Culture: Studio Citygate

Studio Citygate

“A project is like a Netflix series: after season seven, everyone’s glad it’s over.” Quite a strong quote, don’t you think? It all makes sense though. Anthony Morabito gave me a tour through Studio Citygate. What’s that you’re wondering? Well, let me shed some light on it.

Studio Citygate

Somewhere behind the Brussels Midi train station – in Anderlecht to be more precise – a new building project is getting started. Citygate, as it’s called, is supposed to take the neighbourhood one step further towards being put on the map. Old buildings were thorn apart to leave space for new ones. On the border of the site stands an old textile and medical equipment factory. This one was temporarily saved from destruction and now serves as the background for a whole new cultural hub.

Why temporarily? Well, the company who takes care of the project – Entrakt – tries to upgrade empty buildings in-between projects. Studio Citygate will probably be destroyed once the rest of the Citygate site is finished, but in the meantime (probably for about five years) at least it’s not just being useless. I asked Anthony whether or not he thinks that’s a shame. “Five years sounds short, but actually a lot can change in that time. Plus, with a project, it’s like with a Netflix series. During the first season, just a few well-informed people know it. Season three is usually the best one and after that it just goes to hell. After season seven, everyone’s glad it’s over.”

Studio Citygate

Anthony takes me through the different levels of the building. No less than 22000 square meters have to be repainted, rebuild, cleaned, given purpose… “This is where the restaurant will be”, he says while pointing at a kinda shabby yet well-lit spot in the corner of the ground floor. A shop, office spaces, artist ateliers, a skate park – name it and it will probably be here. At the moment the ateliers are already being rented out and a Brazilian cultural venue is set up on the first floor.

Sure, some inspiration is needed while visiting the place. The cave will host about ten recording studios in a couple of weeks, but at the moment it’s just a plain old cave with some intersections. Red velvet carpets and squeaky white walls should soon be in place. “I think we’ll ask everyone to take off their shoes and wear some of those hotel slippers.” That immediately calls for some on-site spa instalment, but that’s probably not going to happen. At least I tried.

Studio Citygate

The venue really offers a lot of possibilities. There’s even an immense backyard, ready to host all kinds of events. From theater to weddings to university proms. A cute little bunny (by Bue the Warrior) keeps an eye on everyone and everything, while a city garden is taking form just next to it.

That’s not the only outdoors area though. My favourite part of the building? Without a doubt the rooftop terrace. Sure, at the moment it’s pretty plain, but just imagine soaking up that view while lying under a parasol on a comfy sunbed. With a mojito in hand. As far as city terraces go, that’s worth to be labeled as #lifegoals if you ask me. I’m already impatiently waiting for the cafe to open, as it’s not that far from my own little place.

Studio Citygate

Let’s get down to the facts though. What’s happening right now? Last Friday, there actually was a university prom. At the end of April, a food truck festival will be held in the main hall. There’s a call for artists right now and one for restaurant owners in the very near future. And during summer everything will hopefully be more or less fully working. It’s all a bit vague, I know, but just keep an eye on their website or Instagram to keep updated. Maybe we’ll see each other on the rooftop? If you already want to get a bit inspired, there’s also a radio station!

Practical 
Rue des Goujons 152
1070 Anderlecht
Website

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bgl5GU9FRJW/?taken-by=studiocitygate

Culture: Atelier Ernest Salu

As you could read before, last weekend I went in for my second round of the Banad Festival. First stop of the day: Atelier Ernest Salu, located next to the cemetery of Laeken. I had never heard of this place before. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover that we have our own version of the Père Lachaise in Brussels and even more than that. The atelier is the only one world-wide to be focusing on funerary art. I know I know, that does sound creepy. But once you enter the building, you see how that’s actually a really nice thing. Let me give you a sneak peek.

Atelier Ernest Salu

First thing you should know: there’s not just one Ernest Salu, there were three of them. Ernest I, Ernest II and Ernest III. Luckily for them they were more talented in sculpturing than in making up names. Ernest the First studied Arts in Brussels and after finishing his first funeral monument, he decided to buy some land next to the cemetery of Laeken. That proved very successful and ten years later he was able to build his very own atelier and a house next to it.

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Now let’s have a look at the cemetery first. If you’ve visited the place or if you just have a look at the pictures, you’ll notice that it’s not just your ordinary one. The reason for that is quite simple. The first king and queen of Belgium – Leopold and Louise-Marie – wanted to gain some credibility and prestige by founding their very own church with crypt. And decided to do so in Laeken. Because of the royal presence there, the upper class of the Catholics in Brussels were very eager to reserve their own tombs nearby. That created a large demand for luxurious funeral art. Now let’s get back to our Salus.

Atelier Ernest Salu Banad

Three generations Salu were able to stand their ground in the atelier. The original decoration of the Salle d’Expo (exhibition hall) provides proof for that. Damask, expensive armchairs and even a fountain with goldfish created the perfect background for extravagant balls – according to the two daughters of Ernest the Third. Once more affordable tombs made their way into the market, sales rapidly dropped and the atelier closed its doors. Luckily, there are still plenty of remnants left to marvel at. And the three men also provided plenty of photographs which can be consulted online.

Atelier Ernest Salu

What about nowadays? The non-profit organisation Epitaaf made it their mission to preserve the atelier and all that’s left of Salu’s works. They don’t usually open their doors to the public – but they make an exception for Banad and the so-called Belgian Open Monument Day. It’s quite admirable what they manage to achieve while only leaning on volunteers. They name themselves taphophiles. Which actually means that they’re all interested in the funeral arts and practices. Again, that sounds a little macabre but as Epicurus once said: “Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And once it does come, we no longer exist.”

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Which probably means that we should just look at those marvellous tombs as impressive works of art. Apparently, Victor Horta himself found the design of a tomb way more complicated than that of an entire house. My advise to you? Go and visit the cemetery of Laeken and if you can, also the Atelier Ernest Salu. It’s one of the most bizarre things I’ve visited in Brussels so far, but also one of the most interesting ones.

Atelier Ernest Salu
Parvis Notre-Dame 16
1020 Bruxelles
Website Epitaaf

 

Banad – Weekend 2

First of all: what’s Banad you may be wondering? Well, Banad is short for Brussels Art Nouveau Art Deco, an event hosted by the non-profit Explore Brussels. It’s a ‘festival’ which takes place over three weekends in March and celebrates the beautiful Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings in Brussels. Some of these are open to the public all year round, but a lot of them exclusively open their doors for this event. You have the chance to fulfil your nosiness and at the same time learn some interesting facts about the Brussels architecture scene. Sounds interesting? That’s what I thought. So I went and bought my ticket for eight visits spread over three Sundays. Here’s a glimpse of the second batch (find the first one here)!

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Ancien atelier et maison du sculpteur Ernest Salu

I’m writing a more in-depth article about this visit later on this week, but I’ll give you a quick summary right here. Ernest Salu – actually there were three generations Ernest Salu – was a sculptor specialised in funeral art. The atelier started in 1872 and was/is located right next to the cemetery of Laeken. For the bourgeoisie, a well-made tomb was a way to establish themselves as important, even after death. That’s why a lot of them ordered their tombs well in advance when they were still alive and breathing. Ernest I, Ernest II and Ernest III obviously made a good living out of it, judging from the decoration of their atelier. In 1984, after the arrival of cheaper alternatives, the last Ernest closed the atelier and that was the end of it.

Not really though. The non-profit organisation Epitaaf made it their mission to take care of the cultural heritage that are the atelier and the remaining tombs by Salu spread all over the cemetery of Laeken and some other ones throughout the country. The volunteers not only organise tours, but they also make an effort of restoring the artworks little by little. The idea of a funeral arts atelier may sound a little distressing, but once you’ve seen it, you’ll be glad you did.

The atelier is not usually open to the public, but they make an exception for the Banad Festival and yearly open their doors as a part of the Belgian national heritage days. So if you want a glimpse – which I definitely recommend – check out the dates and clear your schedules!

(Normally it’s forbidden to take pictures inside, I obtained the right to do so thanks to Epitaaf. So don’t just take a snapshot when you visit, ask them first!)

Ancien atelier et maison du sculpteur Ernest Salu
Parvis Notre Dame 16
1020 Bruxelles
Website Epitaaf

I, Karl Stas [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Copyright Karl Stas

Hotel Tassel

Don’t be fooled by the name: Hotel Tassel is not actually a hotel. It was however the house of Professor Tassel and designed by the famous architect Victor Horta in 1893. Horta was working on the Maison Autrique and after seeing what he did there, Tassel gave Horta carte blanche to do whatever he wanted with the design of his house. The result? A composition of two seperate houses, one in the front and one in the back, connected by a staircase and a winter garden. Hotel Tassel was also the first Art Nouveau house: the Art Nouveau organisation was only founded in 1895, two years after the completion of Hotel Tassel.

What’s it like inside? First of all, the two houses have a different function. The one in front served as a more public space. Tassel’s students were welcome in the very first room of the house and he received friends there as well. There’s also a lot to say about the decoration. Victor Horta is known to put a lot of effort in every detail of the buildings he designed, not only on the outside but also on the inside. Glass and iron are important parts of the interior, creating a very light and open look. The stained glass windows were designed to reflect some of the owner’s interests. The ones in the smoking room represent an abstract impression of smoke, the ones in the hallway were inspired by Japanese art. Apart from that, symmetry is probably the most obvious property of the house – returning in the ceulings, doors, wallpaper… The so-called whiplash-design (coup de fouet) returns both on the floors and the hallway murals.

As Tassel was a freemason, Horta tried his best to integrate symbols of the freemasonry. And succeeded to do so. The hall downstairs is shaped like an octagon – an important part of the masonic culture. Seven stairs lead up to the living room. A flaming sun is pictured on the floor. And who knows what other secrets are hidden in the design of the building.

A consultancy agency currently occupies the building, which means it’s very rarely open to the public. Again Banad offers a nice way to get a look behind the scenes of an otherways private property. So be prepared for next year if you fancy a visit!

Hotel Tassel
Rue Paul Emile Janson 6
1000 Ixelles
Tripadvisor

 

Culture: Maison Autrique

Brussels has a lot to offer when it comes down to museums. From a Comics Museum to the Royal Botanical Gardens and everything in between. The architectural side of Brussels maybe lesser-known to some of you, but can’t be ignored. Especially the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements are very well represented – which is exactly what I’m going to talk about today. On a gloomy Sunday I went to Schaerbeek to visit one of the earliest buildings Victor Horta ever designed: the Maison Autrique.

Maison Autrique

The building dates from 1893 and is the first memorable design from Horta. Who’s Horta you’re wondering? He was probably the most important Belgian Art Nouveau architect. He designed several buildings in Brussels and even has his own museum. Some of his creations have disappeared over the years, but this one was instead renovated in a way that best represents the original decoration dating from the 19th century.

Maison Autrique

The pictures may give you an idea of what the place looks like, but to be honest you have to visit it by yourself to truly see what it’s about. You feel a little bit like entering a world long gone. Everything, from stairs to wallpaper, has been thoroughly selected.

Maison Autrique

At the moment there’s an ongoing exhibition about Camille Jenatzy and ‘la Jamais Contente’. The engineer was born in Schaerbeek and was the first man ever to achieve 100km/hour. ‘La Jamais Contente’ was his vehicle of choice. His story is told throughout the building through short texts and some of his drawings. So even if you’re not an Art Nouveau-lover (but instead of that a car-lover), you should go give the exhibition a look.

Maison Autrique

Practical information

Maison Autrique
Chaussée de Haecht 266
1030 Schaerbeek
Website

Entrance is free every first Sunday of the month!

 

Banad – Weekend 1

Flagey Building Banad

First of all: what’s Banad you may be wondering? Well, Banad is short for Brussels Art Nouveau Art Deco, an event hosted by the non-profit Explore Brussels. It’s a ‘festival’ which takes place over three weekends in March and celebrates the beautiful Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings in Brussels. Some of these are open to the public all year round, but a lot of them exclusively open their doors for this event. You have the chance to fulfil your nosiness and at the same time learn some interesting facts about the Brussels architecture scene. Sounds interesting? That’s what I thought. So I went and bought my ticket for eight visits spread over three Sundays. Here’s a glimpse of the first batch!

I didn’t have permission to make pictures everywhere, so you’ll have to go see for yourself if you really want a glimpse of these spectacular interiors.

Flagey Banad

INR Flagey

If you’re familiar with Brussels – and even if you’re not – you may already know this building. Flagey is a cultural venue located in the Ixelles area where you can go for concerts, movies, drinks… Before all of this though, it was the headquarter of the ‘Institut National de Radiodiffusion’ (the national radio institute) of Belgium. During the Interbellum, more precisely between 1935 and 1938, the design of Joseph Diongre was executed. The architecture is a mix of Art Nouveau, Modernism and the School of Amsterdam. If you give it a closer look, you might even find some resemblances with a boat…

The building originally had no less than seventeen studios. They were all designed to have the perfect acoustic, among others making use of ‘silent spaces’ between floors to assure that. Studio 4 was even the biggest radio studio at the time (bigger than the one from the BBC for example) with a surface of 1000 m²! After the introduction of the tv in Belgium, the building sadly became to small and quickly got abandoned. Its history after that is quite rough: it almost got destroyed in the 80’s, got recognised as a national monument in 1994, asbestos was found everywhere in the building and a lot of money was invested to assure the reopening.

Nowadays, luckily, Flagey is buzzing with cultural vibes. And if you’re in for a drink, don’t forget to check out Café Belga. It’s situated on the corner of the building and definitely one of the ‘cult’ cafés in Brussels.

Palais de la Folle Chanson Banad

Palais de la Folle Chanson

Whereas Flagey is more or less accessible all year long, this ‘palace’ isn’t. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones to be living here of course. Palais de la Folle Chanson (or Palace of the Crazy Song) was one of the earlier (1928) housing complexes for the bourgeoisie. After WWI housing prices went up drastically and it became almost impossible to buy a whole house. The Bourgeoisie wanted to own something nonetheless, so a fancy apartment in a nice neighbourhood made for the perfect compromise. Servants had a separate room under the attic, there was a doorman to welcome guests and to separate the incoming mail, a vide-ordure (a central garbage chute)… It was luxurious in a more modern way.

This building is a good example of the Art Deco movement. The lines are quite structured and geometrical, somewhat in contrast to the more ‘organic’ Art Nouveau. The rotunda at the front porch makes you think of the Bozar building, also in Brussels. The architect, Antoine Courtens, tried to not only put an effort towards the ‘big’ architectural structures, but also towards details like the lifts, stairway, mirrors… To make the bourgeois even more at ease, the division of the apartments resembled that of a typical Brussels home. There was a reception area, an intimate part and a domestic one.

As I said, Palais de la Folle Chanson isn’t normally open to the public. You’ll probably have to wait another year to have a look inside, but it’s definitely worth it!

Palais du Congo Banad

Palais du Congo

Although situated just in front of the Palais de la Folle Chanson, Palais du Congo is a little different. The building was designed in 1930 by Jean Florian Collin – later known as the founder of Etrimo. When entering the building, you immediately have a less majestic feeling than with Palais de la Folle Chanson. The stairways are smaller, the ceilings are lower… Nonetheless, I wouldn’t mind living here at all – there’s actually an apartment for rent in the building, so it maybe worth checking out if you’re looking for a place and if you have some money to spend.

In the entry hall there are still some original details to be found. The wooden doors, the letter boxes, the floors, lamps… You’ve entered a little piece of history and that always feels nice. Here visitors had the chance to enter one of the apartments, which was very nicely decorated while still holding onto a lot of original elements. The fish bone floor and the kitchen tiling for example have never been replaced and are still in perfect shape. The current owner decorated it with the help of an interior designer and although it’s fairly modern, it really blends in perfectly. It totally made me want to redecorate my own place anyway.

As with the Palais de la Folle Chanson, you can’t visit this building just like that. You’ll have to wait until another possibility presents itself or till next year’s Banad of course!

Flagey Banad Studio 4

You may have noticed so already, but this first Banad-weekend was totally up my alley. I am quite a curious person so I was pleased by the behind-the-scenes vibe. Combined with the architectural and historical aspect, it made for a perfect Sunday afternoon. Although you might have missed out on the first two visiting days, you may still have the possibility to visit some other buildings during the next two weekends. Check out their site if you want more information and who knows, maybe we’ll cross paths!

Woningen 123 Logements – You get born, you live, you die

“We’re advising you on how to legally squat a building.” That may sound contradictory, but it’s not. Réginald de Postesta de Waleffe and Woningen 123 Logements are trying to get the message out there. The non-profit organisation is one of the leading voices of the legal squatting movement in Brussels. I went and visited their building on the Rue Royale in Saint-Josse-ten-Node and got totally enthused.

On 16 November a new anti-squatting law was introduced in Belgium. The direct cause was the occupation of an inhabited house in Ghent by a Roma family. The authorities couldn’t react because there was nothing forbidding or penalizing it. Enter a new law. This doesn’t only prohibit occupying inhabited buildings, but also the ones that have been empty for years. With up to 30 000 empty houses in Brussels alone, this had to cause some sort of protest. Together with a bunch of other organisations, Woningen 123 Logements is striving for an amendment.

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Honestly? I don’t know what to expect from the headquarters of Woningen 123 Logements on Rue Royale.  On top of that the bell doesn’t work so when suddenly I find myself standing in the entry hall, I don’t really know what to do with myself. Organized chaos reigns: bikes, closed doors and a spiralling staircase are staring at me.

“Could you just quickly give me a hand arranging the tables for dinner?”, asks someone I’ve only known for about two seconds.

I clearly need some time to adapt. Finally, I decide to give Réginald a call. I’m expected on the fourth floor. During my way up I’m having quite a revelation. First of all, the building is enormous, like a giant concrete labyrinth full of colour and chaos. Secondly, everyone whom I meet is extremely friendly, people and dogs alike. Lastly, I have to admit that I’m digging this atmosphere. Something I had expected beforehand, but which I somehow forgot for a moment.

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Once I’ve arrived at my destination – the fourth floor – I am supposedly intruding myself into a meeting about the future of the non-profit. Woningen 123 Logements is one of the four competitors for the occupation of the old Actiris [Brussels employment office] building near the Stock Exchange in the city centre. Yoga, childcare, co-working spaces… Nothing seems to be impossible. More space implies more (cultural) activities. The four guys are brainstorming away while enjoying a seemingly random combination of tea, dates and a cigarette or two. We’ve commenced on a strange journey. The randomness and kindness of that moment is the perfect metaphor for the whole Rue Royale experience.

“Are we going to do that interview whilst enjoying some dinner?” That’s the sign I’ve been waiting for. We make our way to the cellar where everyone is welcome for a vegan dinner on Sunday evening. The meals consist of food that hasn’t been sold in nearby supermarkets. How much does it cost? That’s up to you. Other than inhabitants, there are also neighbours, tourists and dogs joining us for dinner. I wouldn’t be able to tell you what I ate, but it was yummy so no complaints at all.

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At the moment, Woningen 123 Logements is running several projects. “We don’t want to place all our bets on the old Actiris quarters, because we’re just one out of four interested parties so that could still go South. We’re therefore still looking for new buildings to squat. Because of the new anti-squatting legislation we can’t just proceed to occupation: we first have to file a request with the city. We also try to negotiate with companies to obtain interesting fares and buildings to live in. Since 8 November such a contract exists with Infrabel [Belgian railway infrastructure operator]. ” states Réginald.

Little by little the air is getting filled with smoke, now that everyone had finished eating and the cigarettes are getting out.

Woningen 123 Logements is currently occupying about ten different buildings in Brussels, with side projects mainly being concentrated at Rue Royale and Rue du Progrès. Inhabitants and volunteers organize a variety of projects, for example La Poissonnerie (the fish shop) at Rue du Progrès. About fifteen volunteers there are hosting dinners, maintaining a radio station, organising temporary exhibitions and teaching night classes. Loads of results with very few resources. The composition of the inhabitants beats all odds. Not only former homeless people, but also artists, academics and architects found their home at Woningen 123 Logements. Neighbourhood work and social balance are two of the non-profit’s basic foundations. “People get born and die over here.” A very daring, albeit correct, statement from one of my table companions. Kids are as welcome at Rue Royale as elderly.

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Let’s get down to the facts. If you get accepted to live at Woningen 123 Logements, you won’t be paying any rent. Just amenities and eventually an administrative fee. It’s possible to stay for a longer period of time, but more temporary options are also available. One of the dinner guests is currently doing an internship at a company that provides mobile shower facilities for homeless people. Therefore, he’s staying at Rue Royale for about three months. Artists can also file a request to get a room for the duration of their project. And finally, homeless people can get a break for three days per month by paying three euros a night. To be selected for the project, it’s crucial to get socially involved. “We don’t have any employees and therefore do everything by ourselves. Physical, artistic or intellectual effort from the inhabitants is therefore necessary.” Those who only want to pay the project a visit can stop by for dinner on Sunday or during one of the many events hosted by the organization.

Want to learn more about the project? You can do so by visiting their website, their Facebook page or by sending a mail to info@123rueroyale.be. With as many buildings being desolated in Brussels, a little protest is definitely in its place.

 

Porto City Guide

Porto city guide

At the beginning of February I made a trip to Porto. The city had been on my radar for a while, but was never really at the top and I kept postponing it. Because of the cheap flights (thanks Ryanair) I finally caved. And it was a great surprise. Although it’s not a very big city, I’d definitely recommend it for a city trip. Five days may be too long if you want to be really busy all the time. We enjoyed it nonetheless – drinking and eating our way through the city. During summer, you could go for a swim, do some surfing, make a trip to Peneda Gueres National Park (which I’ve been told is stunning) or go to Braga by train. And to top it all off, the Portuguese are all so friendly that you’d wanna stay forever. So…

What to do?

Although some people might disagree on this one, Porto doesn’t really have any ‘big’ sightseeing spots. There’s nothing comparable to the Eiffel Tower (very overrated anyway in my opinion), Buckingham Palace or… Well you get the point. So what’s there to see?

Santo Ildefonso church Porto

Churches

If you’re into churches, there are a lot of options. Just like many other South European regions, Porto is still quite religious compared to for example Belgium. No matter the time of day, you’ll always see people praying when you visit one of the many churches. From a strictly aesthetic point, I preferred them from the inside rather than the outside – but that’s my opinion. Think about visiting the Igreja do Carmo, the Igreja de Sao Francisco, the Santo Ildefonso and the Catedral do Porto.

Igreja do Carmo
Praça de Gomes Teixeira 10
4050-011 Porto

Igreja de Sao Francisco
Rua do Infante D. Henrique
4050-297 Porto

Santo Ildefonso
R. de Santo Ildefonso 11
4000-101 Porto

Catedral do Porto
Terreiro da Sé
4050-573 Porto

Dom Luis Bridge

Dom Luis I Bridge

Wherever you are, you’ll always see this bridge. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, given the fact that Porto has so many different levels and you don’t always have an overview on the city. But you get my point: WHEN you do see a bit of the skyline, this marvellous bridge will be in sight. I was quite overwhelmed by it at first and throughout my trip, it kept on being strange to see the trams pass over at such a high level above the river. And don’t be scared when you feel the whole construction shaking – that’s normal apparently. This bridge is a delight, whether you’re looking at it or on the ground level or the upper level. Enjoy the view!

Bolhao Market

Bolhao market

This semi-inside market was very close to my hostel and definitely a must-visit. I simply love the fact that at these kinds of places you can feel a mixture of history, nostalgia and decay. It’s certainly not in the best shape and the tourist shops on the ground level don’t do any good to the authenticity level, but I was surprised to see that there are still so many locals selling there sometimes very eclectic goods. This is also where I discovered one of the local specialities: … . Despite the fact that I kind of like the decayed feeling, I still hope that the city will make sure that this place will keep on existing.

Mercearia do Bolhao
Rua de Santa Catarina 220
4000-252 Porto

Lello book shop

I wasn’t sure whether or not to include this one. Why not? Because it’s really on the edge to be a tourist trap. Don’t get me wrong, the place itself is stunning and definitely worth the visit. But for starters, you have to pay 4 euros to enter, which they then deduce from the book price if you purchase something; really good marketing trick. Also, apparently this was an inspiration for J.K. Rowling while writing Harry Potter – she used to teach English in Porto and came here quite often. Nothing wrong with that, but they slightly overdo it with the merchandise. And finally: because of all the tourists, you can barely experience this beautiful place. It was just okay when we visited on a weekday, but as we realised afterwards, it’s totally overcrowded on the weekend. Concluding: yeah you should visit this beautiful shop, but do it early on a weekday and be prepared to spend some money.

Livraria Lello
R. das Carmelitas 144
4050-161 Porto
Website

Porto Lighthouse

Go to the beach

As Porto is so close to the Atlantic, it would be a shame not to take advantage of that. Admittedly, it was a little (very) cold during February. So we just went to the lighthouse and enjoyed the nice views and sunset. If the weather allows for it, however, you could consider a long walk on the beach or even some surf lessons. Garden House Hostel (where we stayed) could put you in contact with a nice organisation for example. The old tram to the ocean is an experience on itself, so make sure not to skip that one!

Where to eat?

Maus Habitos

By far my favourite place to spend time in Porto. If I’d live in the city, you’d find me here almost every day I’m afraid. Maus Habitos is a mixture between a café, restaurant, cultural venue and honestly, what not. The drinks are cheap, the price-quality of the food is really good and the atmosphere even better. Oh, and let’s not forget the friendly staff. And the amazing parties – at least, that’s what I’ve heard. I won’t spend any more words on this one, you just have to go see for yourself.

Maus Habitos
R. de Passos Manuel 178, 4º Piso
4000-382 Porto
Website

Casa Guedes

Casa Guedes

Although Maus Habitos is my favourite all round place in Porto, Casa Guedes was probably my favourite food experience. It may look a bit shabby from the outside, but it’s just very local. They probably serve the best sandwiches in Porto: perfectly crispy bread, pork meat that’s simply melting in your mouth and Portuguese cheese to top it off. They also do some variations on this one, but just try it, you won’t regret it. It perfectly pairs with a local Super Bock beer or a glass of wine if that’s what you prefer. Just writing about this one makes me want to return…

Casa Guedes
Praça dos Poveiros 130
4000-098 Porto
Tripadvisor

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O Diplomata

I have to admit, pancakes are not your most typical Portuguese food. Not at all. But if they’re cheap and mouth-watering, you won’t hear me complain. You can either have a special lunch package (including drinks and more) or just put together your own plate. Whipped cream, pineapple, Oreo… Name it and you can order it. My only advice: don’t overdo it. Except if you want to of course.

O Diplomata
Rua de José Falcão 32
4050-189 Porto
Facebook page

Where to have a drink (or two)?

Aduela

This little bar is just what you’d expect from your own neighbourhood cafe: cosy, cheap, yummy, friendly… They mainly serve drinks, but you can also have some tapas – whether it is at lunch, as an afternoon snack or late in the evening. It’s pretty small on the inside, but if the weather allows for it, they have a nice terrace outside. An ideal place to have drinks with some friends, your loved one or even alone. They do also have a Wifi-connection, so if you’re looking for a nice place to get some work done, here you go!

Aduela
Rua das Oliveiras 36
4050-157 Porto
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Mesa 325

I don’t really know what to think about Portuguese coffee. It’s cheap, yes, they serve it everywhere, yes, but… Well, I guess the taste is way stronger than what I’m used to and it took some time to figure that out. Of you order a cappuccino, you get all kinds of stuff: a normal coffee, a coffee with some milk and a weird cocoa thing in it… Not really my thing.. After a while I discovered that a galao is probably what comes closest to what I know as a cappuccino. Although the Portuguese describe it as a latte. Is it getting confusing already?

Well, all this to say that I really liked the galao at Mesa 325. It’s the perfect cappuccino to me: not too milky, not too strong, not too big… Just as it’s supposed to be. Besides that, the café itself is just really nice to spend some time. And you get the local dog as a free extra. Which is always great. If you don’t like coffee but your friends do, try the orange juice and a pastel de nata. You won’t regret it!

Mesa 325
Av. de Camilo 325
4300-066 Porto
Tripadvisor

360° Terrace Lounge Porto

360° Terrace Lounge

So, let’s be clear: I don’t know anything about Port wine. At all. To be totally honest with you, I don’t even like it. So it may come as a surprise that I’m recommending this bar to you. The roof bar is on top of the Espaço Porto Cruz, one of the many Port houses in the city. You may feel a little out of place when entering the building as it’s pretty fancy and looks expensive. But don’t let that fool you: prices are still pretty affordable and, when having a drink at the roof bar, you get amazing views at the price of a drink. Their choice of music seemed a little weird to me – think club music during daytime – but apart from that it’s great. Sit back, relax and enjoy a glass of port or wine if just like me that’s what you prefer.

360° Terrace Lounge
Largo Miguel Bombarda 23
4400-222 Vila Nova de Gaia
Website

Where to sleep?

Image by Garden House Hostel Porto

Garden House Hostel

While looking at hostels in Porto, I noticed that a lot of them seem quite good, very hipster and cheap. So you could just do a quick Booking search and find something by yourself. However, if you’d like to be more certain about your choice, I’d recommend Garden House Hostel. They are located right in the middle of the main shopping street and offer great value for money. We slept in a 4-bed dorm and paid 14 euros a night, including a simple yet sufficient breakfast. Other than that they have good showers, a nice living room, a kitchen you can freely use and – important during summer – a garden.  During our stay the neighbours were doing some renovations so starting from 9 AM it was a little noisy, but that’s not the hostel’s fault. All in all, one of the better hostels I’ve ever stayed at!

Garden House Hostel
Rua de Santa Catarina 501
4000-452 Porto
Website

So, those are my recommendations for this lovely city! It’s small, but really worth the effort and great value for money. I think it would also be great for digital nomads as it’s so cheap and hipster. Combined with the oh-so-friendly people, it makes for a great getaway. So don’t hesitate, book those tickets and pack your bags!

 

A Sunday in Brussels

Even though I have been living in Brussels for six months now, sometimes I feel like I’m not taking advantage of all the city has to offer. I guess a lot of you can relate when I say that very often we don’t see the beauty of the city where we actually live. When going on a citytrip I enter every single beautiful building on my way, do my research on the newest and trendiest places to eat or drink and make sure not to waste too much time. In Brussels, however, all too often I stick to my routines and I don’t take the effort to explore new places. I decided to change that and last Sunday was the first of – hopefully – many days filled with new experiences in my hometown. This article will give you some ideas on what to do and where to eat – it’s roughly based on my own Sunday last week. I’m planning on writing more of these, so stay put for more!

Marché du Midi

8 AM – Marché du Midi

Let’s all be honest, most of us quite enjoy a little lay-in on a Sunday. So don’t feel pressured to wake up just yet. If you do, however, it may be a nice idea to start your day at the Marché du Midi. This is an enormous market around the Brussels South train station where you’ll find everything from fruits over plants to pants. I especially like to buy very cheap fruits, vegetables and plants over there. If you’re feeling a bit hungry already, make sure to check out the Moroccan pancakes (you’ll find a stand under the bridge). The original ones are with cheese and honey, although I prefer the ones without anything or with just a little Nutella.

Marché du Midi
Boulevard du Midi
1000 Bruxelles
Tripadvisor 

Tricoterie

10.30 AM – Yoga at La Tricoterie

Who said you can’t do some exercise on a Sunday? After all, you have to burn all those calories you’ll add by eating your way around the city. I recently discovered this place and absolutely love it. La Tricoterie is a cooperative and non-profit organization, offering a place to meet new people. They have a very wide offer, ranging from brunches (also on Sunday) to yoga. The atmosphere is always on point and people from all ages gather here to have a nice afternoon and/or evening. As far as the yoga goes: it’s one of the cheaper places in Brussels to practice and the instructor Elaine is really nice. It can get a bit busy, so make sure to arrive on time and to send a mail to reserve yourself a mat.

La Tricoterie
Rue Théodore Verhaegen 158
1060 Saint-Gilles
Website
Yoga reservations: elaine_codogno@hotmail.com

Brussels Street Art

12.30 PM – Marché aux puces

As you may have noticed, I do like my markets. This one is probably as chaotic as the Marché du Midi, but over here the vendors sell vintage stuff. Some of the things they’re selling are absolutely overpriced and crap, but if you put some effort into it, you may just find that treasure you’ve been looking for. Make sure to bargain and carry some small change with you, because over the past few years prices have risen and very often the original price is way too high. While browsing or afterwards you can have a drink at La Brocante or Pin Pon – the one being very old school, the other rather hipster. Depending on what you prefer.

Marché aux puces
Place du Jeu de Balle
1000 Bruxelles
Tripadvisor

2.30 PM – Brunch at Chicago

Ahhh finally, time to indulge yourself in some awesome food! Chicago is one of those always-good places; whether you’re alone, with friends or with your boy/girlfriend, you’ll like this one. There are different brunch formulas on Sunday, but I prefer the ones they also serve on weekdays. The Sunday special is definitely good too, but it’s more expensive and just way more than I can eat. Even though it’s delicious. Last time I went for the American breakfast: pancakes, eggs, bacon, coffee, fresh orange juice… I’m already tempted to go there right now while typing this! If you’re not very hungry but still fancy something sweet, it’s also possible to order a waffle or just pancakes. Or spaghetti. Or soup. As you might have noticed by now, I love this place and I think it’s an absolute must-visit! Make sure to make a reservation though, as it gets very very busy on weekends.

Chicago Cafe
Rue de flandre 45
1000 Bruxelles
Website

Galleries

4 PM – Wander around the city center

In my opinion, it’s pretty important to sometimes just stroll around a city and get lost a little. The center of Brussels has a lot to offer so just follow your nose, your eyes or your feet to wherever they lead you! Anyway, I’ll give you some tips so you’ll know where to start. Place Sainte-Catherine and the Marché aux Poissons are really close to Chicago Café and just two nice squares to hang out – especially when the sun is out. Have a drink under the trees at Café de Markten if you want or just sit down in front of the church or next to the water. From here on you can go towards la Bourse (the stock exchange) and further on to Manneken Pis. This peeing little guy is quite famous and very touristy, but I still like to stop by and see if he’s still there doing his duty from time to time. If you’re new to Brussels and you haven’t seen the Grand Place yet (which is almost impossible) then go there. You’ll see a lying statue on your right side just before stepping onto the square. Touch it, but be careful: it’s said that you’ll be pregnant within a year! Now that you’re here it’s only a short walk to the Galleries. This covered street is full of fancy shops, nice chocolatiers and hidden treasures (like bookshop Tropismes). Wanna have an afternoon coffee or snack? Stop by Mokafe or Arcadi (who does the best lemon meringue pie).

Café de Markten
Rue du Vieux Marché aux Grains 5
1000 Bruxelles
Website

Tropismes
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
Galerie des Princes 11
1000 Brussel
Website

Arcadi Café
Rue d’Arenberg 1B
1000 Bruxelles
Website

DSC_0006

7 PM (or earlier during winter) – Botanique

Le Botanique literally means the botanical garden. Before the national botanical garden of Belgium was moved to Meise (just outside of Brussels), it used to be here and the building was the greenhouse. Nowadays it serves as a cultural venue, hosting exhibitions, concerts and more. Although located very close to the Brussels North train station, I had never been here until last week and that’s a shame. The building is still surrounded by a botanical garden and even though it’s probably more worthwhile during summer, the park is a very welcome place of quiet in this otherwise very traffic-jammed part of town. If you’re feeling thirsty you can have a drink in the cafe or – when it’s a bit more sunny and hot – buy something in the supermarket across the street and just enjoy it on one of the many benches. If you want to go to an event, check out the calendar on their website!

Botanique
Rue Royale 236
1210 Brussels
Cultural websitePark website

Woningen 123 Logements

8 PM – Squatter dinner at Rue Royale 123

This place was the whole reason of my latest little Sunday outing: I did an interview with them for school. 123 Logements is a non-profit organization pleading for legally squatting empty buildings all over the city. Not only do people live here, but they also organize bike fixing moments, legal advice, dinners… All the food is made with leftovers from nearby supermarkets and completely vegan, to assure that anyone can freely enjoy their meal. There’s also no fixed price, you can give as much as you want or as you can spare. The public is very diverse: some people are inhabitants, others live in the neighbourhood, there are homeless people and tourists. Be prepared for an experience that’s a bit different from your usual dinner location!

Brussels Bright

9.30 PM – Experience Brussels at night

There is so much to do in Brussels at night that it would take us too far to go over every possibility. I myself went to the Brussels Light Festival last weekend, but this is an annual thing so you’ll have to wait a year to visit it by yourself. Other possibilities include catching a movie at CINEMATEK (an alternative movie theater with different locations throughout the city) or having drinks at Delirium Café (yes it’s touristy, but 2500 different beers in one café deserve the appropriate amount of attention). Brussels is Yours offers a quite nice overview of the different events in Brussels every weekend, so make sure to check them out for some inspiration!

Delirium Café
Impasse de la Fidélité 4
1000 Bruxelles
Tripadvisor

So, that’s it, you’ve spent an entire Sunday in beautiful Brussels! I hope you enjoyed it and let me know if you think I should do more of these!