Help with choosing area of Brussels

(60 Posts)
bludot Mon 19-Aug-13 10:23:04

Hi everyone,
We'll be moving to Brussels this October with our son who's 14 months. We'll probably be there for two years, so we're thinking that schools won't be a massive problem as he likely won't start anything before leaving. However, we're having a hard time choosing where in the city to live. Ideally we would like somewhere we could find a lot of English speaking expat families with kids of the same age and also a location where we can walk to a lot of amenities; park, shopping etc.

We were looking at Ixelles or Etterbeck. Are these places good given our requirements? I have also looked at Boitsfort and Watermaal, but I was worried we would need to ride the tram for 40 minutes whenever we want to go shopping/meet people/to the park, since we don't have a car.

If anyone living in these areas could give me any ideas at all, that would be really great.


OP’s posts: |
luvmy4kids Mon 19-Aug-13 11:33:47

Oh no no no no no no no
Ixelles again. Where does everyone get the idea that Ixelles is a good place to live with children? Sorry sound really stroppy, but I am genuinely perplexed as to where this Ixelles thing comes from.

1) you cannot park in Ixelles
2) there are few playgrounds in Ixelles
3) in the north of the commune, it is highly dense and in places scruffy
4) it's overpriced
5) shops everywhere, you have no need to ride any tram for 40 minutes but in Ixelles the trams are mega slow so if you want to go anywhere else in the city, yes it could take at least 40 minutes.
6) with a 14 month old, they could go to school next school year, enrollments will start from September, very very hard to get into some schools even if you apply on time, lots of schools you'd not want to choose in Ixelles
7) you cannot park easily in Etterbeek either, slightly better situation regarding schools, prices and public transport at least.

The international population is basically east of the canal - Forest, St Gilles, Ixelles, Etterbeek, Auderghem, WSL, WSP, Schaerbeek, 1000 Bxl, Evere. Choose any.

Where is work?
What is shortest commute time to work?
What is your budget and what sort of housing?
There are playgrounds everywhere, though more in some places, less in some places, parks however are more plentiful out east, do you want open spaces or lots of city?

bludot Mon 19-Aug-13 15:18:32

The Ixelles idea came from reading about where the expat community was located and wanting it to be relatively easy to get around. This is particularly true since neither of us can drive, so we will be relaying on public transport. This also means parking isn't so much of an issue for us! smile

I think it is unlikely that our son will start school when he is 2.5. My wife wants to be at home with him so I don't think he is going to start anything full time before 3 years old.

Work is actually at the university in Louvain-La-Neuve, so we were trying to be near the train line heading out of the city so that the commute isn't too bad. Etterbeek, Ixelles, Watermaal etc border that trainline so that sort of constrained us. But I'm open to other ideas if you know something else.

Budget is probably up to 1000 euro/per month on rent. But that would be pushing it. But we are very flexible in terms of housing - a minimum would be a flat >50m^2 with separate bedroom and kitchen.

In terms of what we are looking for, city or lots of space is fine. Basically we want somewhere where it's easy for my wife and son to go out in the week to do different things (playground, shopping, other kid activities) and hopefully meet other kids his age. Ideally it would be nice to get to know some other parents too.

Thanks; I really appreciate the help and info!

OP’s posts: |
luvmy4kids Mon 19-Aug-13 17:18:32

Ixelles and LLN?????? HMMMM

Well public transport is TERRIBLE in Ixelles for speed, unless you live right in the north next to the metro and believe me that is not where you should live with children.

LLN, what is wrong with living there? It's quite a distance to Brussels so why not live near to work? You are looking at a big commute without a car to UCL in LLN. Even from the furthest south stations in Brussels region, Boitsfort or Watermael (less trains stop there), it's 30 to 45 minutes by train to LLN and trains are once an hour outside peak times. I wouldn't consider anywhere in Brussels region to live other than there. You will however find a smaller community of English speaking parents much closer to LLN in La Hulpe, Genval and Rixensart which are only 20-30 minutes away. Housing is much cheaper in these towns. For 1000 euro a month in Boitsfort, you would not get a very big place and maybe a 2 bed house, in Rixensart you would get a house and a much bigger one.

The other advantage of Rixensart is that LLN is accessible also by bus.

As for your wife meeting up with people, well 99% of locals have their children in school full time aged 2.5 years and many international families do too. There is therefore little chance other the BCT coffee mornings (google BCT Belgium) for under 5 year olds not at school. There is a group based in Rixensart / Genval / La Hulpe, as well as one in Watermael-Boitsfort.

I would seriously look at living closer to LLN.

I would completely cross off Ixelles and Etterbeek and consider only the area near Boitsfort station (more trains stop there than Watermael).

Rixensart/La Hulpe schools

Brussels schools

LoisPuddingLane Mon 19-Aug-13 19:47:25

I lived in Ixelles last year. It's one of the biggest communes and, to my view, not very child friendly. I was working as a nanny in Woluwe St Pierre which has an ENORMOUS park (Parc de Woluwe). Nearest metro is Montgomery.

Another thing about Ixelles is it really isn't on a metro line. Louise is right at the tip of it but other than that it's buses and trams.

Also the office where you go to register your residence in Ixelles is appalling and chaotic.

I now live in Gent smile.

bludot Mon 19-Aug-13 21:33:08

Thanks, I really appreciate the detailed advice.

Could you possibly elaborate on the problems with the north of Ixelles? Crime? Or is it just run down and far from parks etc?

Yes, I would get the train from either Etterbeek station or Watermaal/Boitsfort. There are other people working at the university who do the same apparently (I had asked previously), it takes about an hour door-to-door which isn't ideal, but not impossible. The reason to live in Brussels was to give my wife and son something to do easily each day. It seems like if we lived out in La Hulpe, Genval and Rixensart we would really need a car.

We did already contact the BCT, but the BCT for La Hulpe, Genval and Rixensart seems to be spread over a number of small towns which are difficult to get between using public transport. My wife and I have visions of her standing in the rain at some bus stop waiting for a late bus to show up. In Brussels we were hoping things would be much easier to get between.

We are currently living in Germany and we really like it here. We live within walking distance of a number of parks/playgrounds and other fun things to do with our son. Plus since we frequent the playgrounds so much we have begun to make friends with others with kids. I guess I was looking for some place in Brussels that might approximate that sort of thing. With so many kids staring school at 2.5, are the parks going to be deserted on weekdays?

OP’s posts: |
runningmad Mon 19-Aug-13 21:49:31

Ahem north Ixelles is not really an option surely? The train station in Etterbeek is quite a distance by bus away, why would you put yourself through that journey when you could live in beautiful Boitsfort. You are adding a minimum 30 minutes extra, the total journey could end up 90 minutes and to Rixensart could be 20 minutes.

Schools are crap in north Ixelles.

Rixensart, Genval and La Hulpe are connected by train, what is hard about that? Plus connected by bus. Why do you need to travel between these towns? In fact Rixensart is great. It has a fab pool, sports hall, playgrounds, supermarkets, several good schools. Remember many Bruxellois aspire to live in Brussels, rarely the other way around.

I've never owned a car and would have no problems living in that area.

You are going to have major problems encountering 3 year olds in playgrounds in school time, you will find hardly any, as they are nearly all at school.

You don't need to wait for buses to turn up any more, the online bus locations are on any smartphone.

If you really want to live in Brussels region, go for Boitsfort. Look at this house, almost next door to a very very desirable school, near a beautiful park with playground, near the forest, near the tram. This area of Brussels is a real gem "coin du balai" where you find benches in front of houses and a real community.

or this one in the same area


runningmad Mon 19-Aug-13 21:57:42

And try and get a house like that in north Ixelles.

In north Ixelles
crap schools
long walk to park
even longer walk to forest
no sports centres
lot of traffic
no fast tram like in Boitsfort
no kids

If you want to travel from Etterbeek station where it is still noisy and dirty, at least live near it, like Cimetiere area of Ixelles, part of Auderghem, look south of the station, not north.

You'll still be far from a playground
lots of traffic
schools variable and good ones almost impossible to get in to

Boitsfort, well if you took one of those 2 Boitsfort houses, La Sapiniere schools is perfect, or l'Assomption, again excellent. The ethnic mix at these schools will be better for international families too. For north Ixelles, Arabic or Lingala is helpful.

LoisPuddingLane Tue 20-Aug-13 08:34:51

Ixelles to LLN would be a huge pain in the arse. If you are in the Chatelain area (about half way down Ave Louise) a tram takes you to the Gare du Midi where you can catch a train to LLN.

Namur is not so far from LLN and looks nice.

Portofino Tue 20-Aug-13 08:41:48

You can get the train from Schuman to LLN in 40 mins - meaning you could easily 10 mins metro out into Woluwe St Lambert/Woluwe St Pierre. Lots and lots of expat families and activities in that area. Most of the people I know live there and nice parks, cafes, cinema, good public transport etc

Portofino Tue 20-Aug-13 08:47:17

In terms of location this is excellent. Metro/tram across the road. Shops/market/Schools etc on the doorstep. 10 mins to Schuman by metro.

Portofino Tue 20-Aug-13 08:52:10

A MNetter lives in this street, 5 mins from the Metro.

runningmad Tue 20-Aug-13 11:10:25

Take the last apartment!!!!!! I know it very well you could say and the landlord has taken a long long time trying to get it renovated.

You don't take the train to LLN though, you take a TEC bus called CBIS. It's 40 minutes in theory to LLN and the bus stop from that house is a 5 minute walk. It's not a regular timetable and not weekends. Sometimes 2 buses an hour and sometimes a bus every 90 minutes.

The alternative is indeed Schuman area, I totally forgot about there, but apartments are more expensive there than Stockel (in WSP or Kraainem) which is the apartment above.

runningmad Tue 20-Aug-13 11:24:25
The stop near the apartment above is PRINSEDAL.

Please read my PM URGENT!!!!!!!

bludot Tue 20-Aug-13 12:08:02

Wow, I hadn't realised how active this thread was. Thanks everyone for these suggestions. I think that the WSP area is definitely looking more attractive now. The bus seems like a good idea, I actually checked the LLN uni website and it said it was essentially a shuttle bus to the university so that people can commute. Which sounds ideal! I'll be back to this thread in a bit. I am at work at the moment, so my attention is divided.

OP’s posts: |
runningmad Tue 20-Aug-13 12:31:21

yes that's a good description of the CBis bus, most people on the bus will be connected with the university, that is precisely why it starts where it start in Brussels, it doesn't just connect with 3 metro stations, it also goes past the WSL site of UCL for those who work / study at both sites.

runningmad Tue 20-Aug-13 13:12:15

The CBis bus passes through WSL along AvEmile Vandervelde / Av Wezembeek then turns down Av Reine Astrid, then down Ave Baron d'Huart then express on RO and E411 to Wavre then LLN.

You'd want to be nearest to the 5 bus stops between Roodebeek metro and Prinsedal, they are all near metro stations too, if you ever have to go to LLN by train instead and you take the metro to Schuman (not gare Centrale which is further and takes 10 minutes longer by train due to northern train line loop). The 5 bus stops are in or near WSL 1200, WSP 1150, Wezembeek 1970 and Kraainem 1970 and I'd not want to be more than 400m from one of those stops. To me Prinsedal and Wilderozenweg are the 2 best stops to be near, they are both close to Place Dumon where the shops, metro and cinema are, as well as 4 schools a short walk away.

LoisPuddingLane Tue 20-Aug-13 21:32:18

Trust me, you wouldn't want to live in the Schuman area unless you had to. They are doing major works to the railway there and it's a complete mess. Also, you would be right in the middle of the EU sector. I worked as a nanny (alongside my other nanny job) in Schuman and trying to push a pushchair through ambling Eurocrats and their visitors was a nightmare. There are a couple of little playgrounds - Ambiorix and one near Malbeek station. But it's a horrid area.

LoisPuddingLane Tue 20-Aug-13 21:33:21

As for the northern part of Ixelles - fancy shops and not a lot else. Quite expensive. Port de Namur is a bit dirty. Crime in Brussels is much like other major cities.

Longtime Tue 20-Aug-13 22:42:22

Best place for your wife to live in my opinion is stockel which is part of woluwe st Pierre. See apartment above. Straight metro into town, shops, a market, even a cinema. Lots of expats (and mumsnetters) too. If not, boots fort is really nice. I live in Auderghem next to Boitsfort, Etterbeek, Woluwe St Pierre and Ixelles. I would definitely head towards Boitsfort and Woluwe over Ixelles and Etterbeek.

Longtime Tue 20-Aug-13 22:44:14

Oh for goodness' sake! Boots fort = Boitsfort. Silly autocorrect!

Portofino Tue 20-Aug-13 23:13:41

Bludot, I have been here 7 years, and we will give up our garden to live near Stockel as that really is where the expat action is. And I have to say we are thinking of secondary school so am a bit biased.

runningmad Wed 21-Aug-13 10:33:26

Schuman area is however popular with those working at the commission with a handful of pretty decent schools which are hard to get places at and the rest full of a different social group so quite a polarised population there.

The advantage Stockel area has over Boitsfort is there are more rentals there as the OP has discovered. Plus it's quicker to get to BCT HQ on the tram in 10 minutes or to the local coffee mornings. Dare I say Le Pain Qutidien and Le Moulin de mes Délices is also a bit of a pull, coffee and croissant for 2 euro and puschair friendly, silly reason for choosing an area, but there are loads of reasons why Stockel and Boitsfort are better than any part of Ixelles or Etterbeek when working in LLN - other than the area of Etterbeek which makes up part of Schuman quartier.

bludot Wed 21-Aug-13 17:04:43

Hi everyone,
Bit of a rough time. Nearly managed to get that flat on Francois Peter street, but it was taken just before I arrived for the viewing/sign contract. I think we might try taking the flat directly on the square in Stockel. Is this a good idea with a little kid? What is the square like, is it loud at night, heavy traffic etc..? Is Stockel a good enough area that I can assume the neighbours are not going to be booming out music late into the night? I'm not so familiar with living in such a big block of flats!

Any info would be so appreciated. It's really hard doing this remotely!

OP’s posts: |
Portofino Wed 21-Aug-13 20:40:18

No discos or anything. The tram runs past and there is a market on Saturday am. It will be relatively quiet in the evening/weekends. I would live in it if that helps. You have everything on your doorstep.

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