Rarely asleep, the Saint-Jacques area embodies Brussels’ reputation of tolerance and openness, as the splendid Notre-Dame de Bon Secours church, formerly the Saint-Jacques Hospice where pilgrims used to rest for the night, sports its magnificent Spanish Baroque style in the middle of Brussels’ rainbow neighbourhood. The district illustrates perfectly the Belgian capital’s warmth – whatever the climate would have you believe – as well as what could very well be the city’s slogan: you’re all welcome just as you are.
Ideally located between Brussels’ iconic Bourse building, the world’s most famous peeing boy, the Manneken Pis aka Petit Julien, and the statue of Belgian’s greatest poet and singer, Jacques Brel, the Saint-Jacques area is actually an open-air museum that will ravish the hearts of all cobblestone and 17th century architecture lovers. Flourishing since the 12th century, it was rebuilt almost entirely after the 1695 bombardment and many houses built in the years that followed still ornate Saint-Jacques’ streets.
Faithful to its middle ages status as a quarter dedicated to crafts, its boutiques paint a unique picture made of souvenir shops and pralines makers that delight the tourists, rare vinyl record specialists, book dealers, hipster clothing sellers, interior design merchants, and many more stores ranging from improbable oddities to night shops and snacks. Within this perimeter of a few hundred meters, one can spend 24 hours shopping, visiting, and eating culture as well as foods from places they never heard of, before leaving with the impression that they’ve somehow travelled several continents by foot.
Located just a stone’s throw from the Grand Place, its streets feature many cafés and restaurants illustrating the very diverse origins of its inhabitants, who mingle inadvertently with tourists and students attending the schools, colleges, and concert venues that make Saint-Jacques the very lively neighbourhood it has been since the middle ages. The many pedestrian arteries contribute greatly to the pleasant feeling experienced by those who walk the Saint-Jacques cobblestones, be it for the first or the thousandth time.