Best Cities to Live in Belgium as an Expat

Here’re the 4 best cities to live in Belgium for expats, based on the quality of life, internationality, cost of living and safety.


7 minute read
Updated on 7 Jul 2023

Where to live in Belgium? There isn’t one single answer to this question. Moving to Belgium takes a good amount of research to find the right fit for your needs and preferences. To save you some time, we’ve compiled a list of the 4 best cities in Belgium to live in based on their:

  • Quality of life
  • Internationality
  • Cost of living
  • Safety

So let's take a quick dive into the top expat cities in Belgium:

  1. Brussels
  2. Antwerp
  3. Ghent
  4. Liege

1. Brussels: the most international city in Belgium


  • Very cosmopolitan and everyone speaks English
  • Great healthcare services
  • Abundance of entertainment options and parks
  • Good work opportunities for expats
  • A lot of international schools
  • Great food and restaurants
  • Hilly terrain with beautiful views


  • Heavy traffic within popular areas
  • More expensive than other cities
  • Dirty streets in the central areas
  • Some areas can feel unsafe
  • Still too few biking lanes
  • Lack of parking spaces

Quality of life

With a population of 2,110,000, the Belgian capital is the centre of the political life of the European Union and the economic centre of Belgium. Not surprisingly, Brussels has the highest GDP per capita in Belgium.

The quality of life really depends on where you live in Brussels. The Brussels-Capital Region extends to 19 municipalities, one of which is the city of Brussels itself. And while most of the inner city is notorious for its traffic, touristy spots and pollution, you can find peace among the lush parks of upmarket suburbs like Ixelles and Uccle. Many international schools and universities are located in those areas too.

Working expats will find that Brussels is the best Belgian city to live in because several of the largest international companies are located here, creating abundant work opportunities, especially for English-speaking expats.

Students and young professionals will fall in love with the bustling nightlife and art scenes that are unique to this cosmopolitan city. From all-day radio Kiosk stationed amidst the Parc Royal to art centres such as Beursschouwburg or KANAL-Centre Pompidou, each neighbourhood has something exciting to discover. Fortunately, with the efficient public transportation system of Brussels, travelling to different parts of the city is an easy task.

And yes, Brussels isn’t perfect. But it’s part of its charm. It’s a city of contrasts where old meets new and every street is different from one another.

Cost of Living

Living in the capital doesn't come cheap. Brussels might be the most expensive city in Belgium to live in but it also boasts some of the highest salaries. You can live comfortably in the capital for about €1,772 per month if renting a studio. Keep in mind that as the city is the largest in Belgium, finding rental homes in Brussels which are affordable might be more difficult.


Brussels is the best city in Belgium to live in as an English-speaking expat. Why? Because you’ll share it with over a million other foreigners! About 70% of Brussels' residents are from foreign origin.


According to Statista, Brussels-capital has the lowest number of crimes among all the Belgian regions. Most of the 75,650 crimes registered in 2021 are petty crimes, such as pickpocketing.

While areas like Uccle, Ixelles and Woluwe-Saint-Pierre are considered the safest with less than 500 crimes a year, they do have a somewhat higher rate of burglaries. And as for areas to avoid, Gare du Midi and Molenbeek can be considered somewhat sketchy, though not really dangerous.

Finally, Brussels is among the safest places for members of the LGBTQ community, scoring 9/10 on the acceptance scale.

2. Antwerp: best Belgian city for creatives and retail workers


  • Lively creative scene
  • More affordable rent
  • Very suitable for biking
  • Clean streets
  • Good public transportation within the inner city
  • Great employment opportunities
  • Family-friendly establishments


  • Some traffic congestion in the city centre
  • Lack of parking spaces
  • The town hall staff is forbidden to speak English
  • There’s always construction going on

Quality of life

The second most populous city in Belgium, Antwerp is home to around 524,501 residents. The capital of the Antwerp Province in the Flemish Region is also the largest Belgian city, covering an area of 204.51 square kilometres.

You might know Antwerp as a fashion destination. Not only thanks to its excellent vintage shopping but also the Royal Academy of Fine Arts which schooled the likes of Dries Van Noten and Martin Margiela. Indeed, retail & fashion are one of the main business sectors of Antwerp, next to its diamond trade and oil & chemical sector, facilitated by one of the largest European ports.

Antwerp’s one of the best cities in Belgium to live in if you’d like to work in those fields. Or in marketing and PR for that matter, since some of the trendiest creative agencies are located in Antwerp!

Whether you end up living in industrial Het Eilandje, the vintage hub of Sint-Andries or the trendy Het Zuid, you’ll be surrounded by an amazing selection of bars, restaurants, shops, museums and boutiques. And if you wish to live somewhere more quiet, green suburbs like Deurne or Zurenborg will make you feel at home.

What’s more, Antwerp is well-connected by public transport. And it’s not only easy to travel to different parts of the city but also to Brussels, Ghent, Bruges and Liège. Even Paris, Amsterdam or London are within 3 hours away!

Cost of Living

Antwerp prices come pretty close to the living costs of Brussels. You’d generally spend around 5% less here thanks to slightly lower rental prices. So assuming you find studio for rent in Antwerp, you can expect to spend around €1,550 a month.


Antwerp offers the most multicultural environment after Brussels. It’s home to at least 166 different nationalities that makeup around half of its population. It does fall behind when it comes to the number of international schools in the city, but you’ll find 4 pretty good ones.


With a crime index of 39.73, Antwerp is considered a peaceful city where people don’t have to worry about their safety. You can walk at night in most of the areas, though the red light district Leguit and Central Station might have a bit of a sketchy vibe at night.

3. Ghent: best Belgian university city


  • Great scientific education options
  • Village meets metropolis
  • Welcoming and friendly locals
  • Vibrant student nightlife
  • Beautiful architecture and canals


  • Hard to find a job without speaking Dutch or Flemish
  • The weather can be unpredictable
  • Accommodation is pretty expensive and in high demand

Quality of life

Ghent is the second-largest city in Flanders. Its population is around 264,000 inhabitants with almost 30% of them being students.

Indeed, it's a university city and a beautiful one. Characterised by its waterways and mediaeval buildings, Ghent boasts a young, friendly vibe of a metropolis with a village feel. It even earned itself the nickname of ‘Mediaeval Manhattan’ and has 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Plus, the University of Ghent is among the best ones in engineering and life sciences. Thanks to that, the city’s becoming a strong research and development centre.

Most of the internationals search homes for rent in Ghent's city centre, paved with cobbled streets that teem with restaurants and museums. You’ll also find a bustling nightlife scene here and the renowned nightclub Kompass.

The historical centre is pedestrian-only and overall the city is quite walkable. Most of the locals use bikes to get from A to B, making full use of the traffic-free zones and picturesque views.

Cost of Living

Living in Ghent costs pretty much the same as in Antwerp, mostly because of the high rent prices. You’ll need around €1,500 a month to live in Ghent if renting a studio. If you plan to live in a shared apartment, you can count on a budget of €900 – €1,200 per month.


Ghent is less international than Antwerp and Brussels, but still has a vibrant international community. Thanks to the many international students arriving here to study and settling down after, the percentage of non-Belgian nationals in Ghent is around 15.3%.


With a crime index of 27.82, Ghent is considered a pretty safe city and ranked among the safest cities for the LGBTQ community. However, locals advise avoiding the areas of Brugse Poort, Nieuw Gent and Citadel Park at night.

4. Liège: affordable living close to the borders


  • Good education opportunities
  • Vibrant cultural life
  • Strong historical character
  • Welcoming locals
  • Affordable housing
  • Hilly landscape and picturesque views


  • Language barrier
  • Dirty streets
  • Limited employment opportunities for English speakers
  • No international schools

Quality of life

With 682,000 residents, Liège is Wallonia’s most populous city. It’s nestled to the east of Belgium, on the river Meuse, close to the German and Dutch borders. Thanks to its strategic location and a river port, Liège used to be one of the key industrial centres, especially in steel and coal.

To this day, the city’s been undergoing modernisation and economic redeployment. Those looking for work in manufacturing, new technology, services, tourism and aviation will find plenty of opportunities in the ‘Ardent City.’ However, you might need to learn French to increase your chances.

Students flock here to pursue engineering, biology and earth sciences degrees at the University of Liège. It’s home to more than 26,863 students, 22% of which are of foreign nationality.

Despite its industrial past, Liège is very green and features an impressive blend of ancient and modern architecture set among narrow cobbled streets, boulevards, and picturesque hillsides. It’s not your average cleaned-up organised city — you either love it or hate it. One will tell you that it’s an ugly town; the other will say it’s authentic.

Most of the expats settle around the greener areas of Boulevards Frère-Orban and Piercot, Rue du Mont St-Martin, and Rue du Jardin Botanique or in the suburbs of Sart-Tilman and Cointe. However, if you consider moving with a family, keep in mind there’re no international schools in Liege.

Cost of Living

Living in Liege is cheaper than living in Brussels, Antwerp or Ghent. Especially thanks to the lower rental prices, which are about 29.22% lower than in Ghent. On average, you’d spend around €900 per month if you're exploring rental homes in Liège alone.


Even though Liege is one of the most popular cities among expats and tourists, it’s still predominantly Belgian. And truth be told, you might experience some language barrier here. Most of the people speak French, with English, Italian and Spanish being more common than Dutch.


Liege has one of the highest crime rates in Belgium. According to Numbeo, its safety index is 42.62 and the crime index equals 57.38. Not to say it’s dangerous to live there — it's generally quite safe — but you might want to avoid the Sainte Marguerite neighbourhood and the outskirts at night. Also, watch out for your belongings around the nightlife area Carré.

Now that you know about the different Belgian cities, what’s the best city to live in Belgium for you?

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