For whatever reason you find yourself in Belgium, it doesn’t take long to discover just how vibrant its capital is. Expats from all over the globe set up base in Brussels for its top-notch universities, life-changing career options and exciting opportunities for digital nomads. You’ll find that it’s a vibrant international city, so you’ll never be too far from other expats who are getting to know its unique rhythms, just like you.
There are so many things to do in Brussels that you may never be able to pack it all in! There’s stunning architecture, endless attractions, beautiful natural spaces, delicious food and friendly, diverse people. Sure, there are a lot of tourist attractions that you should definitely see, but you should also see Brussels like a local if you want to feel like you belong in its thriving expat community!
The HousingAnywhere team has lived or is currently living in numerous cities all across the globe. We’re clued-up on the questions that internationals have when arriving in a new city, as well as the benefits of living abroad and how they can apply to you.
In this guide, we will feature information about the top, must-see things in Brussels, but you’ll also find lots of recommendations for when you want to get away from the crowds, have an inexpensive meal and a quiet walk in the most peaceful park in the city.
So, grab a tea or coffee, and let’s start learning about the REAL Brussels!
Before you begin to learn the best place to buy chocolates or who has the fluffiest waffles, it’s important to learn a few basic living tips for Brussels.
Brussels is called “home” by approximately 1.2 million people, so you can expect a bustling metropolis, and the opportunity to meet a lot of new people. However, 25 - 30% of its inhabitants are not Belgian nationals, so expats feel right at home.
Now, you’re probably already aware that the average cost of living in Brussels is a little higher than in other Belgian cities, but right at the expected mark for Europe’s capital cities. For a room in a shared apartment in Brussels, you can expect to pay between €500-750 per month.
Brussels is a true bilingual city. In fact, all official signage will be in both Dutch and French. You may also hear a little German, but English is also widely spoken in the international areas or around the universities.
The good news is that the weather in Brussels is typically pretty mild, but things can get really rainy. When you pack your bag, don’t forget those rain boots!
Brussels has an excellent transportation system, including a network consisting of a Metro, trams, buses and trains. All of these can be easily accessed by using the conveniently refillable MOBIB card.
Brussels is the very center of European politics, hosting the headquarters of the European Union’s government buildings and organizations.
One of the really fun things about moving to a new city with a different culture is thinking about all of the new foods that you’ll be able to try! Every city in the world has its specialty, but Brussels is special enough to boast more than just one or two. Whether you want to celebrate at a high-quality restaurant, try one of a dozen beers on tap at the local pub or sample the delicious treats from a local street vendor, you’re going to love eating and drinking your way through Brussels!
This is a popular main dish that consists of Belgian’s famous french fries and a heaping order of mussels. Some of the best places to try this include: Le Scheltema (a French-style brasserie), Le Pre Sale (highly recommended by other expats and located on the hip Rue de Flandre) and La Villette (a typical, cozy Brussels establishment).
It would certainly be remiss to leave the Belgian waffle off this list. However, there are actually two types of waffles in Brussels. The Brussels Waffle is rectangular in shape, and it’s airy on the inside but crispy on the edges, often topped with sauces and powdered sugar. The Liege Waffles are softer and sweet, with crooked edges. It is eaten without toppings, due to its natural sweetness.
In Brussels, waffles are popular street foods, so many of the food carts will specialize in both types of tasty delicacies. However, Maison Dandoy, with its multiple locations, is known as the ultimate waffle stop in Brussels. Le Funamble is also a delicious stand that offers plenty of variety.
Since people fly chocolate from Brussels to royal palaces all over the world, it’s probably good enough to eat for the average expat. Pierre Marcolini offers a wide variety, with unique ingredients that are clearly marked. You can also visit the Chocolissimo and Zaabӓr chocolate shop and even try a cooking class.
This stew originated in Flanders and is immensely popular throughout Belgium. It typically includes your choice of fish or chicken, cooked along with cream, vegetable broth and egg yolks. Le Cellier is a popular place to try this tempting dish, with everything home-cooked. Le Cirio is another excellent option, housed in a building dating back to 1909.
Part of studying abroad or moving around as a digital nomad is to experience the culture of your new destination; there’s no better way to do that than to jump right into the nightlife scene. Expanding your network is very important when you move across the continent, or to another country, for a number of reasons. A great support system can often be key to how successful your time abroad will be.
While there are dozens of trendy nightclubs and posh bars, the nightlife in Brussels for internationals centers around Belgian beer, and for good reason! Where else can you try over 800 different brands of beer? Some of the most popular bars and pubs include:
Delirium Cafe and Little Delirium Cafe: These two related bars are staples of the beer culture in Brussels. They are popular with tourists, but the international crowd still swear by them both, as they offer over 3,000 beers. How cool is that?
La Port Noire: This establishment adds a little aura to your night out, because it’s located in a 16th-century cellar, and famous for its karaoke nights.
Even if you just have a passing interest in design, Brussels is a city full of architectural eye candy.
Also known as the Grote Markt, the Grand-Place de Bruxelles is the city centre's main square. It's also a UNESCO World Heritage site and naturally, the buildings are astonishingly beautiful.
A small replica of a Greek Temple, this gem is only open for an hour or so a few days a week, and holds what many see as a rather scandalous sculpture...
Situated in the studio and private home of Victor Horta, this house is a homage to the Art Nouveau movement. Pay it a visit to marvel at the stained glass, mosaics and architecture.
Brussels is packed with over 130 museums, which can fill a rainy day with inspiration like no other! Mix these in with other city attractions, and you’ll always have something to fill your free time!
The Royal Museums of Fine Arts are both a MUST, even if you have to deal with the tourists. Once summer has passed, you’ll find that it’s much easier to spend a quiet morning at one of its two locations, one of which was founded by Napoleon.
Bruparck, also known as Mini Europe, is a 25-hectare park that is filled with amusements, an IMAX, a water park, dining and much more.
To venture a little off the well-trodden path, visit the charming, quaint street of Rue de la Cigogne, complete with cafés, nice shops and cobblestone streets.
And if you’re looking for a little green space, try Egmont Park, where you can try out the walking or jogging paths, have a picnic or just relax. Be sure to see the Peter Pan statue, a copy of the celebrated original in London’s Hyde Park.
While there are many reasons to visit Brussels, you now know that there are numerous reasons to actually move to Brussels! With so many things to do, and a large expat community made up of students and digital nomads, you should go ahead and start looking for a room in Brussels right away. You’re going to adore Belgium!