The canal, an industrial district reborn as a trendy and sustainable neighbourhood

24 February 2022
Mima - Vieux-Molenbeek

With its urban and contemporary art spots along the water, the canal has become a very trendy part of Brussels. 

Its converted industrial heritage also delights lovers of sustainability and circular economy. Innovative and sustainable projects have taken over these listed sites: organic food shopping, art galleries, museums and temporary exhibitions; huge airy spaces, but also places for after work drinks and underground parties.

This vast alternative district is definitely worth a visit. 

Fancy a leisurely cycle or a river escapade?

How would you like to start your discovery of the canal neighbourhood with a walk along the water? Cycling fans will love the cycle paths that line the quays all the way to the port of Brussels. They showcase the street art that abounds in the neighbourhood. 

And if you like these works, why not also follow our exciting street art trails through Brussels? Comic book lovers will love the monumental Corto Maltese mural which also features on the comic book trail.

If you are tempted to try out an unusual Brussels experience, go on a cruise. You can choose between a short circuit to reach the city centre in a different way, or an aperitif cruise to Brussels' green belt. 

Underground nights

Brussels is known as a great city to go out thanks, in no small part, to its numerous underground venues. But it also owes a lot of that reputation to the vibrant nightlife of the canal neighbourhood. Start your evening at Walvis, a bistro that looks out onto the canal. Its terrace is always full in the summer and its concerts and DJs nights might even convince you to spend the whole night there. 

For those who like to step out of their comfort zone, why not visit the many heritage sites that have been transformed into trendy bars and clubs? Recyclart offers raggae/drum ‘n’ bass and electro.

In the former printers next door, the Vaartkapoen showcases international bands. Magasin 4 welcomes you for alternative nights: hardcore, funk, punk, pop, experimental music, chanson française and jazz.  

A healthy dose of contemporary art

The canal neighbourhood opens up its quays and its art studios to many artists. It's hardly surprising that the new Kanal Centre Pompidou will open its doors in 2024, given the importance of contemporary art in Brussels. On the opposite side of the canal, the MIMA (Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art) houses temporary exhibitions of young artists who are revolutionising the codes of contemporary art.

Among the many other galleries in the area, a former warehouse of more than 3,500m² houses the Vanhaerents Art Collection, of which Andy Warhol is a main attraction. It's a must-see if you love diving back in time and immersing yourself in the art trends of the 1970s to the present day. 

Tour & Taxis: from industrial to sustainable

Located on the bank of the canal, Tour & Taxis is a gigantic former industrial site with spectacular architecture (which can be online thanks to a virtual audio guide). It has been transformed into a sustainable residential, cultural and events site. Its former warehouse hosts numerous exhibitions, and the Gare Maritime, a former maritime terminal which houses, among other things, a huge food court with culinary creations from ten Brussels chefs. 

A somewhat unusual entry is Permafunghi, a clever mushroom farm that grows oyster mushrooms in recycled coffee grounds. To find out more about climate change and its impact on cities, visit the BELEXPO environment museum. Behind it there is a huge park with a picnic area, pétanque, woods, which is the perfect place to escape the urban landscape and it's only a stone's throw from the canal.  

Feeling peckish?

The food scene in the canal neighbourhood is rather alternative. Here are some of the favourites of Brussels' passionate Greeters. The Belmundo is a social restaurant that focuses on the local economy. People go there for its delicious salads and seasonal dishes that change according to the whims of their vegetable garden.

Continue the maritime theme by booking a waterfront table at Le Phare du Kanaal. This inviting canteen offers delicious recipes that combine flavour, local produce and craftsmanship. Ready for a little coffee break? Then make your way to Mok Coffee where you will be served an authentic coffee, carefully selected and finely roasted on site.  

Getting there

  • Metro: lines 2 and 6 - Stops: Comte de Flandre/Graaf van Vlaanderen, Yser/IJzer.  
  • Tram: 51, 82. 
  • Bus: 46, 14. 
  • Train: Tour & Taxis/Thurn & Taxis.