Ixelles and St Gilles - Brussels
Immediately to the south of Brussels centre are the trendy and varied communes of Ixelles and St-Gilles, firm favourites for expatriates who work for the many international companies based in the area. Ixelles stretches along either side of Avenue Louise right down to the Bois de la Cambre and offers a mixture of accommodation, from reasonably-priced converted apartments around the happening Chaussée d’Ixelles and African Matongé quarter to large, expensive art nouveau and art deco townhouses around Place Châtelain, L’Abbeye and the Ixelles ponds. These host a farmers’ market on Sunday mornings and provide a pleasant green space, but most people head for the huge Bois de la Cambre at the commune’s southern tip for fresh air, cycling and rollerblading. Neighbouring St-Gilles is more modest in size and a little more bohemian in character, offering cheap, quirky studios alongside grander art nouveau houses as well as taking in the immigrant quarters around the Gare du Midi. The area is rather lacking in green except for at its southerly border with Forest, where Parc de Forest offers some respite from city living. It does however offer the cheap and stunning art deco Victor Boin swimming pool, equipped with Turkish baths. Cultural life in the two communes is well catered for, with museums (including the workshops of architect Victor Horta, artist Antoine Wiertz and sculptor Constantin Meunier), spaces for art, theatres and cinemas (such as the wildly popular arts cinema in Place Flagey). Shops are also a main attraction of the areas, with boutiques and a two-storey indoor mall along Avenue Louise and Avenue de la Toison d’Or as well as more affordable options on Chaussée d’Ixelles and Chausée de Waterloo. Ixelles houses the European School III and the Brussels English Primary School as well as the French and Flemish incarnations of the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Both communes benefit from close proximity to the city centre and have excellent tram, bus and metro connections.