Brussels, a bit more than an hour from Antwerp by train, won’t be in full party mode during the Outgames, and Belgium Pride takes place in mid-May. But that doesn’t mean that the capital of Belgium is not worth a stop for lesbians and friends who may be in the area. Au contraire.
Over the past two years, lesbian and lesbian-friendly parties have become easier to find, thanks in large part to one blog, Lesbibru. “The blog was born in 2011 out of an observation — women didn’t always know where to meet other women here in the capital,” writes blogger Emilie vanden Broeck, in French. “At the bar, tourists often asked me, ‘Where are the lesbians in Brussels?’ A bit of a shame, isn’t it, for the capital of Europe?”
Vanden Broeck took matters into her own hands and created a blog aimed at locals and tourists, primarily in French with an English page. “Instead of just taking out my planner [while talking to tourists] and hoping to have noted down one or the other party, I [decided] to create the kind of blog that I would have liked to find when I was first discovering the scene.”
La Maison Arc-en-Ciel, or The Rainbow House, is a good first stop, on Rue du Marché au Charbon, not far from Grand-Place, in the heart of the Old Town. The people at this convivial bar and community centre will be sure to point you in the right direction. Their website is also an essential pre-departure resource before you arrive in Brussels. The third Saturday night of each month is “Girls’ Corner,” Rainbow House’s in-house lesbian night. There’s no cover, and the ambiance alternates between a pumping dance party and a relaxed night out with friends. The ground floor is open to all, while the second floor (which Europeans call the “first floor”) is women-only. Get ready to speak your best French if you want to get to know the locals, although other languages are also widely spoken. There is an anglophone lesbian group in Brussels, Egow, although its activities are more sporadic in summer.
Vanden Broeck praises the co-ed, lesbian-friendly monthly Cuir as Folk parties at Chez Maman, a cabaret not far from the Rainbow House. The first Thursday of every month, she says, “gays, lesbians, trans men and women, bisexuals, straight people and people who don’t define themselves, a joyful mix of party people who don’t worry about gender, get together to enjoy a night out and an original drag show.”
Other private event companies, as well as community groups, plan periodic lesbian and lesbian-friendly club nights. The dates are often not posted very far in advance, so a good strategy is to keep checking online sources. There is no “last call” in Europe, so be ready to party until five or six in the morning to get the full experience.