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

20:11 12/11/2018

Vast and varied, Schaerbeek is a popular choice for those seeking multicultural communities and affordable property within easy reach of the EU institutions and the city centre. We asked Bulletin readers to tell us what it’s like to live there.

“It’s diverse and welcoming,” says one Scottish resident who’s lived in Schaerbeek more than 20 years. “The whole world is here. It’s like a bunch of little villages where the people get on, in general.”

“Schaerbeek is vibrant, colourful and multicultural, a bit dirty and in need of investment, but fun, green, friendly and still affordable,” according to one resident from Northern Ireland, who also rates it for the people, the parks, the local shops, cafes and restaurants, and the ease of access to the city centre and shopping malls. On the downside, however: “There needs to be a general increase in public transport – the trams and buses are always packed – many people have little respect for public spaces, and it needs better schooling (and more Dutch-speaking schools), more cool bars and restaurants, more investment in general in business, and a facelift of Chaussée d’Helmet.”

Belgian Isabelle has lived here for almost four years and enjoys “the kaleidoscopic culture, organic food, global citizenship and family feel. It’s a place where artists, entrepreneurs and social innovators can create new ways of living together. Schaerbeek has been stigmatised in the media, sadly.” Schaerbeek is “a hidden gem with lots of potential”, according to Malaysian expat Diana. “The cleanliness and safety could be improved by encouraging the residents to feel they are part of the neighbourhood.”

According to Philippe, a Belgian who has also lived in Vietnam, Italy and the UK, “it’s a diverse commune with some lesser-known areas that are a delight to live in. It’s very residential, yet I can find everything I need within a 250m radius, from a car mechanic to a toy store – though I could do with a good coffee shop in the immediate vicinity. There’s a market every Friday afternoon/evening where the whole community comes together for an end-of-week apéro.”

“Schaerbeek is vibrant and ungentrified, with great architectural heritage,” says Huw from the UK, who moved here from Portugal. “I like it for its parks, good house prices and great public transport, but a little gentrification like decent coffee shops wouldn’t go amiss.” Estonian Hans, meanwhile, describes it as “bohemian and metropolitan, a bit fancy in some places but not trying too hard”, and rates it for the proximity of the EU institutions and the city centre, plus its local shops and bars.

“It’s a mix of beautiful, quiet and green areas with ugly, dirty, crowded parts,” says one Romanian resident. “There is beautiful architecture and huge potential but unfortunately some parts are populated by impolite, dangerous people. Some areas feel like they have been abandoned by the authorities or by the police. I would also like to see more bike lanes.”

Reports of service at the town hall are mixed, and several respondents to our reader survey would like to see more services offered in English, given the large number of non-Belgians living in the area. As well as the main town hall at Place Collignon, there is a satellite office close to Place Dailly.

“There are two Schaerbeeks: the old and the new,” says Jose from Portugal. “There are green areas and easy access. Sometimes it gets crowded on the surrounding streets.” “There is lots of open space, and some beautiful neighbourhoods,” adds Belgo-Iranian Hamed. “It’s calm yet has quick access to the city centre. Some areas (such as around Place Liedts and closer to Gare du Nord) should really be much better managed in every way.” Victoria from Scotland told us: “It’s an under-rated, diverse, friendly commune of hidden gems and great people. But transport links across the commune aren’t great – a metro line would be ideal.” 

Favourite spots

Buvette Saint-Sebastian in Josaphat Park • Barboteur wine, beer and spirits shop • Copain bar • Friday market at Place des Chasseurs Ardennais • La Buca Di Bacco Italian restaurant • L’Âne vert family-run brasserie • Josaphat ParkLa Maison des Femmes community organisation • Market on Saturdays at Place d’Helmet • Apex CoffeeChez Felix wine bar • 1030 CaféCôté Gourmand bakery and patisserie • Les Ecuries van de Tram event space • Potverdoemmeke traditional Belgian restaurant • Musée de la BièreAah La Belle Epoque bakery and cafe • Chez Marraine burger restaurant and cocktail bar • The Place to Cheese • Turkish restaurants on Chaussée de Haecht and Place Liedts • Patisserie Van DenderL’EstaminetFromagerie l’AlpageBabelmet cafe and cultural exchange • Les Trouvailles de Louise cafe and grocery • Train World railway museum • Glacier CocozzaDon Louis Portuguese restaurant • Bar du GaspiLe Caveau du Max for wine and Sardinian specialities • Zinneke organic restaurant

Positives

  • Interesting architecture. 
  • Vibrant & multicultural community
  • Good public transport
  • Easy access to city centre and EU institutions
  • Affordable property

Negatives

  • Too much traffic and lack of parking spaces
  • Many footpaths need maintenance work
  • No metro
  • Some areas are dirty and feel unsafe
Written by Sally Tipper

Comments

danbru

Yep. Schaerbeek.
Indeed, that was the original name of the commune.
When the combination "ae" was replaced by "aa" in Dutch, the francophones had to be awkward again and stick to the older spelling.
So it became "Schaerbeek" in French and "Schaarbeek" in Dutch.
Most francophones prefer to "forget" that the whole of Brussels was Flemish from the very beginning to the mid 19th century, when the francophones (and francofiles) took over.
They often refer to Dutch as "le Flamand", (cette langue paysanne).
The Bulletin apparently teams up with the francophones: c'est plus chic.

Nov 18, 2018 05:48