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Macho Sauna, Brussels, Belgium

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 Macho Sauna, Brussels, Belgium
photo by Andrew Collins
One of the most popular gay bathhouses in Belgium, Macho Sauna (Rue du Marche au Charbon 106, 32-2-513-5667) appeals to a mix of locals, students, tourists, and international business execs - it's just a 10-minute walk from Grand Place, in the heart of the cozy but bustling gay nightlife district. As is common among Belgian gay saunas, Macho closes at midnight, making it more of a day-time and early evening venue. It usually opens at noon, but on Sunday mornings, the doors open at 8 am.

Macho opened in the early 1980s and had always been popular, but praise has been especially great recently, as new owners took over in 2008 and have done a fine job updating the facility, which is uniformly clean and inviting, and staffed by a friendly, helpful bunch. It's set over a few floors, which include a rooftop terrace. Discounts from the 18-euro admission are applied for certain times, such as Sunday mornings, and to younger (under 25 years old) guys. And happy birthday! If it's that special anniversary of your entrance into the world, you're given free admission. If you're a bit of a novice when it comes to gay bathhouse culture, Macho is an excellent place for your explorations - it's exceedingly comfortable, friendly, and well-located, and you won't often encounter the attitude that prevails at similar venues in some other big cities.

Brussels has a quite lively gay sauna scene. Another option that's also highly popular (drawing plenty of attractive men) is Sauna Spades 4 (23-25 Rue Bodeghem, 32-2-502-0772), which is just a short walk southwest of Macho, near Annessens metro station. This is another facility with a quite friendly staff and clientele, and prices and hours are about the same as Macho. Sauna Spades 4 also has a popular locale in the beautiful Flemish city of Gent.

Other options with more of a locals following include Club 3000, which comprises a six-story bathhouse, cinema, and sex shop and is down by Bruxelles-Midi train station at 9 Blvd. Jamar (32-2-522-1050). Club 3000 is your best bet late on weekends, as it's open until 6 am on Friday and Saturday nights. There's also Sauna La Griffe (43 Rue de Dinant, 32-2-512-6251), which is a bit smaller but quite nice, having been fully redesigned in summer 2009 - it's favored by older gents and lies just a 10-minute walk south of Grand Place.

Sauan Oasis (10 Rue van Orley, 32-2-218-0800) lies a bit northeast of the city center and is rather intimate though also clean and nicely maintained.

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