Not living too far from the Les Marolles it was only obvious to start with this part of the city. During my maternity leave (which honestly seems ages ago but was only last year … sic) I discovered a bit of the non-touristic Marolles – read the Monday to Friday vibe. The area oozes Brussels history. Stretching between the Palace of Justice and the South Station (Gare du Midi), Les Marolles is known both for its artistic flair as for its working class background. The residents pride themselves to be Marolliens and stick to traditions such as the Carnaval parade in February, or the Bal National in July.
Here are my 5 picks for this first Brussels city guide in Les Marolles.
No visit to the Les Marolles would be complete without a stroll around the flea market. Yes, I am a sucker for all things vintage and shiny and from my old food blogging days I have amassed a considerable collection of props. The whole vibe of the Brussels flea market is a pleasure to take in – china and crystal, old books and records, or for the more DIY inclined furniture and fittings. The prices drop considerably during the week and haggling is a required hobby so if you can, try to avoid the Saturday and Sunday tourist – but very colourful – trap.
Where to start? We love the local ambiance of the restaurants around Les Marolles and have in the meantime eaten our way through quite a few. Two restaurants however stand out. Au Stekerlapatte for taking traditional Marolles dishes and serving them with a twist. The food has always been delicious, very reasonably priced and the choice of wine and beer doesn’t disappoint.
And Pin Pon. Another restaurant we really enjoy – be it for food or their Pin Pon beer in the large back courtyard (perfect for active toddlers btw). Yes, we are biased as we started going there when they barely opened … and are since regulars and friendly with the staff. Housed in an old fire station (hence the name pin pon which is the sounds a fire truck makes in French) Pin Pon specializes in seasonal produce and honest straight forward food. Add to this a great selection of Belgian beers which can be enjoyed until late at the bar downstairs and you have a local winner.
If you are looking for a more touristy restaurant, serving Belgian food made with Belgian beer try Restobieres. Oh and if you have signed up for our newsletter or FB page we will soon post as well our review of the Wine Bar des Marolles which was pure perfection!
Les Marolles is known for its antique shops which specialize in everything from 50s furniture to spare crystal pieces for chandeliers to Persian carpets. We love browsing through the shops and occasionally end up buying something small and which yes, we don’t really need. Or something big and shiny like a fireplace fitted mirror. You never know when luck strikes.
For the fashion conscientious the S en Ciel leather shop is a Brussels institution. For the little ones the Kinkajou shop is a must. Not cheap, however the shop offers a beautiful selection of wooden toys, quirky games and unusual gifts. And if you are looking for a foodie gift then the Saint Octave cheese shop is the right place to go to.
Not literally in Les Marolles, but not too far either we have recently come across the Apartments Nancy. Located just on the other side of the Boulevard du Midi the apartments are housed in a Parisian style apartment block and beautifully designed. Since having a baby we are very much inclined to stay in apartments or B&Bs on our weekend trips but I can always be convinced hotels are baby-flexible.
Les Marolles is a photographers dream. The little streets, the hustle and bustle of the flea market, the street artists … everything invites one to take out their camera. For the instagrammers amongst us I would suggest to look out for the buildings that have kept their original front. And don’t miss the comic walls which are a true Brussels discovery. A very handy interactive map of the comic walls in Brussels can guide you through the city … and in Les Marolles alone there are about 4 to 5 different walls to discover.
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