Uccle is often referred to as a French enclave. It is indeed a favourite spot for our neighbours from over the border to lay their hats. Maybe it’s the subtle blend of the city and the countryside that makes the municipality so attractive.
Many people know Uccle/Ukkel as a green municipality with affluent residents, some of whom among the wealthiest in Brussels. However, that’s not entirely true: Uccle/Ukkel is one of the municipalities in Brussels with the greatest contrasts in buildings, surroundings and population. Looking at it this way, it is like a miniature Brussels!
CITY AND COUNTRYSIDE
You will find fully urbanized, middle-class neighbourhoods in the northern part of Uccle/Ukkel, working-class commercial neighbourhoods and social housing districts to the west, residential plots in the east and large open spaces, forests and nature in the south. In between, the historic centres of former villages and hamlets are dispersed. Although many have been slurped up by recent construction, they are still recognizable as individual ‘villages’, such as Saint-Job/Sint-Job or Old Verrewinkel.
You will notice on this walk that Uccle/Ukkel is everything but flat! The name of this municipality literally means ‘knoll’. The village centre of Uccle/Ukkel, where this walk starts, is situated just above the flood line of the Ukkelbeek. Most of this stream has, in the meantime, been covered and flows from its source in avenue De Frélaan towards the Senne via avenue Brugmannlaan and rue de Stallestraat. Almost parallel, a little southwards, the Geleytsbeek flows through the municipality from east to west, separated from the Ukkelbeek by a genuine hilltop crest. Further to the south, the Linkebeek marks the municipality’s border with that of Linkebeek and the Flemish Region. Together with their numerous arms, these three streams carve deeply into the sandy substrate of Uccle/Ukkel, which has resulted in high crests and deep valleys. Your calves will certainly be put to the test!
Uccle/Ukkel is very green. Even the relatively small part of the Forêt de Soignes/Zoniënwoud, which is located in the municipality, covers an area of 500 hectares. Many houses have gardens, some even very big ones. The municipality also features several lovely parks, forests, nature reserves and a few other green areas whose status is unclear. Some of these areas have since received the status of ‘green area’; others will be divided into plots and sold. That a lot of open space will be converted into residences and other property development projects is nothing new. In just 200 years, Uccle/Ukkel has grown from a small rural community with a few thousand souls to a municipality with just over 80,000 inhabitants. In this process, numerous fields, forests, castles and country estates have disappeared. Fortunately, not all have disappeared, as you will see.
With a surface area of 22.9 km2, Uccle/Ukkel is the largest municipality in the Brussels-Capital Region but one, covering 14% of the territory of Brussels. Measured in population, it is the sixthlargest municipality in the Region. That is nothing to be sneered at, knowing that a substantial percentage of the municipality have not been built up. The population of Uccle/Ukkel continues to grow steadily, just a little slower than the regional average. The reason for this? Fewer births, on average, and an ageing population.
The growth of the population of Uccle/Ukkel can be attributed mainly to immigration. The municipality is therefore internationalizing, but at a slightly slower pace than the rest of Brussels. Just under one-third of the population of Uccle/Ukkel comes from abroad, and two-thirds of these are nationals from an EU member state. The first European school of Brussels is still located on chaussée de Waterloosesteenweg. It attracts primarily families who work for the European institutions. The largest percentage of foreign residents in Brussels are French, comprising more than one-third of the foreign population of Uccle/Ukkel and followed at some distance by people from Italy, Portugal and Spain. The number of Poles and Romanians is also increasing due to the expansion of the European Union.
SUBURB OF PARIS?
Approximately one out of every five inhabitants of Uccle/Ukkel is a French national. This can be explained partly by the Lycée français, which is located here. The school, located to the far south of the municipality on the border of Uccle/Ukkel and Linkebeek, is attended by 2,800 students. The curriculum is more international than that of most other campuses of the Lycée français. It is hardly surprising that hundreds of children of Belgian and many other nationalities also attend this school. The history of the Lycée Français dates back to 1907, when it was founded near Gare du Midi/Zuidstation as a small boys’ school. It has since grown to mammoth proportions with a long waiting list.
TRAIN, TRAM, BUS AND CAR
Three major traffic arteries traverse the municipality from north to south: the lower middle-class chaussée d’Alsembergsesteenweg to the West, the 19th-century avenue Brugmannlaan and chaussée de Waterloosesteenweg, situated to the east. Many commuters travel through Uccle/Ukkel on their way to Brussels during rush hour, so it can be quite busy. No cause to worry: it’s easy to avoid traffic jams with all the public transportation alternatives available. Two railway lines pass through the municipality's six railway stations. Add to that numerous tram lines, three of which connect Uccle/Ukkel directly to Gare du Midi/Zuidstation. Of course, you can also take the bus (operated by MIVB, TEC and De Lijn) for a direct connection to the city centre and a few lines that serve Uccle/Ukkel and the neighbouring municipalities. The only thing regrettably lacking, according to the local population, is the metro.
STARTING POINT: TRAM STOP HEROS (TRAM LINES 4, 92)