The Coin du Balai district 

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The Coin du Balai district 

Located at the south-easternmost tip of Brussels, the Coin du Balai district slips into the Sonian Forest like a peninsula into the sea, with its tightly-packed rows of small terraced houses built for and by workers’ families between 1880 and 1920. It stretches along the length of the Zwaeneweidebeek river. When a portion of the Les Marolles district was cleared to make way for the construction of the Law Courts, some of the families expelled from their homes migrated to this pleasant, popular spot, bringing with them their traditions and dialect. Today, the giants Mieke, Jeanneke and Tichke still come out for the Carnival. Dominating the area, the Rue de la Sapinière/Dennebosstraat and the “Citadelle” attracted the interest of the painter and sculptor Rik Wouters. A place of worship was built in 1956; a parabolic-shaped chapel displaying a typically “Expo 58” style, it was designed by the architect Paul Vandormael. There is a legend explaining the origin of the neighbourhood’s name (“Balai” means “broom” in English): Charles V, having headed into the forest on his own, stopped at the house of a lumberjack without revealing his identity. Invited in and fed and watered, but given poached game, Charles in turn invited the man to the palace… where he gave him permission to cut whatever branches he needed in the forest to make his brooms. In reality, due to a lack of fields, the inhabitants of the neighbourhood earned their living primarily from the sale of produce from the forest, including (up to the 1960s) the famous brooms made from a bundle of twigs tied together, used to sweep the streets. The challenge for the future is to preserve this unique part of the Region, the last village not engulfed by the expanding city, historically protected by its buffer of forest and nature, and to promote, introduce and share it with the other inhabitants of Brussels.

Practical information

  • 1170 Brussels
    • T
      Delleur
    • B
      Heiligenborre
    • B
      Wiener