Brussels By Buildings

Backstory to Brussels, Belgium

Altogether I spent two years living in Brussels, Belgium in my early twenties. Both times I was doing a mix of studying, interning, traveling, and blogging – I began Language and other musings in 2012 and still manage to keep it going!

I lived in two different apartments across the lovely neighborhood of Ixelles (Elsene in Flemish, whichever you like in English). My first flat (kot en français) was a quick walk from Place Flagey, which is home to Café Belga, De Valera’s (one of Brussels’ five Irish pub), Frit Flagey, and the picturesque Etangs d’Ixelles (Ixelles Ponds). My second apartment was in the Le Châtelain neighborhood, so up Rue Lesbroussart from Flagey and closer to the Michael Collins Irish pub. It’s also home to the Rue Bailli thoroughfare of shops and restaurants.

In a twist of fate, my second apartment was around the corner from the famous Maison Hankar at 71 Rue DeFacqz. You can’t go inside, so it’s often overlooked in favor of the Maison Horta museum nearby on Rue Américaine. Regardless, the façade of Maison Horta sparked my odyssey into a love of building aesthetics that has yet to end – Maison Hankar was one of the first posts on my Instagram account, @beautyinbuildings, an account dedicated to architecture for the non-architect.

Brussels Buildings

Ixelles | St. Gilles | Schaerbeek

Off the Beaten Tourist Path

pretty door posing in brussels

Many people visit Brussels for about 72 hours, and spend much of it in Centreville darting from beer bar to beer bar and trying to find the Mannekin Pis when it turns out they’re standing in front of it the entire time. I always encourage Brussels visitors to venture out of Centreville, hop on the 72 bus (among others), and at least visit Ixelles! I always push St. Gilles and Schaerbeek as well.

For me, Brussels is a city that’s enjoyed over a longer period of time – It’s not exactly chock-full of tourist attractions to check off a list. Brussels is best enjoyed in its eccentricity, relaxed café and bar culture, the warmth abounding under the damp cold, and its array of architectural delights. This guide will help you enjoy Brussels by buildings, streets and meandering memory instead.

The buildings featured below are scattered all over Ixelles, as well as the communes (Brussels-style neighborhoods) of St. Gilles and Schaerbeek. I’ve included many of my favorite spots near to each building.

Hope you enjoy!

Sunset at Place Flagey

Ixelles | Elsene

Place Flagey in Ixelles at sunset

I remember taking this photo one July evening as I walked down la petite ruelle by the Eglise Sainte-Croix towards home. I loved the sun’s vignette on the former Maison de la Radio, the most popular Art Deco spot on the plahce.

Brussels is LIT in the summertime. The city comes alive with an early rising and late sleeping sun, with tourists and locals alike lingering outside in the parks, “places”, and café terraces to soak up the sun’s rays. Place Flagey is a focal point for many Brussels locals and expats because of the large number of bars and restaurants that surround the place itself – Heat lamps keep terraces crowded in the chilly winters and the lingering sun keeps them filled in the summer.

My favorite Flagey Spots:
Click here for the Google Map

Café Belga: A Brussels institution.
De Valera’s: Cozy Irish pub with lots of nooks. A
Le Patin: Also cozy, less Irish.
Le Tigre: Definitely the trendier option.
Le Flip : Just fun! Lots of colorful tables.
Le Murmure: The hippy one. Prepare to roll your own clopes.

Criss Crossing Tram Lines

Ixelles | Elsene

Blvd. Géneral Jacques in Ixelles, Brussels

Boulevard Géneral Jacques meets Avenue de l’Hippodrome – My favorite stretch in all of Brussels!

My first year in Brussels I made the crossing at this intersection almost daily on my way up to ULB in the neighborhood of Cimitière d’Ixelles– Even on the dullest of Belgian days, I always felt a rush of energy while waiting for the light. Perhaps it was the terrifying whirring and whizzing by of cars flying down the boulevard. But I like to think it was the brightly colored facades of the very architecturally Flemish buildings, shaken up by the frenetic criss-crossing of the tramlines.

Cimitière d’Ixelles is a fun area if you’re a student and you like cheap frit shops and Exki. I recommend:

Le Tavernier: Lively and partly outdoors.
Le Montmartre: Pool hall attracting more of an art school scene.

Rue Royale

Centreville | Schaerbeek

Rue Royale + Eglise Royale Sainte Catherine

I took this picture on Schaerbeek’s Rue Royale one late afternoon in August after a bike ride out to Waterloo and back. I like the haziness of the sun on a gray and shadowy street, and the woman venturing from one side to another.

This vista of the Eglise Sainte Marie in Schaerbeek (as seen from Rue Royale) is particularly stunning, even on the cloudiest of days. The only Byzantine-style church in all of Brussels, you can spy the church in the distance all the way down Parc Royale from Brussels’ central Mount Royal. It’s all very meta.

Rue Royale and the commune of Schaerbeek itself is filled with incredible Art Nouveau architecture! It was at one time home to many of Brussels’ wealthiest residents who commissioned homes built by a number of famous architects at the turn of the century, including Victor Horta, Gustave Strauven, François Hemelsoet and Henri Jacobs. Nowadays it’s home to many of Brussels’ immigrant groups from North Africa, the Magrheb, and West Africa – An incredible melting pot of languages, cultures, and foods!

Interested in learning more about the modern-day melting pot that is Schaerbeek? Check out the La Langue Schaerbeekoise/De Schaarbeekse Taal (Schaerbeek Tongue) dictionary available from the local art non-profit, Constant.

Modern

Ixelles | Elsene

Modern Home in Ixelles, Brussels, Belgium

This modern gem is a very atypical building for Brussels, especially Ixelles! This is on a little street off of the Chaussée d’Ixelles, and directly on the other side of the street there is a building that looks straight out of Rome. I like the random modernity in a city of Art Nouveau, and the contrasting sharp edges of the house itself with the curvaceous iron gate. The bright red leaves of the tree add a little heat to a colder scene.

The Chaussée d’Ixelles is a bustling street right by Avenue Louise that has lots of chain shops (H&M, Zara, shoe store, grocery) and a movie theater. It’s also very close to the very vibrant Matongé district founded by Congolese migrants. Check outThe Culture Trip’s fantastic guide to the Mantongé area restaurants, terraces, and shops!

Zig Zag Streets

Ixelles | Elsene

Small street near the Chausée d'Ixelles in Brussels

It took me a while to get a good shot of this red building – The rest of the street has a very drag, back-alley sort of feel, so the bright red of the building feels very bold when you are approaching it. I’d photographed it on sunny days, imagining the red would just pop, but it never felt quite right with the shadows.

But this day I believe was dark and stormy, so the rain blackened the road and cast a nice little gleam upon it. The man in black to the left and the zig-zagging white lines and red street sign on the right give the twisting street a funky feel.

If you walk up the small backstreets from Avenue Louise and meander through to the Chaussée d’Ixelles, you’ll find some dishelved but colorful buildings on Rue de Stassart and Rue Keyenveld.

La Lune

Ixelles | Elsene

Moon, sun, and stars in Ixelles, Belgium

Something about the opportune moment of a daylight moon, window tops, and shooting airplane felt very “Peter Pan”, like Wendy would fling open the windows and wait for a Lost Boy to come hurtling through after flying off from Never Land.

This was shot on my old street, Rue Florence. Le Chou de Bruxelles is a popular Belgian-style restaurant (so think mussels, stoempf, and waterzooi) and about seven minutes away is the ever-delightful Makisu – The sunny side of sushi!

Boathouse

Ixelles | Elsene

Houseboat style home in Ixelles, Belgium

A futuristic houseboat in the middle of landlocked Brussels and on a very traditional Rue Souveraine in Ixelles. The terrace looks like a great spot for a Belgian summer’s eve.

Rue Souveraine begins (or ends) on Place Fernand Cocq, a great place. Try a sandwich, panini, breakfast, or just a little coffee at Sucré Salé, my all-time favorite café. Get the panini chevre 🙂

Brown on Bailli

Ixelles | Elsene

Art nouveau building on Rue Faider, Ixelles

This brown building on Rue Faider with the columns and open shutter was around the corner from my apartment. It’s rather imposing building on a street that is home to more gentle maisons de maitres (townhouses). It is grand! The shutter was always open and would catch my eye as I walked home down the street from Rue Bailli.

A bar with a similar grandiose feel is Supra Bailly bar a few blocks down on Rue Bailli. I would also recommend the art nouveau-inspired La Trinquette nearby in the Barrière de St. Gilles.

Orange Feels

Ixelles | Elsene

Orange feels mansion on the Etangs d'Ixelles

The Etangs d’Ixelles are home to some of Brussels’ most expensive houses – How grandiose!

It actually wasn’t a super warm summer’s day when I took this photo, that would be the orange shadow filter on VSCO cam. I try not to over-filter so much anymore, but the orange did take me back to some of those dog-days-of-summer feelings. There are only a few days in the summer where it’s really, really hot in Brussels, and they truly feel like this photo if you’re not sipping on a Jupiler.

Les Petits Oignons

Le Sablon

Les Petits Oignons restaurant in Le Sablon in Brussels

The pops of color that decorate the upscale Les Petits Oignons restaurant jazz up this black and white building in Le Sablon. I love the contrast of the white statues against the black façade, with just enough balls of color to jazz up even the dreariest of Brussels afternoons.

Les Petits Oignons is a rather fancy restaurant that I did not have the pleasure of going to. However, I suggest you do and comment to let us know how it was!

Faider Fenetre

Ixelles | Elsene

Art nouveau window in Ixelles

Around the corner on from my old apartment, this Rue Faider Art Nouveau window is a sight to be seen.

Le déluge

Ixelles | Elsene

Rainy day on Avenue Louise in Brussels

It was a terribly rainy and blustery day as I trudged up Rue Lesbroussart, and wanted to be anywhere else and not in this déluge of a downpour. But it was October, and the tree in front of the Michael Collin’s Irish pub was bright orange, and I loved the play of the red brick, the red light, the orange leaves, and the sort of watercolor effect made by the rain.

Cathedral Sunset

Centreville

Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula

Church beauty – C’est evident, as one might say in French. I find myself more entranced by buildings that are less obviously beautiful and often overlook a churches on my travels. IBut Rue d’Assaut in Centreville has a great view of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula (Belgium’s national church). At dusk I walked out right onto Rue d’Assault , which gives right out onto the church, whipped out my phone without thinking. Another incredible Brussels vignette, a cathedral lit in the basking of the setting winter sun.

A la Mort Subite (sudden death) café, an homage to the traditional Bruxellois brown bar, is just a few meters from Rue d’Assaut.

Defacqz

Ixelles | Elsene

Maison Hankar on Rue Defacqz, Ixelles

One of several buildings by Paul Hankar on Rue Defacqz in Ixelles. There is so much that is awesome about this building – the shapes of the windows, the columns, the brick, and obviously the gilded illustrations of, apparently (suite à a Google search) the three stages of life and Hercules.

The sunset on this area of Rue Defacqz is very intense, and this evening in particular the gold was gleaming. I feel like I can see the sun’s rays casting themselves on this building, just wanting to light it up on fire! Read more about the Maison Hankar and Art Nouveau Brussels on Culture Trip here.

Ivy | Lièrre | Klimop

St. Giles | Sint Gillis

Ivy covered home in Saint Gilles Brussels

Over-filtered for sure, but there’s something just very delicate about this photo, the way the light is strongest up top and blurs out some of the definition and color of the building and the ivy. The gentle white of the maison de maître and the soft shapes that the light green ivy makes around it’s windows is refreshing and relaxing to look at. It’s a very different photo from top to bottom.

La Maison du Peuple, sister café to Café Belga, is just a few meters away from this building on the Parvis de St. Gilles.

Wild West

Centreville

American Wild West meets Brussels Centreville

This building gives me intense déjà vu of some sort of Western toy or necklace I had as a kid, or maybe the moccasins my mom used to wear around the house. A call to Native America from Bruxelles Centreville.

Nearby beauty

St. Gilles | Sint Gillis

Beautiful facade in Saint Gilles, Brussels

I was walking home from the Central Station through St. Gilles, turned a corner, and found myself face to face with this beautiful maison de maître. I love the warm Mediterranean colors – the marigold, burnt red, and turquoise tiles. The door is deep brown and intricate, and I like that the bold maroon door of the house to the left snuck in the photo as well. The basement windows also throw more turquoise into the shot. It’s a stunning home and really stand-out on a sunny afternoon.

Sugarplum

Les Marolles

Cute building face in Les Marolles in Brussels

Gumdrops! Sugarplum fairies! This building on Rue Haute in Les Marolles conjures all the images of The Nutcracker.

Les Marolles is famous for their flea market. If you visit the lookout from the Palais de Justice, you can take an elevator right down into the neighborhood. Aside fro the market, it’s filled with wacky antique shops and art galleries. It’s also home to the Spanish Centro Cabraliego, which is a cheap hot spot if you’re feeling saucy and really monetarily cheap.

Paris

Centreville

La Rotonde restaurant in Brussels

This restaurant, La Rotonde, just outside of Centreville is most definitely Paris-inspired. I took this one morning as the fog and the mist were just rising and I was on my way to discover the markets in Schaerbeek.

Icy

Ixelles | Elsene

Icey tiled door in Ixelles

This modern style façade can be found right across the street from the Paul Hankar building on Rue Defacqz. I’ve always appreciated that about Brussels in comparison to Paris – Paris is beautiful in its uniformity; Brussels is funky in its ease with blended style.

I like the icy feel of this photo, especially with the rough, rectangular, tarnished silver door handle, and the missing silver mailbox. Where did it go?

Mr. Poes

Anvers | Antwerpen | Antwerp

Cat in Antwerp, Belgium window

On a shopping excursion to Antwerp a few years ago – Antwerp really is the best place to go to shop til you drop in Belgium – I happened to glance up and spot this very sage little Mr. Cat. He was just staring out the window onto the small street below him, observing the happenings on the street like a wise old chap. I felt like he was Doctor Watson in car form. I don’t know if we locked eyes or anything, but I feel like we had a moment.

Antwerp, again, I would highly recommend if you’re trying to do some big shopping. They’ve got all the best stores, it has that trendy feel similar to Amsterdam and what I imagine it’s like in Copenhagen, and it’s a short train ride from Brussels.

Frit Flagey

Ixelles | Elsene

Alice BAUSSE at Frit Flagey

Ohhhh I had to include a shot of myself!

First of all, I love me some Frit Flagey. A creature of food habits, I always take my cone of fries with sauce andalouse. However, always expect a line. There are usually two people working the stand, and they’re not going to hurry up so you can eat your fries.

My sister, Emily, took this photo. She was visiting and it started downpouring as we walked towards Place Flagey. As soon as the rain let up, we dashed out of Café Belga (where we had taken refuge) to be second in line for the fries. Win!!

Third, this is the last time I was successfully able to wear that long purple silk skirt I bought at Zara. It’s lost its glitz and glamour. What an outfit. Much love!

Click here for more BAUSSEStyle Travel!

alice