Where to stay in Brussels: best accomodation tips
Brussels is the capital of Belgium and the center of the European Union. It is a big city, which is divided in 19 districts. Its center, the Petite Ceinture, has large avenues, which a few centuries ago were the synonym of a fortified city. I can’t understand why but a lot of people will tell you not to spend a lot of days in Brussels. I spent three days in the city and I confess that I would have liked to stay longer, if I could. In this post, I’ve included several tips that I’ve gathered while visiting the city to help you choosing your accommodation option for Brussels, considering the main neighborhoods, the proximity to touristic attractions, nightlife and the access to the public transport system.
Remember that the signs always have two idioms: French and Dutch. This might become confusing while reading the map.
Where to stay in Brussels: best neighborhoods
The Grand-Place is the main square in Brussels and one of the most beautiful ones in Europe. Around it, you can find museums, palaces, touristic attractions, coffee houses, and chocolate, waffles and french fries stores. In short, it is the center of Brussels and the most touristic part of the city. Furthermore, you can easily do everything just walking.
Yet, staying inside the Petite Ceinture has a financial cost that is relatively high: if everyone wants to stay there, if the stores, museums, palaces, restaurants, and, of course, the main hotels are there, the prices get considerably higher. It’s kind of hard to find accessible options in the area of the Grand-Place – even the hostels are expensive here. Yet, if your budget is not that low, you might find an amazing offer and this area is certainly the best one for your accommodation in Brussels.
This was the district where I stayed. In fact, I would stay there again. Stain-Gilles is a European immigrant’s neighborhood: I could head Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish there frequently. It is famous its Art Nouveau buildings and the bohemian mood. There are several coffee houses, pubs and bars. The best thing about it is that since those are out of the touristic area, the prices are bellow the average. Furthermore, it is easy to walk from Saint-Gilles to the Grand-Place: it’s about 2 km away.
For those who don’t enjoy walking, there are buses and tramways that connect Saint-Gilles to the other points of the city quite quickly and easily. The area is relatively close to the Midi train station, which makes it easier to visit other Belgian cities and return to Brussels, and also for those who arrive at Charleroi, the farthest airport (both the train and the transfer departure from and arrive there).
The Ixelles district is marked by Avenue Louise, an avenue with many stores. The district is quite busy, fashionista and modern. The farthest you are from the Grand-Place, the cooler it gets, especially near the Flagey area, which is quite bohemian and it’s where the young people of Brussels get together to have a drink.
It was one of the best places that I’ve visited to enjoy the nightlife, despite the fact that the bars close early. The area has a bus station, a subway line and a tramway. Furthermore, just like in Saint-Gilles, you can walk until the Grand-Place.
Among the modern buildings of the European Parliament and the European Commission and the people wearing suits, the European District of Brussels is a very beautiful area. It might have a more political/entrepreneurial atmosphere, but it is also the area where you can find the Cinquantenaire Park, which has two museums and a Triumphal Arch.
The European District is right behind the Royal Palace of Brussels. It is quite easy to walk around the district. Furthermore, obviously, since it is an area with people from all Europe who are there to work, there are several public transport options to all the areas of the city. However, the nightlife is quite less interesting. The prices for the hotels is not that cheap, since there is a high demand for accommodation, due to those who travel to Brussels while working.
North from the center and near the Brussels Nord train station – which directly connects with the Zaventem Airport – you will find the Saint-Josse-ten-Noode. This neighborhood has the biggest Turkish community of the city and many students also live here. The area offers many affordable accommodation options and also has a few hotels. The Botanical Garden and the Belgian Comic Strip Centre are located on this neighborhood.
In Anderlecht you will find some of the most affordable options in Brussels. It is the neighborhood where the Brussels Midi station and the Cantillon Brewery are located. A lot of people say that it is not advisable to walk around this area during the night but it isn’t true at all. I had to walk during the night to catch the airport transfer and I did not feel unsafe at all. However, it is true that the streets are emptier and there is a higher potential of meeting strange people, since the main city train station is quite close.