Don’t you love that feeling when the band you love is coming to town? What about when you’re out on a whim and come across that special act by accident?
Brussels has some top live music venues where the above happens all the time. But enough, let’s just get straight into the guide!
Across the side-street from AB’s bar entrance is Bonnefooi, which means “by chance”. Inside, the layout is simple: long and narrow, with the bar on your right, and a seating area looking over the dancefloor.
From electronic to acoustic, there are lots of free gigs on offer with artists like Demdike Stare and Paddy Steer to Black Koyo.
Bonnefooi neighbours the Ancienne Belgique. It’s on what the city calls Music Street. The music starts from 4pm until late late.
Ancienne Belgique is more than 100 years old and is affectionately known as AB to locals. It has attracted big names and big crowds for decades – Edith Piaf sang here at the same time that Jacques Brel was a regular.
Nowadays you’ll hear all sorts here: rock, electronic, jazz, global, experimental and pop acts. Smaller acts perform in the AB Club upstairs. There’s also the intimate AB Salon that regularly presents free electronic or experimental gigs.
The AB is the Flemish equivalent of Le Botanique; the mission is to provide the Flemish-speaking community with contemporary music.
Attendees had the privilege of seeing many upcoming artists before they made it huge like The White Stripes, Black Eyed Peas, Editors, and MGMT.
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L’Archiduc is a classy joint. You still have to ring the doorbell to get in. Its status is as legendary as the artists that have played there: Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Nat King Cole.
Madame Alice founded the venue in 1937. The cast iron door is still emblazoned with her initial ‘A’, and its built-in booths would attract businessmen who came for secret rendezvous.
The venue is still very much the home of Brussels jazz. As well as the wonderful sounds, you’ll enjoy the Art Deco interior and piano sitting in the middle of the building.
The stunning Botanique is a gem of a gig venue. A cultural complex and music venue in Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, the building was previously the main orangery of the National Botanic Garden of Belgium. Since 1984, Le Botanique has been the cultural centre for the French Community of Belgium.
The lineups are totally eclectic, with everything from pop, rock, electronic and chanson (lyric-driven French songs). You can check out their festival La Nuits, Its recent lineups have included Luke Howard, Martin Kohlstedt, Angèle and more.
Cafe Bizon is the place to be in Brussels for blues. But make sure you get there early to get a good seat.
The decor is something you won’t forget. There’s a large stuffed bison head stuck on the wall, and a motorcycle hanging from the ceiling. It’s also full of items and keepsakes attached to the wall by visitors. You won’t have been anywhere like it.
Flagey is a former radio studio from the 1930s. The vast art-deco building overlooks a square dominated by popular bars (great for a post-concert drink!) and two large ponds.
It is famous for its world-renowned acoustics, and it’s classical interior. So keep an eye on their agenda to experience it for yourself.
Flagey also hosts the sold-out Brussels Jazz Festival during January. Its Piano Days season is a February highlight.
Atelier 210 is in a magnificent building but started operating as a music venue in 2015.
As well as music, Atelier 210 also has a theatre programme. It shares the building with the Institut Saint-Stanislas. A space for the creation and dissemination of the performing arts.
Atelier 210 strives to bring the best performing arts in the city, and also run parties and club nights. We recommend you go to their Blackout Sessions. It’s where you listen to an album together in complete darkness. The only criteria for the selection? “The album must be solid from beginning to end”.
La Machine is unique, with steampunk-inspired decor. Despite only opening in 2016, La Machine has wasted no time in becoming a Brussels institution.
This venue carefully selects Belgian bands & DJs from the emerging scene. With over 170 music events every year, La Machine is one of Brussels’ busiest small music venues. Plus, all their events are FREE!
La Machine is also your go-to place for fun after-works and private events. They serve a modest 59 beers, 70 cocktails, and 60 spirits. So you are sure to have a good time!
Plein Publiek takes up residence at the foot of Mont des Arts, the historical heart of the capital.
Come here to indulge in a wide array of brunches, concerts, jazz, dance nights, vintage markets, fashion shows, workshops, closet sales and much more. If you want a visual element to your concerts, Brussels has no venue more astounding that Plein Publiek.
The greenhouse will also blow you away gastronomically. The very best of young Flemish chefs have been assembled here under Chef Gilles Melchoir.
Scott’s Bar is located in front of The Cat on a Bike on Rue Montagnes aux Herbes Potageres. The building dates back to 1865 and is a typical example of Facadism in Belgium by Paul Saintenoy.
This bar offers an international feel with an expansive menu covering beers, whiskeys and cocktails from all over the world. The Guinness is remarkably good considering how far it is from Dublin!
With regular DJ sets, they also take bookings for parties and functions. There’s a large mezzanine upstairs that’s ideal for a private function. Gigs in Brussels don’t come with a party atmosphere as fun as here.
Café Béguin is a small and intimate music venue. They do a lovely job of celebrating music from all over the world; listen to jazz, Afrobeat, Afro-Latin, Groove, Soul and Salsa.
They also have some pretty special food on the menu. You’ll mostly find tapas and African mezze – we recommend giving the frozen margarita a try too. It’s sit-in or takeaway, so you decide.
They’re open to new shows and collaborations, so if you have a group or a project, send your application to them.
P.S. You might find the Spacehuntr team sitting on the terrace here.
A live music venue is brilliant, isn’t it? From big to personal, Brussels has something special about its music scene. You could go out and see something every night if you wanted…
While you’re here, check out our guide to the best music festivals in Brussels to learn some more. Every day is a school day after all.
Featured image: Ancienne Belgique via bruzz