Firmly established as the political centre of Europe, Brussels is truly an international city – three out of four residents originate from outside Belgium. There’s much more to the Belgian capital than bureaucracy: it’s one of the best cities in Europe to live in, boasting high salaries, low crime levels and reasonable housing prices.
The main expatriate communities in Brussels are based in the southern and eastern parts of the city. There’s a perception of the expat community as being somewhat detached from the city, which is most likely a result of many foreign residents viewing their stay as temporary and work-related. However, most people tend to be drawn out of their bubble the longer they stay in the city, and integration between locals and expats continues to develop. The best thing to do is go out and meet people, who are notably sociable and friendly, happy to strike up conversations in a bar or café.
Getting from your residence to the city centre can be challenging, as the metro system is best avoided for the most part – you may be some distance from a station, and the trains themselves are prone to running late. Unlike many other European cities, having a car is highly recommended as a result. That said, the city’s flat topography makes it perfect for cycling; take your bike to beat the traffic, get some exercise and take in more of the city.
On-foot exploration is also particularly suited to Brussels – unfortunately for those who are only living there temporarily, this is a city that slowly reveals its charms. Its cultural heritage is most clearly expressed in its architecture, ranging from the Gothic spires found in the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula to the futuristic Atomium, built for the 1958 Worlds Fair and composed of nine stainless steel spheres forming an iron crystal. The triumphal arch and horseshoe-shaped arcade of the Cinquantenaire were erected to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Belgian independence, and the surrounding park today contains a number of museums and public spaces.
The city is also famed for its artistic heritage. By far the biggest name in Belgian art is René Magritte, and his work is celebrated in Magritte Museum, the world’s largest collection of his work. The Royal Museums of the Fine Arts and the Brussels Museum of Modern Art are also worth visiting, while iconic comic strip characters like Tintin and Lucky Luke are to be found in the Belgian Comic Strip Centre and the Brussels Comic Book Route, the latter a series of murals found throughout the city.
Still, we have to admit – the best thing about living in Brussels is probably the food, particularly if you’ve got a sweet tooth. Two of the city’s specialties are waffles and chocolate, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere in Europe that does them better. Elsewhere, moules-frites and mitraillettes, a baguette with meat, fries and sauce are just two of the national dishes on offer. With hundreds of restaurants and a reputation for excellence, Brussels is perfect for any food fan.
If you’re considering a move to Brussels, Engel & Völkers has the know-how and global reach to help your search end in a successful and secure property investment – visit our Engel & Völkers Website for more information!