In a recent survey by Trip Advisor, Brussels was voted the most boring capital in Europe. If you restrict your visit to waffles, a walk around La Grande Place and a pilgrimage to the inevitably disappointing Mannekin Pis, you might agree, but if you start scratching the surface of this complex and multi-layered capital, you’ll stumble from one saucy surprise to another and surely find another adjective to describe it. Behind the stately 19th century decadence or run-down administrative buildings from the 1970s, there is a secret life full of personalities and persuasive charms. A mansion on a quiet street turns out to be a rendez-vous hotel with a dungeon where directors probably get back at their secretaries for sending out files too late (or more likely let their secretaries turn the tables).
Closer to the touristy center, you could also start off at Goupil Le Fol. The bar is housed in what once used to be a brothel, and though its purpose has changed, it still retains its original atmosphere. It’s packed with old couches and thrift store paintings that create a cozy atmosphere reinforced by a play-list restricted to French chansons: The ideal setting for a first date (works every time!)
Brussels is not an in your face kind of place. You have to work a little harder to access the city’s gems. On the other hand, for a local it takes no sweat to guide you on an associative tour of a few of the treasures, trash and historic traces that give this grey town so much color.