Little-known cul-de-sacs in Brussels


In the heart of the capital, tiny, inconspicuous streets carry often meaningful names, such as the Impasse du Val des Roses (Impasse of the Valley of Roses) or the Impasse des Huitres (Impasse of the Oysters). Today, there remain twenty or so, remnants of a past popular lifestyle from hundreds of years ago.

Up until the beginning of the 20th century, the cul-de-sacs were quite popular gathering spaces for lodging.  Away from public pathways and very rarely accessible to vehicles, up to two hundred people would crowd in at the time, often in quite miserable sanitary conditions.

These days, certain cul-de-sacs have been closed off with doors and are no longer visible to walkers. A good example is the Impasse des Métiers, Rue du Marché aux Herbes.

Though many of the old cul-de-sacs have lost their living purposes, others have been highly favoured for renovations and reallocations. Many truly are worth the detour. This obviously brings to mind the Impasse Saint-Jacques, which in the past was heavily populated and now hosts luxury shops along the Place du Sablon.

There is also the Impasse de la Fidélité near the Grand Place. There we find Jeanneke, the little sister of Manneken, squatting to satisfy the same need as her famous brother.  Another key place in Brussels folklore, the Royal Puppet Theatre Toone, has been astounding children and adults alike for centuries, carrying on the tradition of Brussels marionettes.  You can reach it by passing through the Impasse Sainte-Pétronille or the Impasse Schuddeveld.

But other Brussels cul-de-sacs are also well worth the detour.