Living in Ixelles: an expat mini-guide

By Andy Sto Published 07/10/2022

Known as the Capital of Europe, Brussels is fast becoming one of the top European destinations to live and work from. And it is easy to see why. Yes, it is a city famous for its fries, beers, and waffles, but it also offers trendy nightlife, a varied restaurant scene, excellent healthcare, and fantastic shopping. It is also a short, direct flight from many European destinations—perfect for a weekend escape.  

Brussels might feel small, but it is home to nineteen municipalities, all of which have their own unique offerings. One of the most popular neighborhoods is the commune of Ixelles or Elsene, located in the southeast corner of Brussels‘ city center.

Ixelles is one of the largest municipalities in Brussels. It is home to the European Parliament, The ULB/VLB university, multiple multinational corporations, several green spaces, and plenty of things to see, do and eat. Fun fact, it is also home to the birthplace of Audrey Hepburn

But why should you consider Ixelles as your permanent or temporary home base? Let’s look deeper into the popularity of this municipality. 

Why stay in Ixelles? 

There are many reasons why Ixelles has become one of the best neighborhoods in Brussels for coworking, coliving, and just enjoying the overall magic of the city. Here are just a couple of those reasons. 

Local vibes in a central location

One of the best things about Ixelles is its location. The neighborhood gives off a local vibe while still being relatively close to the hustle and bustle of the city center. 

Ixelles is a residential neighborhood. Many Bruxelloise residents live here as well as several student populations, as it is also home to the ULB/VLB universities. It is also a diverse place to live in and has a multicultural population.

As a result of all of this, residential necessities are readily available, including local shops, eateries, grocery stores, and restaurants. Whatever you need is just a short walk away in Ixelles. 

The best part is that this neighborhood doesn’t have many tourist attractions. So instead of tourist traps and tour buses, Ixelles is filled with local events like weekly markets or Friday night live music at the corner bar. Ixelles is also located right next to some fantastic neighborhoods that have their own unique style, like St. Gilles, Sablon et Les Marolles. 

Home to many green spaces

Ixelles also has many green spaces for anyone looking to spend some time in the middle of nature. Along with several smaller parks, like the Jardin du Roi or Étangs d’Ixelles, the neighborhood is also home to one of the biggest parks in Brussels, the Bois de la Cambre. 

The park itself resembles a forest and offers trails and walkways perfect for running, walking, or biking. It is also a great place to explore with your dog. On weekends the Bois de la Cambre is partly closed to motorized traffic. 

But the Bois is more than just a park. Nestled in the heart is the Chalet Robinson, a restaurant located on an island in the middle of a small lake. It is also home to one of the best nightclubs in the city, Jeux d’Hiver.

Good transportation 

Public transportation in Brussels consists of trams, trains, buses, and metros. Depending on where you are staying in Ixelles, some areas are more connected than others. For example, the area of Matonge can easily be accessed by the metro (Porte de Namur) and several buses. 

Nevertheless, most areas in Ixelles are easily accessible by tram or bus, making it a well-connected neighborhood with multiple public transportation options that can take you wherever you need.

Ixelles is also home to multiple train stations, which include Mouterij, Etterbeek, Brussels-Luxembourg, and Boondaal / Boondael. 

Overall safety 

Ixelles is one of the safest neighborhoods in Brussels. Whether it’s during the day or night, you’ll feel safe exploring the streets and spending time in this beautiful city. There’s plenty of families in the neighborhood as well!

Where to stay in Ixelles

So now that we’re convinced you to consider staying in Ixelles, where should you be looking for an apartment? Due to the neighborhood’s sheer size, there are several possibilities for apartment locations, perfect for every type of individual. 

If you are looking to be right in the heart of the action, then look no further than Châtelain and Flagey. These areas are famous for their cafes, boutique shops, bars, and restaurants.

Châtelain is also quite close to the high-end shopping street of Avenue Louise, known for its luxury boutiques, upscale hotels, and high-end houses. Both of these areas are also known for their local weekly markets. 

For a more residential type of experience, the areas surrounding the VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), the ULB (Université Libre de Bruxelles), and the Bois de la Cambre are the perfect choice if you are looking for some peace and quiet while still being quite close to many bars and restaurants. 

And if you want to be as close as possible to the downtown region (we’re talking walking distance), Matongé, which borders the upscale Sablon neighborhood, is a trendy African quarter famous for its mix of African cultures and Belgian bohéme. It is home to bars, restaurants, and boutiques. It is hands-down one of the best-connected areas of Ixelles by public transport. 

Things to do in Ixelles

Ixelles is lively, fun, and trendy. It also can be calm and quiet. It really depends on what you want and where you’d like to stay. But one thing that Ixelles is not, is boring. So what are some of the best things to do in Ixelles? 


Ixelles has some of the best shopping in the city. Whether it be budget, boutique, or luxury, you’ll be able to find something in this particular neighborhood.

One of the major shopping areas in Ixelles is Avenue de la Toison d’Or which connects with Chaussee d’Ixelles and Avenue Louise. Here you’ll find everything you need, shopping-wise. This area is known for its luxury shopping and is home to stores like Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Burberry. But it has so much more to offer than just luxury shopping. The area is home to budget-friendly shops like H&M, Primark, and Zara, grocery stores, home goods stores like Maison du Monde, electronic stores like the Apple store, as well as various restaurants, a movie theater, and nightclubs. 

Another popular shopping street is in the neighborhood of Châtelain, specifically Rue Bailli, which is more known for its independently owned, local boutiques where you can find products made by local and European businesses. 

Local organic markets and shops

Ixelles is home to two weekly local markets, the Marché Tous Produits Flagey (Saturday and Sunday) and the Place du Châtelain (Wednesday) market. These open-air markets are fantastic places to buy local products, whether you’re looking for fresh meat, vegetables, fish, or cheese. You’ll probably find whatever you need at one of these markets. Everything is fresh, local, and often organic.

Insider Tip: After the Wednesday market closes around 19h00, Châtelain also becomes quite popular as an after-work drinks spot where the drink of choice is a spritz. 

And if you are looking for natural, healthy, vegan, zero-waste, or organic options, there are plenty of these types of grocery stores in and around Ixelles. 

The Ixelles restaurant scene and nightlife

Speaking of food and drinks, Ixelles is no stranger to delicious food, great after-work spots, and nightclubs that will keep you dancing until the wee hours of the morning. 

In Ixelles, you are spoiled for choice. However, many restaurants, cafés, and bars are primarily located in Flagey, Place du Châtelain, and Matonge. Nevertheless, there are also some spots near the universities and the Bois de la Cambre.

If you didn’t already know, Brussels is a foodie’s heaven. Its multicultural atmosphere has given way to various restaurants that offer every type of food imaginable, all at a reasonable price. Many of Brussels’s top spots for brunch are right in the neighborhood.

And Ixelles is no exception; whatever you are craving, you’ll find it here. So, whether you are looking for sushi, cocktails, Greek, brunch, Lebanese, live music, or even a place to eat some Canadian-style poutine, you’ll find it in Ixelles. 

Why stay in Ixelles? 

So why is Ixelles one of the best neighborhoods in Brussels? Oh, let us count the ways. This trendy, lively, fun neighborhood is filled with things to do, see and eat.

It is close to the city’s center and a residential spot ideal for anyone looking for a local Brussels experience. It also perfectly balances nature and the city, offering residents plenty of green spaces to explore. 

If you’re curious about sharing a home with like-minded individuals in Ixelles, check out these coliving options.

Whatever you need and crave, you’ll be able to find it in Ixelles, making it one of the best places to live and stay in Brussels. 

About the author Andy is a seasoned digital nomad from Brussels. He runs a blog for digital nomads, remote workers, and remote company leaders: He enjoys hiking, singing, playing improv games and discovering hidden gems all over the world.