When I moved to Brussels with my family 11 years ago, I thought this would be the most boring bureaucratic city in the world. Guess what? Brussels proved me wrong. If you visit Brussels, along with all the popular landmarks and world-famous cultural monuments, you should not miss the opportunity to enjoy all culinary, multicultural, and fashion treasures the city has to offer a bit off the beaten road. To start with, let’s see how to eat, shop & party like a local in Ixelles.
One of the most charming neighborhoods in Brussels, Ixelles is located in the Upper Town, within easy reach of the European quarter and the busy downtown area. Somehow the community manages to be both quiet and full of life. The quarter will enchant you with more than 1,000 buildings, constructed in the Art Nouveau style, gorgeous parks, conceptional restaurants, and trendy shops.
Exotic and colourful, Matongé, this bohemian area is the heart and soul of Ixelles. Strolling through its cosy streets, you will feel as if you have gone back in time. There is a stall at mostly every step where you can buy exotic fruits or vegetables, handmade jewellery or a versicoloured Dhuky – the traditional African headscarf.
If hungry, take a bite in one of the local artisan restaurants. The authentic combination of spices, nuts, oils, and meat will spoil even the most pretentious palate. After lunch, quickly sneak into one of the hair-dressing salons, where you can become the proud owner of a new extravagant hairstyle for less than 50 euros.
On Chausée du Wavre, the main street of the area, you should treat yourself with a visit to at least one of the many little independent galleries, or why not all of them. Also, Ixelles offers a museum for every taste. From the Museum of Ixelles with its rich collection of over 10 000 works, through the Wiertz and Constantine Meunier museums, to the favorite one of children and adults – the impressive Museum of Natural Sciences (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences), also known as “The Dinosaur Museum”.
We all know that shopping small does not exist. If it is going to be shopping, it is going to be phenomenal. What a better place for such an activity than Rue du Bailli, tempting with its various designer shops, where you can buy a unique dress or a pair of shoes nobody else has? And if you need more shopping, Chausée d’Ixelles with the famous boutiques is just a step away.
Once you have satisfied your shopping passion, you would be happy to know that there are many other things to do and see in this area. For instance, you can explore Tenbosch Park, a romantic oasis of beauty and tranquillity amidst the busy district or Ixelles Ponds – another place for relaxation and a quick treat with a waffle, ice-cream or fries. And before nightfall, let yourself be amused by the white beauty of the Church of Saint Boniface.
The party options in Ixelles are so numerous, that I would advise you to try a bit of everything. Start with a fancy cocktail in the artistic “Alice Cocktail Bar” or some genuine Irish ale courtesy of the Michael Collins Irish Pub. By the way, the food they offer is delicious. Within a ten-minute walk is the famous Place Flagey, a square surrounded by trendy bars and live music venues. Try at least to drop by Café Belga.
A really good night out cannot end without dancing. You can choose between one of the elegant disco clubs on Chausée d’Ixelles or going back to Matongé and dance the night out in a small bar under the beat of R’n’B, Salsa or Ragga music.
There are many, many other things to see and explore in Ixelles. So, if you are in for something memorable, just like the heroine from Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel, you could enjoy your own version – an “Eat, Shop, Party” journey in Ixelles, the real heart of Brussels.
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