The BEL’s guide to Brussels best addresses: the Sablon chapter

4 October 2022

If you’re looking to capture downtown Brussels pristineness in just one glance, you should hit the forever-enchanting cobbled streets of the Sablon area. Once the home to Belgium’s highest aristocracy, this renowned district set in the heart of the Pentagone doesn’t only host the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, but it is also a shelter for Brussels ultimate icons of excellence. A custodian of the savoir-faire that puts Brussels on the map beyond b
orders, the BEL (Brussels Expertise Labels) is taking you on a discovery tour of the Houses and venues that shine a light on our vibrant city through their craft. Don’t forget to take notes, as what follows will let you in on the Sablon’s best kept secrets.

The best places to eat, shop & marvel around the Sablon district.

As you venture down the Justice Palace, still shook by the breathtaking view displayed at Poelaert Square, you will certainly marvel at the store fronts you’ll encounter: one-of-a-kind art & antiques, spectacular diamonds, fine jewelry, la crème de la crème of Belgian chocolate, biscuits, pastries, not to mention pleasant and refined venues and their (heated) terraces to sit and enjoy a Belgian beer and nibble on some specialties. As you might feel overwhelmed with options, we thought we’d give you a hand identifying who’s who and what’s where with a little overview of the must-sees per category. Without further ado, here’s a list of the Sablon’s best places to eat, shop & experience the excellence of Brussels.

Barber shop, glasses & books in Sablon

To all gentlemen, the time you never have to treat yourself to a barber shop appointment, you might actually find in Sablon! Bringing back the savoir-faire of barber shops in its purest tradition, Bayer & Bayer will offer you no less than a 5-star service, delivered by expert hands. Once you’re all groomed, you could head to Lunetier Ludovic and have a look at Ludovic’s trending bespoke luxury glasses made in Brussels. Can you see clearer now? Then it’s time to head to Taschen’s fabulous art book shop. There you’ll not only lay a stunned eye on the knowledgeable pages of prime art books, but you’ll also appreciate the edgy design of the setting.

The best restaurants in Sablon: Brussels finest gastronomy

Best fish, shellfish & crustaceans in Brussels

You can’t visit Brussels and not make a stop at an oyster seller or, as we call it in French, an “écailler”. Amongst the finest restaurants of the Grand Sablon, you’ll find L’écailler du Palais Royal, a prime dining destination with a specialty of fish, shellfish and crustaceans serving the ultimate Belgian gastronomy since 1967.

The best Italian restaurant outside of Italy is in Brussels

If you feel for Italian food, don’t refrain thinking you’re in Belgium so it’s not worth it. Indeed, you’ll be happy to find out that the Sablon also hosts the place voted Best Italian Restaurant Outside of Italy: Senzanome. Open since 1997, this premium venue delivers its intuitive and innovative cuisine inspired by the finest produce of northern & southern Italy. Prized with a “Bib Gourmand” and 1 star by the Michelin guide (2004), it has also received the Gault Millau prize for Best Italian Restaurant of the Year 2012.

The ultimate Spanish food experience in Brussels

Looking for some Spanish food in Brussels? Meet Hispania. In this brasserie of the Sablon aera, you’ll be happy to find a great variety of exquisite Spanish dishes with exceptional quality. More than a Spanish restaurant, Hispania also offers a great atmosphere. Everything about it is designed to provide the best experience of Spanish lifestyle, gastronomy and culture around the world.

What to see in Sablon: Brussels must-see landmarks

Dominated by the Church of our Ladies of Victories of the Sablon, the Sablon never goes unnoticed. Thanks to this 15th-century gothic wonder of architecture, the picturesque quarter of Sablon has entertained the curiosity of the people passing through just as much as of locals. Now surrounded with the finest names to be found in Belgium, it also owes its reputation to a couple of unmissable stops: the Foundation Frison Horta, whose purpose is to preserve and sustain rich art & craft of the by-gone era in an artistic art-de-vivre form. Right opposite the Church, you’ll also find the charming and well-curated Square du Petit Sablon.This flower garden in Brussels is a great place to stop and stare at the Flemish neo-renaissance architectural style.

The best chocolate, biscuits & pastries in Sablon

Who hasn’t heard of Belgium’s national chocolate icon, Pierre Marcolini? If you’re in Brussels, it’s definitely time to put a taste on a name. In his spectacular boutique, Marcolini unfolds his legendary expertise through his delicate, high-end chocolates, pralines, macarons & biscuits. Not far from there, another guardian of Belgium’s purest tradition will make your eyes go wide and your taste buds go nuts: Maison Dandoy. With a selection of premium biscuit specialties such as Speculoos, this internationally renowned House has nurtured one of Belgium’s most paramount traditions since 1829 with its Belgian sweet treats. A more recent addition to the neighbourhood, Sablon’s charming bakery and pastry shop FINE has quickly earned the heart and the respect of its peers with its elegant and delicate treats.

Where to have the best lunch in Sablon?

Craving for a well-deserved break with some good Brussels-made food? You’ll find no better place than the Grand Sablon to sit outside, on a typical Brussels heated terrace, to enjoy an unforgettable Belgian beer & a tasteful lunch in the Sablon. If you’re a fan of the all-day breakfast trend, you’ll find at the very popular Crème eatery the perfect modern satisfaction to your sweet and savoury cravings.

Right opposite Pierre Marcolini, you can’t miss the ultimate café experience in Brussels: Chez Richard. Open from dusk till dawn, this real institution not only serves you breakfast and a cup of coffee in the heart of Brussels, but it also soothes your urges for a chill glass of wine with some great Belgian finger food, such as a fricandelle sauce Richard or a shrimp croquette.

If a deep dive into Belgian cuisine made with super fresh and seasonal local produce is what you’re looking for, then Au Vieux Saint-Martin is where you should sit down. Brace yourself, as the Chef’s Belgian specialties made with love will give your taste buds the real Belgian spin they’d been waiting for.

Coming soon in Sablon: Gaston, Jaggs & Kafei

These next places are about to bring their flair and very specific savoir-faire to the Sablon area:

  • Gaston. With two shops, one in Sainte-Catherine & the other in Stockel, this handmade ice cream maker has crafted its reputation just as it did its ice cream: from scratch. A master in the art of making people smile, Gaston has expanded its craftsmanship to other delicacies: sorbets, pies, waffles, cookies, crêpes, etc. made with only the best products and no preservatives.
  • Jaggs. From its current location just outside of Brussels, JAGGS has distinguished itself as an up-and-coming Belgian tailor guided by excellence. Everything bespoke is what you’ll find in its boutique, served by experimented tailors that navigate between expertise and originality.
  • Kafei. Brussels had waited so long to taste Japan’s trending fluffy pancakes that we could only honour Kafei’s initiative to finally make them happen in Brussels-based venues already. The result of a very specific know-how, fluffy pancakes have been the new talk of the town when it comes to enjoying a truly original food experience. Soon in the Sablon as well!

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The BEL’s guide to Brussels best addresses: the Sablon chapter