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Dead nice: the Ixelles cemetery neighbourhood
The cemetery in Ixelles dates back to 1877, which makes it one of the oldest in Brussels. Known for its many stately tombs, it serves as a final resting place for many of the commune’s influential inhabitants, such as scientist Ernest Solvay, Nobel Prize winner Jules Bordet and Frederic Neuhaus, the man who invented chocolate pralines.
Line Martens, 24, works in advertising and grew up just a few streets from the cemetery. She has seen remarkable change in the area in the past few years. “It used to be packed with only restaurants around here,” she says. “Mainly Thai or Vietnamese places, which made the area a hotspot for the Asian community. But then students from the nearby ULB and VUB started to stay in the area after their studies.
This resulted in a lot of trendy new bars, which attracted a younger crowd from all over Brussels.” As the area became more popular, the commune of Ixelles started to invest more money in renovation. “A year ago, the roundabout near the cemetery was done up, and more space was created on the pavements for the bars’ terraces,” Line says. “Unfortunately, property prices went up drastically as well. I never thought I could afford to stay in this area, but I recently inherited my grandparents’ house. It needs a lot of work, but I’m so happy I don’t have to leave!”
Even though she has lived there all her life, Line still discovers new places every now and then. “I can’t believe I only just discovered L’Atelier (77 Rue Elise) a while ago, but then again, the bar is a bit hidden and located in a small street where I rarely walk,” she says. “L’Atelier has a dark wood interior and an extensive list of beers. It closes rather early, so it’s not the place to make it a long night, although you might not need to once you start downing their shots of absinthe.” Luckily, there are plenty of other bars to go to afterwards. “Le Ratabar (345 Chaussée de Boondael) is famous for its sous marins (submarines), a pint of beer with a tiny glass of sweet liquor at the bottom. I prefer Montmartre (344 Chaussée de Boondael), though: a no-nonsense bar that’s popular with students and has a room in the back with a pool table and darts.” Music lovers have plenty of options as well. “I used to go to Le Tavernier (445 Chaussée de Boondael) a lot when I was a student, but now I only go when they have gigs on. I love the Latin and jazz concerts with live DJs – and I always have one of their notorious mojito pitchers,” she says smiling. “On Thursday evenings, you can find me at the hip-hop night at Urban Café (465 Chaussée de Boondael)”. If you just want to relax, Line suggests a hot chocolate in front of the open fireplace at La Bécasse (476 Chaussée de Boondael), just by the roundabout.
You don’t have to look far for nice restaurants, either. “I love Thai place Tom Yam (341 Chaussée de Boondael), with its kitschy but cosy interior,” Line says. “I always order a number 33 – yellow chicken curry – and best of all, you can watch the chef prepare your dish on a TV screen in the restaurant area. But make sure you check the pepper icons next to every dish, as things can get pretty spicy. They deliver as well, which is genius. I’ve got them on speed dial on my phone.” Less exotic but also highly recommended is L’Artisan (316 Chaussée de Boondael). “The place is tiny and always packed, so you need to make a reservation,” Line says. “Their little stone oven bakes the best pizzas and lasagnes and the atmosphere is very homely. The menu features some strange meals too, like the crocodile lasagne, for instance. I don’t think I’ll ever try that one, though.” And Line, ever loyal to her neighbourhood, claims her local takeaway L’Etoile (314 Chaussée de Boondael) has the best fries and durums in town.
Around the cemetery you’ll mainly find old townhouses, while closer to the universities, houses are a bit newer, dating back to the 1970s. Renting a two-bedroom apartment will easily cost €950; to buy, property costs about €3,000 per square metre
Buses 95 and 71 stop right at the cemetery, or walk up from tram stop Jeanne on lines 25 and 94
Meet the neighbours
The area has a large east Asian community, plus lifelong Belgian residents and newer, younger couples and expats
In & around Cimetière d’Ixelles
One of the city’s biggest cemeteries also serves as final resting place for some of Brussels’ most influential people
Pool hall and American bar. 92 Avenue des Saisons
Multi-brand fashion store that’s anything but cheap. 110 Avenue des Saisons
Kids’ store with gifts, toys and accessories. 417 Chaussée de Boondael
Line says: “Unlike other student areas, Cimetière doesn’t empty out on the weekends. There’s always something to do here, and the bars and restaurants are always busy. I never feel unsafe walking home after a night out, either. I guess that’s why I feel so at home here.”
Photos by Dieter Telemans