The Sablon is an area steeped in history, which derives its name from the sandy hill it originated on in the 18th century, and has always retained a privileged status. The most important families settled here, taking advantage of the proximity of the Palace of Brussels, and vied against each other in Frisian handball tournaments, which were often attended by the Belgian monarchs. The Egmont Palace and Hôtel Mérode still bear witness to this glorious past.
The sport is no longer practiced here these days, but the area has built up a remarkable artistic reputation, thanks to the large number of antique shops and galleries on and around the Place du Grand Sablon and the Place du Petit Sablon. A renowned antiques market is held here every weekend, while the so-called “3B” events (the Brussels Non European Art Fair, the Brussels Ancient Art Fair and the Brussels Oriental Art Fair) are organised at regular times throughout the year.
It is certainly also worth paying a visit to pioneer Jan Mot’s gallery in the rue de la Régence or even the Espace Sablon, situated in a magnificent 15th-century building. The area offers more than just visual artists, however, and culinary masters and especially chocolatiers can also be found in abundance. A box of pralines later, we head over to Hortense, a cocktail bar which offers plenty of spirit-related, though perhaps less spiritual, secrets.