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Ixelles (French, pronounced ) or Elsene (Dutch, pronounced ) is one of the nineteen municipalities located in the Brussels-Capital Regionmarker of Belgiummarker.


Ixelles or Elsene is located in the south of Brusselsmarker and is divided into two parts by Avenue Louisemarker, which is part of the City of Brusselsmarker municipality. The smaller west part of the municipality includes Rue du Bailli/Baljuwstraat and extends roughly from Avenue Louise to Avenue Brugmann/Brugmannlaan.

The larger east part of the municipality includes the sites of the Université Libre de Bruxellesmarker and the Vrije Universiteit Brusselmarker, and the Eugène Flagey squaremarker. The Bois de la Cambremarker is located just south of Ixelles.

The construction of Avenue Louise was commissioned in 1847 as a monumental avenue bordered by chestnut trees that would allow easy access to the popular recreational area of the Bois de la Cambremarker. It was also to be the first Haussmann-esque artery of the city of Brussels. However, fierce resistance to the project was put up by the town of Ixelles (which was then still separate from Brussels) through whose land the avenue was supposed to run. After years of fruitless negotiations, Brussels finally annexed the narrow band of land needed for the avenue plus the Bois de la Cambre itself in 1864. That decision accounts for the unusual shape of today's City of Brusselsmarker and for Ixelles being split in two separate parts.


Medieval origins

The origins of the village of Ixelles date from the foundation of the Abbey of La Cambremarker by a Benedictine nun in 1196. The abbey was located near the springs of the Maelbeek in the Sonian Forestmarker, the remnant of which closest to Brussels became known as Bois de la Cambremarker. The abbey was consecrated by the Bishop of Cambrai soon after its foundation. Boniface of Brussels and Alice of Schaarbeek were two of its most famous residents in the 13th century.

Around 1300, during the reign of John II, Duke of Brabant, a hostel was built near the abbey to provide meals to the wood bearers working in the forest. Soon, a hamlet and a couple of chapels were built, including the Church of the Holy Cross (French: Sainte Croix, Dutch: Heilige Kruis), also dedicated by the Bishop of Cambrai in 1459. The area included several ponds, still visible today, that provided fish to the abbey and to the neighbouring hamlets. At that time, part of Ixelles was a dependence of Brusselsmarker; the other part was the property of the local lord.

Before the Revolution

In 1478, the wars between Louis XI of France and Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor brought devastation to the abbey and the surrounding areas. In 1585, the Spanishmarker burnt down most of the buildings to prevent them from being used as a refuge by the calvinists. The abbey was restored in time for the Joyous Entry of the Archdukes Albert and Isabella in 1599. Further manors and castles (Ermitage, Ten Bosch, Ixelles) were built in Ixelles in the 16th century, gradually transforming the hamlet into a full-fledged village. The purity of the pond water attracted breweries to the area, some of which survived well into the 20th century.

A municipality of its own

Malibran'Hotel- Town hall 1899
Porte de Namur ca1900
Ixelles town hall.
In 1795, like many of the other towns surrounding Brussels, Ixelles was proclaimed a municipality of its own by the Frenchmarker regime after the Revolution. The abbey was stripped of its religious functions, becoming among others a cotton-manufacturing plant, a farm, a military school, and a hospital. Many of the medieval gates of Brussels that lined what is now the inner ring road were taken down and more streets were built to accommodate the migration towards the suburbs. Ixelles' population grew nearly one-hundredfold, from 677 in 1813 to more than 58,000 in 1900.

At the end of the 19th century, some of the ponds were drained and a new Church of the Holy Cross was built. The first streetcars appeared in 1884 and the first movie theatre in 1919. Ixelles and the Avenue Louise became one of the classy areas of Brussels. Artists and celebrities moved in, leading to architectural novelties such as Art Nouveau and Art Deco.


Ixelles is known throughout Belgium for its high population of people of African origins. This population is mainly concentrated near the Porte de Namur/Naamsepoort, and is known as Matongé or Matongué after the marketplace and the commercial district with the same name in Kalamumarker, Kinshasamarker. The core of Matongé was formed in late 1950s by the foundation of Maisaf (Maison Africaine, "African House") which served as a centre for university students from the Belgian Congo. After the independence of Congo, the district faced an influx of immigrants from Congomarker who shaped the neighbourhood in a style to resemble the original Matongé. There are also communities from other African countries like Rwandamarker, Burundimarker, Malimarker, Cameroonmarker, and Senegalmarker present in the district. The famous shopping arcade Galerie d'Ixelles is located in the heart of Matongé.

The district also attained notoriety from early 2000s with gang violence perpetrated by African gangs like Black Démolition. It was the scene of race riots in January 2001. Matongé, with its more recent immigrant communities from Latin America, Pakistanmarker, and Indiamarker along with African ones, is seen as a symbol of multiculturalism in Belgium. The pedestrian street rue longue-vie is full of snackbars where you can enjoy african food, especially fried chicken wings. Most of these authentic places have been decorated by the famous afro-european artist John Bush. Le Soleil d'Afrique has quite fully became his museum.

Main sights

  • The buildings of the Abbey of la Cambremarker house a renowned school for the visual arts, the National Geographic Institute, and various parish functions.
  • The Ixelles Pondsmarker and Tenbosch Parkmarker offer a welcome green spot in the middle of the city.
  • The Art Deco building on the Flagey squaremarker used to house the studios of the Belgian radio and television broadcasting companies (RTBF and VRT). The Résidence de la Cambremarker is another notable Art Deco building.
  • Several Art Nouveau houses were built by Victor Horta and can still be seen today.
  • Two universities—the Université Libre de Bruxellesmarker and the Vrije Universiteit Brusselmarker—have their campuses in Ixelles. As a result, the southeast part of the municipality is home to a large number of students.
  • The Ixelles Cemeterymarker is one of the most important cemeteries in the country as it contains the graves of a number of famous Belgian personalities. The Frenchmarker General Georges Boulanger committed suicide here, on the tomb of his mistress, who had died a couple of months earlier.
  • Ixelles also houses several interesting churches and museums, including a fine-arts museum and the Constantin Meunier museum, established in the residence where the artist lived part of his life.

Brussels 1910 exhibition in Solbosch area


  • Several fairs are organized in Ixelles, including the Spring Fair on the Flagey squaremarker, which takes place between the fourth and sixth Sunday after Easter, and the Boondael Fair at the end of July.

Famous inhabitants

Giacomo Puccini.
The following people were born in Ixelles:

The following people lived part of their life in Ixelles:

See also

External links

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