Advice on moving to Brussels with children?


ritchie's picture
By ritchie - Posted on
16 January 2013
I have 2 young bilingual french/english kids and we are reloating to brussels due to a job offer.

What are the best areas to live and schools to send my children to?

Also, what is the support provided for child care etc... thank you in advance.
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Hi Ritchie,

There are a couple of good areas for those moving to Brussels with children. Watermael-Boitsfort is particularly popular amongst expat famillies because of the areas proximity to the International School of Brussels. There are lots of open spaces and properties are large (although they can also be expensive). Transport links into the CBD are also good. 

Ixelles is another popular area. There is lots to do in this area and you are close to many entertainment facillities. However, if you choose to live here you'll need to be prepeared to drive your children to school.

Have a read of the Expat Arrival's  Areas and Suburbs in Brussels page for more details on the different areas in the city.

Where you choose to school your children will depend on their age and the curriculum you'd like them to follow. There are plenty of international schools to choose from in Brussels, some follow the British National Curriculum and others the French. There is also the option of having your children study for the IB.

Take a look at our International Schools in Brussels page for a list of international schools in the city.

Hope this helps. Do let me know if you have any further questions.

Good luck.
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Thanks a alot for the information! Very helpful, especially from a fellow south african;-)My workplace will actually be in Vilvoorde ,so I guess i am forced to live in the northern part of Brussels to avoid long commuting hours-no car. could you advise any good safe areas north of brusselsto live with 2 young kids?

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Anonymous
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Hello,I have made some research about good areas to live with kids and Ixelles, Uccle always seems to come up. Am I right? How is the transport from these areas to get to Vilvoorde? Also, if anyone could suggest a public french school with a 'garderie' open until 18h30, in these areas ,I'd really appreciate it! Thanks in advance.

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Anonymous
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Oh no, Ixelles is a really foolish place to live if your work is in Vilvoorde. I think you need to familiarise yourself with a map of Brussels region.

Watermael-Boitsfort is also not a good choice, unless your Vilvoorde work is right next to the railway station in Vilvoorde.

You don't say what type of schooling you're after, a private international one which costs between 4k and 32k, or a public one which costs next to nothing (with a tiny number of exceptions)?

You also don't state your housing limit. If money is no object and I were after a French majority speaking area, I'd look at WSL or WSP for Vilvoorde, or east side of Laeken, for the other side of Vilvoorde, it really depends on work address. I'd cross off Uccle, Ixelles and Watermael-Boitsfort UNLESS you like spending hours commuting, especially if commuting by car.

I have no idea why someone has written you have to drive your children to school if you live in Ixelles, I wonder if that person has ever been to Ixelles because 1) having a car in Ixelles is ridiculous in most areas as more and more car parking spaces are being removed in that commune and 2) because you are never more than 500m from a public French school in the commune, so if you're lucky enough to have a parking space, you'll spend longer in the car driving 500m and then trying to find another parking space near to school, during which you could have walked!

Ritchie, go on the Brussels Expats group on facebook or BCT group on facebook and you'll get far better views there than from here where some posters seem to have no clue at all about where is good to live with a family when working in Vilvoorde.

I have contacts with over 350 anglophone families in greater Brussels area, not one family among them lives in Ixelles and works in Vilvoorde.

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Uccle to Vilvoorde? Ixelles to Vilvoorde? Unless your work is right next to the Vilvoorde train station, it would be suicidal to even consider it. I can only imagine those who advised you above have never been to Brussels. You need to take a long hard look at the map, including publics transport maps of STIB and De Lijn. 

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Anonymous
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thanks school help and anon! i have commuting research since my post and yes! i need to live in bruxelles centre areas to pick up the main gares...cnetral/congres/chapelle etc...however the only public french schools left with space for september 2013 seem not be so acceptable stds...according to locals...does anyone know the std of these schools?: ecole emile andré-rue haute/ ecole du canal /congress dachbeck?? Thanks

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school help's picture
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I posted what I thought was a helpful and long post containing the full French schools map and bus map and it was removed!!!!!
https://batchgeo.com/map/1f1bf2b3b6e4ad41fe67c1a57d56a826

Will your work be within walking distance of Vilvoorde train station? Post your work address and I can better advise you how to get to work and where to live. Also your top limit for housing and number of bedrooms.

I think you're looking in completely the wrong area. La Chapelle and Congres stations have hardly any trains which stop in Vilvoorde. There are 2 train lines to Vilvoorde 1) Bruxelles Midi - Central - Nord - Schaerbeek - Vilvoorde. 2) Boondael - Delta - Mérode - Meiser - Evere - Bordet - Haren - Vilvoorde. If you are going to be commuting by train, I'd ignore completely the first route through the centre of Brussels which passes through some of the poorest areas school-wise and concentrate on the eastern route. It's 25 minutes from suburban Boondael and only 10 minutes from Evere! You just need to check trains stop often enough at whatever station you end up living near to.
http://www.belgianrail.be/fr

There are loads of schools along that eastern route, but I'd look particularly at Evere ones near the train station - Notre Dame Immaculée, clair Vivre, no 17, Meiser train station - no no 16, no 13, Marie Meiser, La Vierge Fidele, MErode train station - Du Bonheur Sacré-Coeur de Lindhout, St Stanislas, ls Colombe de la Paix, Ste Anne, Delta train station - St Julian, Boondaal station - no 7, no 8, La Futaie, l'Assomption. Well just look at the schools map or google maps and see where these schools are in relation to the train stations.

You need to study also the bus routes into Vilvoorde, as some parts are accessible by bus from 1020 and 1120 postcodes of Bruxelles Ville - des Pagodes, Reine Astrid, Maria Assumpta, St Nicolas, Heembeek.
http://www.delijn.be/images/netplan_vervoergebied_Brussel_07012013_tcm7-16943.pdf

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PS yes avoid all the schools you mentioned and look along the eastern train route or at the schools in north Brussels in 1020 and 1120 postcodes I listed. I would rather home school than send my children to schools in the area you've mentioned.

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Anonymous
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Hello School help,thanks so much for your honesty!i've been looking totally in the wrong direction and thought the brussels centre best route but as you say and as i've heard the schools are not great in cenre ville. these are only schools with places for my kids ,hence why i went for these in the beginning. I have since registered my kids at: La Vierge Fidele, MErode train station - Sacré-Coeur de Lindhout and St Stanislas in WSL area, close to Merode gare which goes often to Vilvooorde i see. My fulltime work is at the Senneberg industial area so i need to get a company bus after the Vilvoorde train! (i'll be commuting by train and time is precious to be able to be back in Brussels by 18h30. Looking for a 2bedroom apartment. budget 800-1000Euros max.
Thanks for your help!

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How old are your children? The maternelle at La Vierge Fidele I have had complaints about, that it is a little over-regimented, but if you know that in advance and can take it, you'll be fine. Sacré-Coeur de Lindhout, huge school at 4 classes per year, as big as you will get, however no-one I know with their children there is unhappy and says it's very well run and doesn't feel as big as it is. You'll find quite a few English speaking children in the maternelle and even primaire, very international and professional class intake. No1 choice for me in that area would be du Bonheur, simply due to size, but SC de Lindhout would be 2nd choice. St Stanislas is a mixed population too but not so many families of professional backgrounds, still much much better than those schools in the centre. Mérode area is super though, if you like an urban environment. It crosses 5 communes, Etterbeek 1040, Woluwe-St-Lambert 1200, Woluwe-St-Pierre 1150, Schaerbeek 1030 and Bruxelles Ville 1000. It means hard work on immoweb.be looking for accommodation. I'd personally try really hard to keep housing hunt within a 0.75km radius of SC de Lindhout/Mérode train station or whatever school you choose eventually. I think under 1000 is realistic for 2 beds, just be careful about what charges include, also about double glazing / new heating, keep your costs down! I'll be back with a radius map as an example. You'll have to work out for yourself which streets are in which commune.

If your children are nearing secondaire and at the end of primaire, location of housing is very very important, ie as near to school as possible placing your school as 1st or 2nd nearest to home, to maximise chances of a place in a decent secondaire. SC de Lindhout if you go for there for your children would be fine for secondaire too, but no priority from primaire to secondaire from next year. Avoid St Stanislas as a secondaire, La Vierge Fidele is an excellent secondaire too, so is the one next to du Bonheur primaire called Dames de Marie.

One last thing, those living in Bruxelles Ville 1000 often report horrendous stories registering, taking months for residents cards to come through, so if you can find housing in the other communes, I'd take it in preference.

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school help's picture
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C&A? I know someone who works there and I guess she gets the train to Delta as she lives near there.

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Here is where I'd personally look if choosing Sacré-Coeur de Lindhout. It would put the schools 1st or 2nd nearest, it would mean a maximum 0.75km walk to Mérode train station. It's 17 minutes from Vilvoorde to Mérode on the train. I'd choose SC de Lindhout 1) because all the parents I know with children there are quite happy, that's several families 2) it's the nearest out of the 3 schools to a train station on the line to Vilvoorde, 3) it's in the nicest area with lots of shops, near park, near metro, near activities in English!!!, not far to the sports centre.

Oh dear this website refuses to accept the map, you can post your personal email and I'll send you it!

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school help's picture
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PS if you can get places at Ste Anne which is south of Mérode station in Etterbeek, there are plenty of apartments in your price range between Mérode and the school.

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school help's picture
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Just look at this place, right next to Mérode station and a 5 minute walk to Sacré-Coeur de Lindhout!

http://www.immoweb.be/fr/Rent.Estate.cfm?IdBien=4029511&xgallery=gallery&xpage=5

Boy was that original post really helpful suggesting ISB in Watermael-Boitsfort!!!!

You know you can get weekly holiday stages in Etterbeek commune for as little as 40 euro a week.

If you were wondering, there are no restrictions on schooling in one commune and living in another. That little bit of Etterbeek sticks right into Woluwe-St-Lambert.

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Anonymous
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thanks once again for all your energy +input ,really appreciated.! I don't think we can put emails on this post but i do have the batchgeo dot com site which is very useful thanks!

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school help's picture
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If you post questions on the Brussels Expats group on FB, you'll get much better answers and much quicker answers than here.

Also, the BCT Brussels Childbirth Trust is a great organisation to join, it provides all sorts of advice for English speaking families (of many nationalities) and has a membership of 1200.

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Anonymous
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I am moving to Brussels with a 6 year old and a 10 year old, who have studied in a Greek school. I will be working in close proximity to the EU Commission What are my options? Are there Greek primary schools? Do they provide a school bus?

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Anonymous
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There is a greek school in Brussels. Use google.

there is also European school in Brussels with a Greek section. Again use google.

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school help's picture
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http://www.grschool.be/

http://www.eursc.eu/index.php?l=2

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Anonymous
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Hi! does anyone know the reputation of Retaite Sacre Couer school in Charles Quint?Thank you!!
I am changing from St Stanislas but all the best schools are full....

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Anonymous
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you don't say the age, both schools are 2.5 to 18 years.

Not sure which would be seen as better, La REtraite gets good reviews from expats living nearby.

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eim
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If you search a bilingual international school: www.eimontgomery.be

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yes, I would like to suggest Watermael-Boitsfort!!!

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