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

20:46 12/08/2018

Calm and family-friendly, Etterbeek is a popular choice with Brussels’ international community. It’s close to the EU institutions and has good transport links to the city centre, while its parks – including Cinquantenaire – are a big draw.

While not the edgiest or most vibrant part of the capital, there are some good restaurants and food stores, and the foreigners desk at the town hall is reasonably helpful towards those moving into the area. We surveyed Bulletin readers for their thoughts on life in Etterbeek.

Gemma Brown from the UK has lived there for seven years. “Etterbeek is a friendly and bustling place, with great shops and eateries. It’s close to the EU institutions but still has a neighbourhood feeling, with lovely parks and good transport infrastructure, and it’s easy to cycle around,” she says. “But I’d like to see more pedestrian areas around La Chasse and Place Jourdan, new trams on the 81 line, and better bike lanes especially on Boulevard General Jacques.”

Veronica Cornacchione from Italy moved to Etterbeek a year ago. “It’s safe, clean, green, well served by public transport and has many shopping opportunities,” she says. “I love the fact that I have everything I need here: public transport, gyms, plenty of shops. It is a pretty safe district. However, in some streets that are quite deserted at night more patrols are needed.”

Ellie Mears from the UK has lived in Etterbeek for a year. “I like the many summer events and festivals in Park Cinquantenaire,” she says. “Though it’s a bit dull for my liking. Also, there are many non-Belgians like me living here. So it’s good if you want to meet other international people, not so good if you want to meet actual Belgians.” Bolivian Enrique Paz agrees. “It’s residential and peaceful, but there’s not much to do. For leisure I go to other communes.”

For Katerina Pleskotova from the Czech Republic, it’s a lively neighbourhood full of opportunities, with the European quarter just around the corner. Bulgarian Rumyana Gusheva has lived here for 10 years and likes it for its great parks, nice squares, and bars and restaurants. “Jean-Felix Hap garden is a tiny green park worth visiting. The staff at the town hall are helpful, but they need more English-speaking staff.”

François Lestanguet from France adds: “It’s a great part of the city! Very safe, with nice people and plenty of shops and bars. Though it’s difficult to park around here.” After 15 years of living in the area, Irish expat Caroline feels at home here. “It’s better than most other communes,” she says. “There’s good transport, it’s fairly clean – but more cleaning of the streets is needed, please! There are a few good restaurants and decent shopping.” Her top tip for food is pizza from the family-run Au Nouveau Pont on Avenue de l’Armée.

Michiel from the Netherlands appreciates the area for its calmness and its location. “There are lots of international people here, and it’s central with lovely parks, though I’m not keen on some of the ugly architecture and the cycling infrastructure is poor. I like to spend time in Park Cinquantenaire and eat at Hanoi Station.”

Danish expat Mette Fallesen describes Etterbeek as “charming and vibrant. It has both green areas and a very vibrant city feel to it. It’s perhaps a bit expensive to rent property here. I like to shop at The Barn organic market and Les Délices du Coin, a little neighbourhood bakery. And needless to say, Park Cinquantenaire is a real plus.”      

Favourite spots: Brasserie Carpe Diem, friterie Maison Antoine, FreshMed supermarket, The Barn organic market, Snack Libanais for great Lebanese food, second-hand shops along La Chasse, Café Leopold, Hanoi Station Vietnamese restaurant, Living Room cafe, Place Jourdan, Espadon swimming pool and the parks – Cinquantenaire, Felix Hap and Leopold.

Positives

  • Central, calm, clean, well-run little commune 
  • Beautiful, multicultural neighbourhood
  • Increasingly interesting, good for families
  • Close to train station, public transport and city centre
  • Town hall foreigners desk is reasonably easy to deal with
  • Lively community close to shops, markets, entertainment, bars, restaurants and public transport. Everything is on your doorstep, there’s no need to go too much further afield or drive every day
  • Large and extremely varied
  • Despite being very near Parliament, it’s still very much a place for local people
  • There are several small, lesser-known theatres in the area that do great things

Negatives

  • Very little nightlife, a bit boring
  • Laws against dumping garbage and dog mess needs to be better enforced
  • Problems with noise and traffic jams       
  • High rental prices        
  • There’s no metro in some areas           
  • Not enough bars and restaurants     
  • Too many cars, not enough parking, overfilled and outdated trams

Photo: Stephane Mignon/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons

Written by Sally Tipper