BRUSSELS — You can hear the birds chirping.
Over the regular hustle and bustle of the European Quarter, that’s a sound not typically audible.
It’s around lunchtime, and walking around what expats call Plux — Place du Luxembourg, the heart of Brussels’ EU quarter — the uniformity of grey suits has been replaced by tourist attire of sneakers and raincoats.
Some are taking pictures of the European Parliament — judging by the number of people gathered around it, apparently the most Instagrammable of EU institutions.
As the most important institutions driving politics on the Continent, the European Commission, Council and Parliament are usually a hive of activity.
The monumental glass and metal buildings where the European Union is administered are all enveloped in an aura of abandonment and calm.
When EU institutions enter summer mode, the area becomes a ghost town. There’s much less traffic, few pedestrians and many closed businesses.
Too bad for those unlucky few who are not taking a one-month-long holiday, but still count on having lunch outside the office.
Even Rue de la Loi, the usually busy road where pedestrians choke on exhaust fumes and struggle to avoid getting hit by both cars and bicycles, is calmer than usual.
It’s odd, this almost-silence. For someone who lives here, this imparts a sense of nostalgia, as if visiting a city where you used to live but now everyone has moved away.
The only people who appear to be working are the security guards on the perimeters of the buildings and construction workers in front of Altiero Spinelli, one of the Parliament’s buildings named after one of the EU’s founding fathers.
So … where can you eat? Some of the establishments on Plux are still open, including the Vester Bar or Poke House.
But the Eurocrats’ favorites — Le Coin du Diable, Karsmakers or Costa d’Amalfi — are all closed, with a note on the door announcing a long summer vacation, as they won’t be back until the end of August.
A couple of passersby are peeking inside Caffè Italiano, which is also closed, but with no note as to why.
Around Plux: If you’re in the mood for Italian, then Piada Bar, Le Montoyer or Porto Fino are still open. There’s also the Jeanbon sandwich bar or the Indian restaurant Star of Asia. If you’re around Schuman, you could try Papillon or Paninoteca Taste of Italy.
On Rue de la Loi, ASAP is back open, or you can hit Léopold Café Presse.
If everything else fails, there’s always Exki. Otherwise, try your luck at one of the other restaurants POLITICO has reviewed.
Or those boxed lunches you always say you’ll start prepping.