The platform for Belgium's international community

Search form

menu menu
  • Daily & Weekly newsletters
  • Buy & download The Bulletin
  • Comment on our articles

Up my street: The Bulletin's neighbourhood guide to Ixelles

21:26 16/09/2018

Expats are drawn to Ixelles by its cosmopolitan vibe and endless trendy bars, boutiques and restaurants. It’s a commune of contrasts, from the ponds of Flagey to the buzz of Matongé to the Cimetière with its student-heavy population. We asked Bulletin readers to tell us what it’s really like to live there.

Gaia Corlazzoli from Italy has lived here for a year. “It’s a cool and lively neighbourhood with lots of shops, bars and restaurants. The variety of Thai and Vietnamese restaurants in particular is great,” she says. “There are always people around, but the 71 bus to the centre is really slow and rents are really high.”

For Turkish expat Lale Sahsuvaroglu, who’s lived in the area for 20 years, it’s the best neighbourhood in the whole of Brussels. “I love living here. It’s in the middle of the city yet so green and has the best shopping and entertainment options.” Sarah Grace from Ireland is a fan of the small independent shops and cosy bars: “The shop windows are so pretty and inviting! Typographe is a really charming shop that sells the best cards, while Lasagne & Tiramisu does only two things but it does them brilliantly.”

Nicola Lennon from Ireland has lived in Ixelles for the past 15 years. “It’s a commune of diversity, in its landscape, architecture and its population,” she says. “I love the fact that I can walk pretty much everywhere. Having said that, Place Flagey has been badly renovated and the traffic has become unbearably heavy. I think the commune should bring back traffic lights there because drivers have no sense of courtesy and it ends up being one big bottleneck at rush hour.”

French-German expat Marianne Bläsi wouldn’t live anywhere else. “I love that it is so international and the restaurant scene is fantastic. It’s among Belgium’s most expensive neighbourhoods for a reason. I have all I need and love in Ixelles. I only leave to go downtown or to other communes if I really have to. It is calm, beautiful and close to nature. The architecture is amazing.”

“It’s a peaceful place to raise your children,” says Mina Solmaz of Turkey. “But the parks close too early. I love Chez Leo’s awesome coffee. It’s a very small family-run cafe and absolutely needs to be known by more people.”

After 12 years here, one anonymous Polish expat is still happy to call Ixelles home. “It’s probably one of the most diverse of all Brussels’ boroughs. There’s almost nothing in common between the bustle of Matongé and the posh streets round the ponds yet, somehow, it works,” they say. “Ixelles is not a melting pot, every area lives its own life, but there’s no ghetto mentality. Unfortunately, gentrification is on the way, and the cultural and associative grassroots life is very poor compared to Molenbeek, for instance.”

“It’s a lovely and diverse neighbourhood with bustling squares and architectural pearls,” according to one resident from Germany. “It’s in between the EU quarter and Matongé and offers the best of the two worlds. Place de Londres and Place Saint-Boniface are very lively squares, each with a unique character. There is a lot of traffic, so I’m glad to see changes already happening, like construction of a pedestrian zone in Chaussée d’Ixelles. It would be good to have streets that are more bike- and pedestrian friendly.”

Belgian Alicia Van Caillie agrees: “Ixelles is full of life, green and a wonderful place to live. There are lots of friendly bars, restaurants and activities to go to.” 

Favourite cafes, bars & restaurants: Ultime Atome, the Black Sheep, Café Belga, L’Amere à Boire, Dolma, Mumtaz, Cup 28, Ramdam, Cocina, La Locanda degli Amici, Mirabelle, Pizzeria Bellissimo, Mexigo, Le Tavernier, Chat Pitre for its concerts, Seoul, Callens, CO2, Quincaillerie for seafood, and Les Foudres

Favourite sights & culture: Place Flagey and the ponds, Abbaye de la Cambre, the Flagey building, Musée d'Ixelles, Parc Tenbosch, Cimetière d'Ixelles, the streets between Avenue Louise and Chaussée d’Ixelles, Petite Rue Malibran, l’Abbé Froidure and Tenbosch parks, Matongé, Saturday and Sunday market at Flagey and La Fleur du Pain for perfect bread, lunchtime concerts at the Point Culture Solbosch, Châtelain for restaurants and shopping

Positives

  • New restaurants opening every day
  • Lively and colourful with international vibe
  • Beautiful architecture
  • It has everything you need within walking distance 
  • Very friendly and diverse neighbourhood with life in every street
  • Close to nature
  • Young population
  • Good for young families and those without a car
  • Lots of cultural entertainment
  • Calm and safe
  • Close to city centre

Negatives

  • More public transport needed
  • Pavements need some improvement.   
  • It could be cleaner and there is too much traffic
  • Parking issues and lots of roadworks         
  • Expensive to rent
  • Victim of its own popularity     
  • Can be noisy
  • Buses are overfilled
Written by Sally Tipper