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Two squared in Brussels' EU district: Square Ambiorix

16:33 01/07/2013
Marte Borhaug and Willem De Goede, from Norway and the Netherlands respectively, show The Bulletin around Square Ambiorix

Square Ambiorix, named after the famous Gaul, is a lovely green square at the heart of the European district. It’s a few hundred metres from the Berlaymont building, home to the European Commission, and Place du Luxembourg, home to the European Parliament. Marte Borhaug from Norway and her partner Willem De Goede from the Netherlands, both 26, live just off the square, in an apartment that looks out onto the Commission. The couple met during their Master’s studies in London and came to Brussels in 2010 to work as interns. Both have now managed to find fixed jobs, Marte working for The Brussels Office, Willem for the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers. “After visiting apartments in Ixelles and Etterbeek, we chose the one near Ambiorix because it has a lot of light and space and a nice kitchen,” Willem says. “The location wasn’t that important, although it’s convenient to live so close to work.”

Willem is one of thousands working in the area, which explains the high density of  restaurants and bars on Rue Archimède, the street connecting Square Ambiorix to the Schuman roundabout. “La Brace (1 Rue Franklin) has friendly waiters and good pizza,” Marte says. “You can also find us at Piola Libri (66-68 Rue Franklin), an Italian book shop, where you can also have a glass of wine and some tapas.” Willem continues: “For good pub food, we go to The Old Oak (26 Rue Franklin). They serve burgers, nachos and spring rolls.” The Old Oak is an Irish pub that also serves Irish fry-ups and Sunday roasts. The street has two specialised food stores, with Spanish treats at Sabores de España (66 Rue Franklin) and a small selection of Scandinavian and British products at Gourmet Food (59 Rue Franklin). For a taste of Belgium, head to brasserie SteakFrit’ (65 Rue Archimède). “As we often eat out for lunch at work, we like to cook our own dinner rather than eating out again,” Marte says. “We have a large supermarket around the corner, and I find fruit and vegetables in Brussels so much better than in Oslo.”

With so many pubs around, the area reminds the couple of their stay in the UK. “The Old Oak is one of our favourite pubs, and The Hairy Canary (12 Rue Archimède) has got much better since the smoking ban. Its carpets no longer stink of smoke,” Willem says. “Kitty O’ Shea’s (42 Boulevard Charlemagne) is a good one too, and they organise regular pub quizzes.” But living in an area with so many pubs makes Marte a little nostalgic for her former home town. “When I lived in London, getting out of the tube on my way home, I used to walk through a very multicultural neighbourhood and meet street musicians on every corner. Where we live now is a lot neater but it is more culturally homogenous.”

This part of Etterbeek is humming with activity during the week, but at the weekends it’s the opposite. “On weekdays we often get traffic jams up our street. We also know by the amount of police and helicopters around when there’s something’s happening on the European political agenda,” Willem jokes. “But on Saturday and Sunday the neighbourhood becomes quiet and residential. It would be nice if there were a lounge café around where you could sit and read the newspapers.” But with not much to do in their own area, the young couple spend most of their weekends exploring. “Willem always goes for a morning run at Cinquantenaire Park,” Marte says. “Afterwards, we head down to Flagey or Saint Boniface, or we go to visit another city like Antwerp or Bruges. That’s what I love about Brussels, everything is so close by.”



Rent of a small studio starts at around €650 a month; a two-bedroom flat usually costs up to double that amount. To buy a house, expect to pay around €2,600 per square metre (Trovit Immo)


The heart of the ‘heart of Europe’ is home to a large transport network with metro lines 1 and 5, buses 12, 21 (to the airport), 22, 60 and 79, and a taxi stand at the roundabout on Rue de la Loi all serving the area. Metered parking is available


Internationally diverse during the week, but once the expats have left on Saturday and Sunday, mainly older Belgian people populate the area 


Piola LibriPopular Italian bookshop, restaurant and deli with live music and free wifi. 66-68 Rue Franklin

Square AmbiorixThe neighbourhood’s older Belgian population come out to play at the weekend

BerlaymontHome of the European Commission, nicknamed the ‘Berlaymonster’

La BraceFor real Italian pizzas just like mamma used to make – if your mother is Italian and has a wood-fired oven... 1 Rue Franklin

Photos by Dieter Telemans

Written by Katrien Lindemans



Square Ambiorix and surrounds isn't in Etterbeek, it's Bruxelles Ville!

Jul 1, 2013 18:39

Quite right you are, too. We mulled this over, seeing as many of the places recommended/mentioned in the article are indeed in 1000 Brussels.
We do feel, however, that referring to the Square Ambiorix area (or, for that matter, the whole length of Avenue Louise) as "Bruxelles-Ville" can be seriously misleading.
At least Haren, Laeken and Neder-over-Heembeek have the good grace of having distinct postcodes! ;-)

Jul 2, 2013 10:17

It's also Square Ambiorix too, not Place Ambiorix, small point compared to getting the name of the commune wrong.
How can Bruxelles Ville or more technically correct Ville de Bruxelles be misleading? It's factually correct, whereas calling this area of Ville de Bruxelles part of Etterbeek is factually incorrect and therefore misleading.

Jul 2, 2013 13:01

My Belgian in-laws live on the corner of Rue Archimede and Sq Ambiorix, and refer to the area as Etterbeek/Schaarbeek, even though they have a 1000 post code and technically live in ville de Bruxelles

Jul 2, 2013 13:24

Having ascertained that you were absolutely right in your earlier post (and, indeed, in the most recent one about Square Ambiorix), the point about being "misleading" was that, in Brussels, when people talk about Ville de Bruxelles / Stad Brussel, the area that springs to mind is not Square Ambiorix, nor the Sonian Forest, nor the Abbaye / Abbey area of Avenue Louise. We ran a similar piece years ago on the Vleurgat/Louise area (Tagawa, Rick's etc), and everyone we interviewed was happy to refer to it as an Ixelles neighbourhood. Which we all know is technically wrong. Like a peanut is not a nut, black is not a colour, Jack Daniels is not bourbon and the Lion of Waterloo is not in Waterloo.

Jul 2, 2013 13:34

i stand to be corrected however i think this bit 'head to brasserie SteakFrit’ (65 Rue Archimède)' is completely wrong. Steakfrit's been closed for a while and has been taken over as 'funky monkey'.
also Barca Blu does great pizza and the waiter and pizzaiolo are both really great guys

Aug 12, 2013 19:34

“When I lived in London, getting out of the tube on my way home, I used to walk through a very multicultural neighbourhood and meet street musicians on every corner. Where we live now is a lot neater but it is more culturally homogenous.”

If you're looking for that sort of thing Marte, nothing could be easier, just come downtown!

Jun 5, 2014 15:59