Take it from someone who has been living for over ten years in Belgium; Place Sainte-Catherine is 100% an unmissable area while in Brussels. When I moved here, like many others, I also felt lost among the two local languages, the administration, and the attempts to find my place in this peculiar country. One day, after a French class, I found myself wandering aimlessly in the city center. I turned down a small street and all of a sudden ended up at this as if preserved over the years but at the same time modern, corner of the city that I have since loved more and more. I was immediately conquered by the Neo-Renaissance and Gothic style of the buildings, the variety of restaurants with cuisine from around the world, and the street artists who delighted people with their various and often exotic talents. After more than ten years in Brussels, I still keep discovering something new and inspiring every time I end up at Sainte-Catherine.
I highly suggest that you start with a quick detour to the Little Castle (Klein-Kasteeltje). In this case, the word “small” is used jokingly. Klein-Kasteeltje is anything but a small, obscure building. It was built in the 16th century and had served as a barracks for the grenadiers and the carabiniers for a very long time. After World War II, it was turned into a prison. Since 2018, Klein-Kasteeltje functions as a registration center for asylum seekers.
Following the Brussels Canal, you will reach a small square, called Place du Béguinage, and there you will discover one of the hidden gems of the historical center of Brussels – L’Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste-au Béguinage. The church was built in the 17th century in a baroque style. Its facade is considered to be the most beautiful one in Belgium. No wonder why the church was deservedly featured in the 2018 BBC television miniseries “Les Misérables.”
At the same square is huddled one of the oldest antiquarian second-hand bookstores – Het Ivoren Aapje. An attractive place for any bookworm with its huge collection of the rarest books in Western Europe. And at very reasonable prices too!
Place Sainte-Catherine is one of the iconic places of the city, combining history with a contemporary spirit, pop culture, art, and amazing nightlife. Undoubtedly, the most valuable cultural landmark is the Sainte-Catherine Catholic Church. Built in the 15th century, the church is a mixture of different styles. Its Victorian interior catches the eye, and the Gothic style facade is crowned with mischievous gargoyles. During holidays and festivities, a light show is beamed onto the church’s walls. The collection of paintings hosted there is also worth seeing. The Sainte-Catherine church is free to visit.
Right behind the Sainte-Catherine Church, you will spot The Black Tower (La Tour Noire). The tower is a small part of all that is left from the 13th-century city walls. It was turned into a tavern in the 18th century, called “In de Toren.” Nowadays, it is surrounded by the famous Hotel Novotel Brussels.
The Anspach fountain is a favorite place for the local youth to meet and hang out. You could sit on its edges for hours, enjoying the beautiful view and the statues tempted by the different aromas, coming from the various restaurants, or just watch people passing by.
Cultural activities are definitely not lacking around. If you are desirous of a dose of culture, then La Bellone is the place to go. It is difficult to notice it from outside, but once you are in, a long corridor will lead you to a yard where a peculiar building stands. The facade is a mixture of classic and contemporary architecture. The place was named after the Roman goddess of war, Bellona. La Bellone is a cultural center, and it hosts a large number of artistic productions. It has its own large dramaturgy library, as well as a documentation center dedicated to the arts.
BRONKS theatre is a breath of fresh air, and a creative hub, which produces and inspires exciting and impactful theatre. A place for training and development for art lovers, BRONKS organizes festivals and gives an opportunity to different artists to perform on its stage.
Place Sainte-Catherine, and the surrounding streets represent a small cluster of ambitious and creative fashion businesses, embodied in concept stores of young designers, handmade jewelry and second-hand shops with well-selected vintage clothing. If you are a shopaholic with a taste for uniqueness, you will not leave empty-handed.
Every single restaurant in the quarter will tempt you with unforgettably delicious food from every corner of the planet. From lobster stew or blowout burger to a five-course menu in a fine restaurant, there is literally something for every palate there.
What a better end of your day than a jamboree in the famous Madame Moustache bar? If you fancy cabaret, live music or disco classics, this club will guarantee you an enjoyable evening.
Unquestionably, Place Sainte-Catherine is an unmissable area of Brussels that offers something unique to each visitor. Do not hesitate and enjoy a day of a delightful experience, delicious food, history, and culture at Place Sainte-Catherine.
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