan.
So there’s a couple types of parties in Brussels, each with their own charmes and downsides. In the next segment, I will summarize what you can expect of each of these nights so you will have a better insight in where you want to go.
Frat parties, also known as TD’s (history lesson coming up, pay attention kids). TD stands for thé dansant (dansing tea) and goes back to the time when the bourgeoisie used to have tea parties in the afternoon during which they would dance, have some exotic imported tea and have a laugh about the suffering of the proletarians. Today, you could say that TD means the exact same opposite. In 2019, when you go to a TD, you will see mainly proletarians, drinking anything but tea, in a setting where a bourgeois intellectual like you and me would never dare to set foot. If you ever wondered where the Flemish Master painter Adriaen Brouwer got the inspiration for making all his paintings of drunken peasants back in the 1600’s, my theory is that he got his hands on a time machine and was teleported into the future to make paintings of the TD’s that go on at the VUB uni campus in Etterbeek. But I am drifting off again, ranting about the proletarians as per usual.
So, TD’s are organised by facultary or independent student associations to have fun and make money (or lose money) for their student clubs. The music played at these events is best described as the title on that CD you find in any mom’s car labeled “MNM TOP HITS SUMMER 2015”. If this is your jam: good for you, go grab a beer (or 20) and have fun. If you’re like me and you would rather rip off your ears, throw them in a bucket of sulfuric acid, throw that bucket off a cliff and then jump off the cliff to kill yourself while you’re at it, because that kind of music isn’t exactly your cup of tea (pun intended), then this is where the pre-drink tactics become very important. Because if you hit that sweet-spot between shit-faced and obliterated during the pre-drink and you still manage to drag your drunk ass to the party, you will not be able to notice the basic white-girl bullshit that’s blasting from the speakers and you will probably have the time of your life (at least for a couple hours, until you pass out).
It’s very common to launch the last few sips remaining in your cup into the crowd, because the beer is dirt-cheap and the people are cheap-dirt. What I am trying to warn you for: don’t put on your nice shoes. Have a good time, try not to die of alcohol poisoning, make out (and/or sleep) with some complete strangers and repeat the same thing over and over three times a week until you graduate and leave this campus with your degree in Anthropology and a severe alcohol addiction.
If you’re new in town and you want to explore the center, or if you’re only here for a couple of days then this party will interest you most. Indulging in Belgian culture means three things in Brussels: beers – fries – more beers. Repeat this simple scheme until you are no longer an acceptable kidney-donor for your family in case you were to pass away.
Okay, so if you want to do a quick pub crawl, but you don’t know which bars to pick, try this order: Delirium – Celtica – Big Game – Nua’s – Big Game. You start off with Brussels most famous tourist bar, Delirium, which has a beer selection of over 2000 beers. If you manage to get out of Delirium before passing out, head to Celtica, where they have happy hours during which pils beers are 2 euro and strong beers 3 euro. Still standing? The next bar, Big Game is within crawling distance and passes by Tabora, where you can buy a mitraillette (a baguette with meat, fries and a shitton of sauce). Onwards! So Big Game is a sports bar with cheap beer, a dance floor. It’s one of the last bars open at night. You can end your night here or grab a few extra beers and cross the street towards Nua’s. By now, you are probably completely lazarus, so the only logical thing to do is join the other smashed drunks of Brussels in our Karaoke bar. Let all breaks loose and sing your lungs out. If you’re still not done by the time Nua’s closes, you can go back to Big Game where all creatures of the night (or morning) gather to deny the rising of the sun, dance with the handful of people on the dancefloor and probably go home with a charming local (we like to call them creeps). Congratulations! You spent a night as a tourist in Brussels!
But Brussels is not only tourist bars, we also have the finer establishments for Flemish (but usually also some French-) speaking inhabitants of our European capital, we call these people the “Dansaert-Vlamingen”. These ‘locals’ annexed the area and bars surrounding the rue Dansaert (a fancy shopping street in the center). You’ll find them in bars like Kafka, Bar des Amis, Le Coq, Monk,… I can only speak as a Flemish person in Brussels, so I don’t know where you find our French-speaking counterparts but I do know that the beers in these bars are expensive, the general crowd millennials (pay attention to students who are into ‘older’ women and/or men), and they have dried sausages hanging at the bar, which totally compensates for the expensive beers.
Due to my limitation of words (but mainly a lack of interest), I will go ahead and skip reviewing the basic clubs in Brussels, because they are as bland as the soy-milk pumpkin spice lattes of the people who go there. Anyway, here are some examples in case you’re looking for a TD without the beer-throwing but with double priced beers, extra basic music, teenagers and poche looking people who are looking to score some teenagers: Bloody Louise, YOU nightclub, Jeux d’Hiver, Spirito, and the list goes on (but i don’t care).
If you’re into techno or some more underground sub-genres of the electronic music-scene (Major Lazer and David Guetta are not techno, please refer to my very elaborated segment on basic clubs in Brussels for a more fitting match for your taste). Brussels is not Berlin, but if you know where to look you can find some places that offer just about the right bang for your buck (figure of speech, has nothing to do with banging bucks, you sick fuck). The most famous techno club in Brussels is Fuse, they have been partying hard for 25 years and easily manage to book big names from the techno scene. There’s no Berlin style dress-code, so anyone can get in (unless you brought your ‘rugs’ before entering and you are staring at the bouncer with owl-like eyes while chewing gum like a horse chews hay). So just go in and enjoy a hot, dark techno temple with broken glass everywhere (seriously, who uses glass for beers in a techno club) and bass booming and bouncing off the black sweat-soaked walls. Be nice to the bouncers and they’ll be nice to you, but make trouble and you’ll get a “Ou tu sors, ou j’te sors.” At which point you should probably be going. Get some free water at the fountain every once in a while and dance, dance, dance,… until you leave at 7 in the morning. Other venues on the Brussels menu of techno are C12, Archipel, Zodiak, and the occasional open air party in summer.
Whichever type of party animal you are, Brussels has everything you want, if you know where to look. Don’t be afraid to try new things and keep an open-minded attitude.