Brussels is many cities in one. It is
the bilingual capital of Belgium, where the official languages are French and Dutch; it calls itself the Capital of Europe, home to both the EU and NATO headquarters; medieval
and modern architecture are only blocks apart; and visitors may experience two widely
different cities: a gray, bureaucratic town and a culturally rich city with spots
of charm. Drawing a diverse European and international resident population,
Brussels is a multinational gem in the heart of the continent.
is it known for?
Today, thousands of EU and NATO employees from all over the
world live and work in Brussels, not to mention those employed at the attendant
institutions, organisations, lobbying groups and media that round out the city's
political universe. It makes for a diverse cultural scene overlaid onto a
seemingly staid bourgeois city. “You can find people from every corner of
Europe, from Lisbon to Tallinn, as well as communities from Africa and
Turkey,” said longtime resident Genevra Forwood. “Plus there is the ongoing
political, cultural and linguistic wrestling match between the Flemish [Dutch
speaking], Walloons [French speaking] and Bruxellois [bilingual].”
The heart of the city is the dazzling Grand-Place,
a central square lined with ornate 17th-century guildhalls. The
streets in the surrounding Sablon district are lined with fabulous antique
stores, lovely little cafes and fine chocolatiers such as Pierre Marcolini
and Jean Galler. Stunning
examples of Art Nouveau architecture abound throughout the city; examples
include the Horta
Museum, designed by Victor Horta, a pioneer of the style in the 19th
Century, and the Maison
Cauchie, designed by another famed Belgium architect and artist,
Paul Cauchie, The Magritte Museum is dedicated to the works of
surrealist Rene Magritte, one of Belgium’s most famous artists.
Today’s artists and designers are also
having an effect on the city. The cool design shops and avant-garde fashion that
people expect from hip sister city Antwerp can now be found in Brussels,
especially in the Dansaert district. There are also grand parks, fine cultural
institutions, the cream of Belgian beers and endless amounts of moules frites (mussels and fries), all
in a walkable area. “Everything is much more accessible,” Forwood said. “Housing
prices mean you can actually live in the area you want more or less and have
garden or decent outdoor space. The city is small enough to cross town in half
an hour on public transport, and you don’t need to book tickets or a table
three months in advance.”
do you want to live?
Brussels is made up of 19 communes, including the city
centre, which date back to the 13th Century. The communes of Ixelles
and Etterbeek, just south of the centre, are popular with internationals and
their families. Just further south, the districts of Uccle and Woluwe are
affluent residential areas with a mix of apartment buildings, single-family
homes, villas and abundant green spaces. “For the international community,
these locations provide the easiest commute, the most welcoming local community
and the greatest selection of international schools,” explained Jean de
Kerchove of Immobiliere Le Lion, a Knight Frank affiliate.
Other communes that are gaining popularity
include multicultural St-Josse and diverse Schaerbeek, just north of the city
centre. In addition, expats are also drawn to suburbs such as Waterloo, about
15km south of Brussels, as well as peaceful Wezembeek-Oppem and family-friendly
Kraainem, about 10km to the east.
Brussels is located in the middle of Belgium, so on the
weekends many Bruxellois head north to coastal towns such as Oostende
and De Haan, or Cadzand
in Dutch Zeeland in the Netherlands. They also travel south to the forests,
valleys and enchanting villages of the French-speaking Ardennes region, such as
There are frequent connections to Belgium’s other major cities of Antwerp and
Ghent, as well as to canal-laced Bruges.
The Eurostar connects Brussels to Paris
in 90 minutes and to London in two hours, while Amsterdam and Luxembourg are
both about two hours away by rail. Many German towns are also within
easy driving distance, including Aachen and Cologne, a popular winter
destination for its superb Christmas market. There are direct flights to most
European cities and many international destinations from Brussels
The housing market in Brussels is currently flat, and it is
a buyer’s market with increased stock and low demand. “The buyer is seeing a
greater degree of choice, and this naturally puts pressure on pricing,
especially if the property is outside the core locations,” de Kerchove said.
Most international buyers are
interested in single-family homes, and the average price in the popular
districts is between 1.5 and 2.5 million euros. The average cost of a
two-bedroom apartment is around 750,000 to two million euros.
The average rental price for a
three-bedroom apartment in the city centre is around 1,500 euros per month.
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