It's a part of the city that many of us associate with business and political affairs, but far fewer would think of the Brussels' European Quarter as a destination for nights out or a place to live. Indeed, only about 1,000 people currently live in the Leopold area.
With its large concrete boulevards and imposing office blocks, the neighbourhood seems geared towards one thing: work. Its bars and restaurants all have a distinctly professional feel, with smart-casual being the unwritten dress code and with a high chance that you bump into your boss. Hardly the place to let your hair down and unwind.
What it does have in the way of green space – namely, Park Leopold – seems an afterthought where Eurocrats might have a quick leg-stretch between hashing out the latest policies. Commonly referred to as the "EU bubble", the area is largely unfrequented by those who don't have business there.
Yet the Brussels Government is keen to turn things around and integrate the Quarter a little better with the city as a whole. Local authorities hope that with more housing and more green space, a more diverse and vibrant community will flourish. Importantly, this will be done with minimal major works, with urban planners preferring to repurpose existing buildings rather than tear them down and start from scratch.
Efforts have already been made to this effect, but much more needs to be done to really open the area up. Plans include cutting through traffic and making the neighbourhood much more appealing to pedestrians and cyclists. Let's hope that one day soon, the European Quarter can become more than a lifeless grey zone but a hang-out destination in its own right.
How would you improve the area? Let @Orlando_tbt know.
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