Famous for its chocolate, beer, waffles and frites (don't ever call them French Fries if you don't want to end up in an awkward situation with locals), Brussels is undoubtedly the political and cultural heart of Europe.
Many diplomats and skilled expats from all over the world move to Brussels every year. In fact, today, over 27% of the country’s population is made up of immigrants.
If you are moving to Brussels, rest assured that the city features a high quality of life, mild weather, healthcare benefits, world-class education and open-minded people. Brussels is made up of 19 communes (neighbourhoods or arrondissements, if we were in Paris) and each of them has their own postcode and government officials, like a mayor.
Like in London, Berlin and Madrid, certain neighbourhoods are more desirable than others. While each of the 19 communes has something special to offer, after in-depth research with locals and expats, I have compiled the following list of the top six.
1 - Brussels Ville
Brussels City lies among the boulevards that envelop “the ring” or the historic and commercial centre of the capital. The Royal Palace,** Grand Place** and the Brussels Stock Exchange are all here.
Most expats working or studying in the capital choose to rent an apartment here, not only because they can walk to work, but also because of its fun nightlife.
Finding accommodation here can be quite a challenge, but thankfully, we've got you covered. Moving alone? This furnished room could be for you. Moving with a family and a dog? Then this gorgeous apartment is what you need. Remember that being right in the heart of the city, traffic and parking can be a bit of a headache during peak hours and weekend nights.
2 - Etterbeek
Most expat families with young children consider Etterbeek the best neighbourhood in Brussels. Possibly because in this commune you'll find the highest number of schools and institutions in the entire country? Or maybe because Etterbeek houses some very gorgeous 20th century styled townhouses? It's also one of the favourite parts of the city for single professionals who chose to live in cosy apartments thanks to its great transportation system and cool nightlife.
This commune includes the shopping districts of La Chasse, Tongerenstraat, Chez Antoine and Jourdanplein, with its renowned market and famous frites shack. It is also more affordable than other communes in Brussels while featuring easy access to the European Quarter via public transport.
3 - Ixelles
With its theatres, cinemas, restaurants and shops, Ixelles is probably the most interesting and diverse commune in Brussels. It's made up of various areas within the neighbourhood: from the African Quarter Matonge to the University hub and the upscales homes near Place Brugmann and Place du Chatelaine. When I visited Brussels, I imagined living in a chic studio apartment like this one and heading out with a book to one of the many cafes in Place Eugene Flagey.
Thanks to its proximity to downtown, the European Union HQ and the cultural and shopping activities, Ixelles is perfect for young families, professionals and couples.
4 - Woluwe Saint Pierre
The residential commune of Woluwe Saint Pierre occupies almost 9 square kilometres of the city, including 180 hectares of parks and green areas. It is the neighbourhood of choice for employees of most foreign embassies because of its diversity, lively atmosphere, proximity to most European institutions.
The area features a mix of large houses and compact apartments and it offers a large number of facilities and public amenities to its residents, like parks, sports centres and cultural activities to keep yourself busy at weekends.
If you own a car, parking is also a non-issue most of the time in Woluwe Saint Pierre, while the local metro and tram also stop here.
5 - Watermael-Boitsfort
Watermael-Boitsfort is in the south of Brussels and borders Ixelles. With easy access to the city, it has gradually become a great residential area. There are several rural houses, village houses and large villas giving the commune the quaint charm of the countryside.
If you have kids, the International School of Brussels (ISB) is located here, and if you plan to explore further during the weekends, there is easy access to the highway.