Sablon – why all the cars?

Sablon is a nice part of Brussels: Located between two lovely churches and lined with cafés, chocolate shops and restaurants, the area attracts both locals and tourist all year round.

A view from Sablon.

Sablon hosts an antiques market on weekends, and there are lots of shops and art galleries in the area. The lovely park – le Petit Sablon – is a small but pretty green spot in the city.

This is one of my favourite parks in Brussels
This is one of my favourite parks in Brussels.

I see a lot of potential in Sablon: The big square in the middle could be a pleasant outdoor area for people to spend time in. In my mind I see seating areas for cafés and ice cream vendors, perhaps a little fountain and more green spaces, trees and flowers. The antiques market could be expanded and more seasonal markets could be hosted there as well.

Unfortunately, instead, the square is mostly used as a car park. There is a huge asphalt space in the middle reserved for motor vehicles:

The car park of Sablon - such a waste of space!
The car park of Sablon – such a waste of space!

Parking is also allowed on both sides of the streets around the square:

From left to right: parked cars, car lane, more parked cars and… a car park!

I would love to enjoy a coffee with a nice view of the church and the trees, but alas: Parked cars block any views, and the noise of the traffic is not pleasant at all. Even the nice antiques market is completely hidden behind the cars and the traffic:

Can you spot the antique market stalls behind all these cars?

Many people reviewing Sablon on Tripadvisor also feel that the amount of traffic around the square reduces the attractivity of the area.

  • Laura from the UK: “While it is very pretty the amount of traffic and parked cars mean that there is no square as such that you can walk in.
  • John from California: “The center is mainly used as a parking lot, which spoils the ambience. A park should be put in its place.

Why does the city not recognise the value of Sablon as a pedestrian area with lots of possibilities for recreation, leisure and tourism? I am sure that the cafés around the square would be happy to have more space for customers to sit outside. There is a lot of potential to develop a proper Christmas market and bigger food markets in this area as well. The possibilities are endless!

Sadly, currently the area is just another example of Brussels choosing cars and the rights of drivers over any other options of city development. It remains to be seen how the city’s new plans to develop the parking and pedestrian zones in the next few years will actually improve the situation.

What do you think? How would you develop Sablon?


3 thoughts on “Sablon – why all the cars?

  1. I couldn’t agree more. The same with Place du Châtelain in Ixelles – another potentially lovely square squandered by its being used as a carpark. Except for Wednesdays and Sundays, when it’s a market, and the ambience is completely different – the market should be extended to the rest of the week.

    The best thing about President Obama’s visit to Brussels not so long ago was that Avenue Toison d’or was closed to traffic. The place was completely transformed; in place of the usual steaming lanes of traffic and bumper-to-bumper parked cars there were strolling pedestrians and birdsong, and you were able to appreciate the greenery.

    The prioritisation of cars in Brussels is absurd. If you stand at a tram-stop and watch the cars going past, so few of them contain more than one person. Why is there no park and ride scheme in place?


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