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In March 2019 I headed to Brussels for a short weekend break. I’d been once before and really enjoyed the city, so was looking forward to exploring further afield this time. On our second day we decided to walk down the Brussels Canal towards the Kanal Centre Pompidou, a modern art museum set in the derelict buildings of a Citroën garage.

We had set off early after a delicious breakfast, but when we arrived at the museum we realised it didn’t open until midday. With time to kill we decided to go off and explore the nearby Molenbeek-Saint-Jean district which is located a short walk from the Kanal Centre Pompidou.

Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, often simply called Molenbeek, is one of nineteen municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region. It is a rich multicultural area which in recent years was sadly, and wrongly, branded in international media as a “no go zone”. This reputation came from the fact that some of the perpetrators of the November 2015 Paris attacks had a connection with the neighborhood. In fact, if you search Molenbeek in Google some of the first pages that show up include articles suggesting just that. I was almost certain that the area would be the complete opposite and was keen to head out and explore for myself.

As I suspected, I found the district to be an amazing melting pot of different cultures. Everyone I met was warm and friendly and the general atmosphere as I walked around was buzzing. We headed to the central square and saw that there was a local market. So I took out my recorder and captured this sound walk.

This recording really captures what I felt as I explored this part of Brussels. The market is very local, there were no tourists. We hear a lovely mix of languages from shoppers and market traders calling out advertising their services. And in the distance the local church bells ring out announcing the start of the daily mass. For anyone who plans to visit Brussels, do not believe the hype in the media. Molenbeek is a culturally rich and diverse area with plenty to offer.