Redefining the saying, "Tiny yet mighty," Schaerbeek, Belgium, is one of Brussel's 19 municipalities, covering a small area of just 8.14 kilometres squared (3.14 squared miles). Home to more than 130,000 residents, Schaerbeek, or Schaarbeek, as it's sometimes called, is bordered by Etterbeek, Evere, Saint-Josse-Ten-Noode, and the city of Brussels.
A diverse city with large Belgian Moroccan, Belgian Turkish, and a variety of immigrant communities, Schaerbeek is a cultural mixing pot just waiting to be explored. Well known as one of Belgium's best-blended cities, Schaerbeek's western half hosts a litany of unique shops and incredibly restaurants visitors won't find anywhere else in the country.
Schaerbeek first gained prominence in Europe as the birthplace of a variant of sour cherries named for the town: Schaerbeek cherries. As a matter of fact, the city gained its nickname, The City of Donkeys, as a result of the Schaerbeek cherry. This is because, during the Middle Ages, Schaerbeek cherry sellers from the city would arrive at the Brussels Market with their donkeys loaded to the max with the sour cherries.
The second most populated commune in the Brussels-Captial Region behind the City of Brussels, Schaerbeek is one of Belgium's best-kept secrets. To find out everything you need to know about the City of Donkeys before your visit, continue reading below.
Luggage Storage near Schaerbeek's Train Stations
An easily traversed city, Schaerbeek is home to several train stations, the majority of which offer connections to a multitude of additional public transit options.
Schaerbeek Railway Station
One of the largest and most picturesque train stations in the area, Schaerbeek, or Schaarbeek, Railway Station sits just 1.3 kilometres (0.8 miles) from the city's downtown area. The station houses a whopping 13 numbered platforms, from 3 to 15 and serves lines 25, 27, 28, 36, and 161.
Built in two phases between 1890 and 1913, Schaerbeek Station was designed in the Flemish Neo-Renaissance style. The station is considered a historic monument by the Brussels Capital Region, has ticket counters at the front of the station and is typically unmanned.
Schaerbeek Railway Station currently offers five Brussels RER Suburban line services and two intercity services. It is also an emergency station, allowing trains to avoid calamity should the tracks become overcrowded or blocked. Additionally, the station is a crucial stop for multiple peak hour trains and provides a variety of weekend services.
Brussels - North Railway Station
The third-busiest station in all of Belgium, Brussels-North Railway Station, provides services to more than 200,000 travellers each week. Situated in Schaerbeek, only 1.9 kilometres (approximately 1.2 miles) from the city centre, the station is the endpoint of the Brussels premetro North-South axis on lines 3 and 4.
Also known as Bruxelles-Nord and Brussel-Noord, the current station was designed by Jacque and Paul Saintentenoy and built in 1952. The Brussels-North Railway Station's most identifiable feature is its clock tower. Despite multiple station renovations and updates for increased accessibility, it has maintained its post-war appearance since it was first constructed.
Brussels-North Railway Station is a vital station for the majority of local lines and several international lines offered in the region. Consisting of 12 platforms, the station provides access to 20 intercity services, eight Brussels RER Suburban services, and high-speed services via the ICE train.
Meiser Railway Station
Located 100 meters (a little over 109 yards) from the Meiser Crossroad on Brussel's greater ring, the Meiser Railway Station is only 3 kilometres (about 1.9 miles) from Schaerbeek's downtown area. The station is one of the smaller in the area, with only two platforms that offer four Brussels RER Suburban services.
Meiser Railway Station also connects passengers with alternative public transport options. In addition to serving as a stop for tram lines 25 and 62, the bus is a regular stop on De Lij Bus 318, 351, 358, and 410.
Luggage Storage at Airports near Schaerbeek
Currently, there are multiple airports within relatively close proximity to Schaerbeek that visitors can use to access the city, including the nearby Brussels Airport.
As Belgium's busiest airport, and the 24th busiest European airport, over 26 million passengers arrive or depart from Brussels Airport annually. Conveniently located just 8 kilometres (4.9 miles) northwest of Schaerbeek's city centre, the military and public use airport offers local and international flights every day of the year.
Brussels Airport, sometimes known as Brussel-Nationaal or Luchthaven Zaventem, contains offices and headquarters for more than 250 companies, which collectively employ more than 20,000 people at the facility. Additionally, the airport serves as the home base for TUI fly Belgium and Brussels Airlines, two of the country's biggest commercial airline companies.
Consisting of a single terminal split into two piers and four levels, the Brussels Airport is also home to the Brussels National Airport Railway Station. The railway station, on level -1, sits underneath the airport and offers connections to multiple lines throughout the city of Brussels and beyond, including routes to Schaerbeek.
Antwerp International Airport
Antwerp International Airport is a small, international airport situated 47 kilometres (29.2 miles) north of Schaerbeek, in Belgium's Flemish Region. Serving over 270,000 passengers annually, the airport is utilised for business and general aviation. Additionally, Antwerp International Airport consists of a single terminal and offers regularly scheduled charter, domestic, international, and seasonal flights.
In 1923, the airport initially opened as an aviation school for pilots before providing passenger services out of an old railway carriage in 1924. Later, Antwerp International Airport played multiple critical roles during World War II with use as an aircraft factory, an airfield for the Nazi Luftwaffe, and a base for Allied air forces.
Today, nearly a century later, visitors to the airport can explore its extensive history at the Museum Stampe-Vertongen. The museum, which sits adjacent to the main building, in the original facility that served the airport in 1930, houses more than 20 aeroplanes and aeroplane replicas.
Brussels South Charleroi Airport
Brussels South Charleroi is located in Gosselies, around 71 kilometres (a little over 44 miles) south of Schaerbeek's city centre. Also known as Gosselies Airport, Brussels-Charleroi Airport, and Charleroi Airport, Brussels South Charleroi Airport transports more than 7 million travellers in a typical year.
Though initially utilised in the early 1900s as an aviation maintenance area and training school, the airport officially began serving the general public as an aerodrome in the 1970s. More than fifty years later, Brussels South Charleroi Airport is Belgium's second most popular airport, providing charter and passenger flights through a variety of commercial airlines, like Ryanair, TUI fly Belgium and Wizz Air.
Furthermore, as a transit hub in the area, the airport offers several connections to destinations throughout Belgium, including a direct connection to the Brussels-South Railway Station (see above). If you're flying into Brussels South Charleroi Airport, be sure to stop in at one of the airport's over 20 coffee shops, pubs, restaurants, and stores to refuel before heading out to Schaerbeek.
What to do in Schaerbeek
- Visit Train World, the National Railway Museum of Belgium, at Schaerbeek Railway Station, where you can see more than 20 locomotives on display.
- Explore the grounds of Château Jourdain, a sprawling castle just 8.8 kilometres, less than 6 miles, from Schaerbeek's city centre.
- Grab a pint, or two, at the tavern in the Schaerbeek Beer Museum, home to more than one thousand Belgian beer bottles.
- Marvel at the gorgeous Saint Mary's Royal Church and its iconic dome top, originally built over a century ago in 1888.
- Enjoy a picnic and a walk along Josaphat Park's 20 pristine hectares (49 acres) of paths, ponds, communal greenhouses, playgrounds, and incredible natural scenery.
- Take a tour of the Maison Autrique House, the city's first Art Nouveau style building, and a modern-day museum.
- Check out one of the world's most extensive collections of Art Deco ceramic clocks at the Cloackarium Museum.
- Immerse yourself in art among the exhibits of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and more at the Musée d'Art Spontané.
Schaerbeek's climate is classified as sub-oceanic due to the heavy influence of the nearby Atlantic Ocean. The city experiences four distinct seasons, with generally warm, temperate summers and moderately cold, windy winters. Throughout the year, temperatures average around 10 to 11 degrees Celsius or the equivalent of about 51 to 52 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a typical year, Schaerbeek experiences anywhere from 805 to 810 millimetres (31.6 to 31.8 inches) of precipitation, including rain and snow. Furthermore, as June through August are the city's hottest months, they're often the busiest and the most expensive for tourists. As such, locals recommend instead postponing your visit for the months of October, November, and December to save on room and attraction rates.
Fun Facts About Schaerbeek
- Schaerbeek first appeared in written record in 1120, when the Bishop of Cambrai referred to the city as Scarenbeca in a church-related document.
- At the end of World War II, United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the city.
- Every year, Houffalize, Belgium, sends the city hundreds of Christmas trees in thanks to the funds that were collected and donated by the people of Schaerbeek after WWII.
- Schaerbeek's Town Hall and Josaphat Park were inaugurated by King Leopold II in 1887 and 1904, respectively.
- The city is home to more than 85 restaurants, cafes, and pubs.