Johnny Hallyday: Brussels, "que je t’aime"

02 December 2022
Image and silhouette from the exhibition

The legend that is Johnny Hallyday is coming to the Heysel for a breathtaking immersive exhibition. The rocker, described as "the most Belgian of the French and the most French of the Belgians", has always had a deep affection for Belgium and especially Brussels where his father, Belgian Léon Smet, lived and worked for many years as an artistTouching on the Belgian nature of the great man, we have tracked down all the places he loved, and those that he no doubt would have loved. Set off on a walking tribute to the "French Elvis" - the nickname given to Johnny by the New York Times - because there is indeed a little bit of Johnny in Brussels.

Johnny Hallyday, the exhibition

Immerse yourself in the star's world, from his teenage bedroom to his office in Marnes-la-Coquette (reconstructed identically), and relive 60 years of an exceptional career for the first, genuine French-speaking rock star through archives, stage costumes, guitars and music, of course! This immersive exhibition brings the legend of Johnny back to life.

Johnny, a passion for the stage

His first concert in Brussels was on 18 October 1961 at the Palais des Sports in Schaerbeek (a venue that has since disappeared). His final solo show, Rester Vivant, was at Hall 12 on 26 March 2016 and was shown in over 150 cinemas in France and Belgium. Johnny regularly returned to Brussels throughout his career, playing at Ancienne Belgique (1962), Flagey ('64), the Marni ('74), La Luna theatre ('94) and, of course, the King Baudouin stadium (2000 & 2003). But the stage he played the most and which would remain his favourite in Belgium was Forest National, where he performed over 30 times between 1971 and 2012. "I love Forest National, this venue has a soul... It's a bit like the Bercy of Brussels!" he explained.

He would return to the Hall 12 one last time in 2017, on 11 June, this time accompanied by Eddy Mitchell and Jacques Dutronc for the Vieilles Canailles tour.

The Hallyday look

Through the decades, Johnny took care to refine his style, from the shirts and ties of his early days, to the typical seventies bell-bottoms, he built and cemented the image of a rocker thanks to a very American influence, born from rock'n'roll, but also country music: the leather, the tattoos, the crucifix necklace, the sunglasses, the black, the jeans...

Want to refine your style while you're in Brussels? Westernshop in the city centre is an unmissable address: leather jackets, Stetsons, boots... everything you need to perfect your look or find the piece that was missing from your outfit.

Want to get yourself (another) tattoo? Here are the best addresses in Brussels.

The Manneken-Pis: a little rocker

On 5 December 2022, on the 5th anniversary of the singer's death, the Manneken-Pis was dressed in a "Johnny Hallyday" costume, courtesy of Laeticia Hallyday and Tempora (the exhibition's manager). He will put on his rock'n'roll outfit again on 20 December 2022 (opening day of the exhibition!), on 15 June 2023 (last day of the exhibition) and on 5 December 2023, to commemorate the 6th anniversary of the star's passing.

Interested in finding out more about the Manneken-Pis? You can start by visiting his impressive wardrobe at the GardeRobe MannekenPis. Then, head to the King's House on the nearby Grand-Place. This incredible neo-Gothic masterpiece houses the city's museums and archives, where the original statue of Manneken-Pis is located.

From EPs to CDs: the Hallyday collection

With 51 studio albums, 29 live albums, 45 EPs and 165 singles, Johnny Hallyday has had a prolific career. Particularly during the early days - his Philips years - when his contract required him to release an impressive number of records every year. Want to flick through some of Johnny's discography? Take a look at our selection of Brussels record shops that sell new and used vinyl. If you're looking for an old gem, you can also try The Collector Record & Movie next to the Bourse, or the Juke Box Shop nearby, both of which specialise in second-hand records.

Johnny, the hedonist

Although relentlessly hard-working, Johnny Hallyday also knew how to have fun and party. Brussels also knows a thing or two about partying. We have selected a series of rock bars where new and established artists regularly perform. Don't hesitate to come and party like Johnny.

And if you feel like letting loose to some of his songs, we've also compiled a list of a series of Brussels karaoke bars!