Where to stay in Brussels for first time: 6 Safe areas

Finding where to stay in Brussels as a first-time visitor can be a daunting task. That’s why, in today’s article, I will help you to find safe places to stay in Brussels for first-timers and tourists.

I’ll provide you with my recommendation for the best and safest areas to stay in Brussels, along with a helpful map and areas to avoid. I’ll also share where I stayed in Brussels and suggest some of the best hotels in Brussels for all budgets.

Brussels is the capital city of Belgium and is often considered the de facto capital of the European Union (EU). It is located in the central part of the country and is known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and its role as a major political and administrative center in Europe.

The city is home to many key EU institutions, including the European Commission, Council of the European Union, and European Parliament. This has led to its nickname as the Capital of Europe.

You can visit numerous historic and cultural landmarks, including the Grand Place (Grote Markt), which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Atomium, a unique building shaped like an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times, is another famous attraction.

Be sure to try its delicious cuisine, including Belgian waffles, chocolates, and, of course, Belgian beer. The city is also famous for its mussels and fries, often referred to as “moules-frites.”

Brussels has a well-connected transportation network, with a major international airport (Brussels Airport), a central train station (Gare Centrale), and an extensive public transportation system.

Is Brussels safe to visit?

Brussels is generally a safe city to visit. But, like any other major city, there is petty theft such as pickpocketing and mugging, as well as terrorist attacks, especially in crowded areas, tourist spots, transport hubs, and major events.  

Protests and demonstrations can occur, especially around European institutions. While most are peaceful, it’s a good idea to stay informed about any potential demonstrations to avoid them.

As you would when traveling to any city, always exercise standard precautions, such as safeguarding your belongings and staying aware of your surroundings. This is especially important at major train stations like Gare du Midi, Gare de Bruxelles-Nord, and Gare De Bruxelles-Centrale.

Always stick to well-lit, populated areas, avoid walking alone after dark. Stay updated with local news and follow the advice of local authorities to protect yourself from terrorism. Taking common-sense precautions can help ensure a trouble-free visit.

Where to stay in Brussels for the first time?

The best and safest areas to stay in Brussels for first-timers and tourists are Grand Place, Saint-Gery, Brussel-Centraal, Sablon, Ixelles, and Avenue Louise. Regardless of where you stay, be aware of your belongings, avoid poorly lit areas at night, and exercise common-sense safety practices.

Brussels City center, particularly the area around Grand Place, is the most popular area for first-time visitors to stay. It is the heart of Brussels and a bustling tourist hub with many hotels, restaurants, and shops. While it’s quite safe, be aware of pickpockets in crowded areas.

Saint-Géry is a trendy and central area located near the Grand Place, offering a mix of restaurants, bars, and galleries. It’s generally safe, but like any nightlife district, you should be cautious late at night.

Brussels-Centraal, or the central train station area, is well-connected, making it convenient for travelers. It’s generally safe, but always watch your belongings in busy transportation hubs.

Ixelles is known for its charming streets, upscale shops, and trendy bars. Sablon is a relatively safe and upscale neighborhood known for its antique shops, chocolate boutiques, and art galleries.  

Saint-Gilles offers a diverse cultural experience with a variety of cafes and markets. While it’s generally safe, some areas may feel less touristy, so it’s wise to stay aware of your surroundings.

Avenue Louise is an upscale shopping and dining district. It’s generally safe, and you’ll find luxury hotels here. Exercise standard precautions while walking around the area.

While Brussels is a generally safe city for tourists, there are a few areas to exercise caution and potentially avoid staying in such as the area around Gare du Midi (South Station), Brussels-North Station, and Saint-Josse-Ten-Noode. They have been known for high pickpocketing incidents.

Molenbeek has gained notoriety due to past associations with extremism and high crime rates. Anderlecht, particularly its southern parts, can be less tourist-friendly with some rougher areas. Schaerbeek, although it has some charming spots, also has pockets of higher crime. 

During my trip to Brussels, I stayed in the City Center at the Hotel Hubert Grand Place. This is a great mid-range hotel in a prime location, easily accessible from the Central Station and the airport. I was able to visit most major sights like the Grand Place and City Hall on foot.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Brussels for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the safe areas to stay in Brussels first time
Map of the safe areas to stay in Brussels first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Brussels, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Brussels have been carefully selected by me, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

6 Safe areas to stay in Brussels for first-timers and tourists

1. Grand Place 

Grand Place (Grote Markt) is the heart of Brussels and a top choice for first-timers. You’ll be right in the historic center, easy access to numerous major attractions, cafes and restaurants. It’s a great place for exploring the city on foot.

The Grand Place is the central square of the city and is surrounded by stunning historic architecture, including the Town Hall and the King’s House (Maison du Roi). This area is not only the heart of Brussels but also a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

You’ll be within walking distance of many of Brussels’ top attractions, including the Atomium, Manneken Pis, and the Royal Palace.

The area is steeped in history and offers a beautiful and atmospheric backdrop for your stay. It also offers a variety of shops, from traditional chocolate stores to designer boutiques.

Brussels Central Station is nearby, providing easy access to trains and public transportation for day trips or exploring other parts of the city.

Keep in mind that staying near the Grand Place can be a bit more expensive compared to some other neighborhoods, but the convenience and experience of being in the heart of the city can make it well worth it, especially for first-time visitors.

Best places to stay in Brussels around Grand Place for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): Radisson Collection Grand Place Brussels, popular 5-star hotel located in central Berlin, only 5 mins walk from the Grand Place, the Rue Neuve shopping area and Central Station. It has very good breakfast according to 6000 guests’ reviews. 
  • Mid-range ($$): Hotel Hubert Grand Place, great 4-star hotel located in Brussels City Center, easy walk from Central Station for direct train connection to Brussels Airport. Also easy access to major sights such as Grand Place, Brussels City Hall, and Museum of the City of Brussels. 
  • Budget ($): Craves, 3-star accommodation centrally located on Rue Marché aux Poulets, within walking distance from the Belgian Comics Strip Center, Magritte Museum, Manneken Pis and Mont des Arts. It has quiet comfortable rooms, very good breakfast, and 24-hour front desk.

2. Saint-Gery

Saint-Géry is a great base in Brussels for travelers who enjoy a vibrant atmosphere, nightlife, and the arts. It is a central area around Place Saint-Géry, located between the Grand Palace and the canal, making it a great base to explore the city including the Christmas Market at Place Sainte-Catherine. 

Saint-Géry is known for its lively nightlife. The area is home to various bars, clubs, and entertainment venues, making it a great choice if you want to experience Brussels’ after-dark scene.

The neighborhood is an artistic hub with numerous art galleries, theaters, and cultural events. If you have an interest in contemporary art and culture, you’ll find plenty to explore here.

You’ll discover a wide range of dining options, from trendy restaurants to international cuisine. The neighborhood is known for its culinary diversity, so you can explore different flavors during your stay.

Best places to stay in Brussels in Saint-Gery for first-time visitors:

  • Mid-range ($$): Novotel Brussels City Centre, popular 4-star accommodation located within only a few mins walk from Grand Place, De Brouckère Metro Station, Rue Neuve shopping street, and the Manneken Pis Statue. It has an Indoor swimming pool and a very good breakfast.
  • Mid-range ($$): NH Collection Brussels Centre, great 4-star hotel, centrally located in Brussels, featuring a summer roof-top terrace, 24-hour front desk, and family rooms. Short distance from Brouckère Metro station and Royal Gallery, where you can buy Belgian chocolates and waffles.
  • Budget ($): Boutique Hotel Saint-Géry, 3-star boutique hotel in Brussels city center, short walk from Grand Place, Rue Antoine Dansaert street, and Manneken Pis.

3. Brussel-Centraal

Brussels Central Station is a convenient  and practical area in Brussels for first-timers, especially if you plan to use the train for day trips to other Belgian cities. It’s also close to many tourist attractions.

Brussels Central Station is a major transportation hub, connecting you to trains, trams, and buses that can take you to the airport, various parts of the city, and even other Belgian cities like Bruges, Antwerp, or Ghent.

Many of Brussels’ top attractions, including the Grand Place, Manneken Pis, and the Royal Palace, are within walking distance of Brussels Central Station. This means you’ll have easy access to the city’s main tourist spots.

The station is close to popular shopping districts like Rue Neuve, where you’ll find a wide range of shops and boutiques for all budgets. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes in the vicinity, offering various cuisines to suit different tastes and budgets.

On the downside, some people may find the area around the central station to be busy and less charming compared to neighborhoods like the Grand Place or Saint-Géry. 

Best places to stay in Brussel-Centraal for first-time tourists:

  • Mid-range ($$): Pillows City Hotel Brussels Centre, 4-star hotel located in the center of Brussels, a short walk from the Central Station and the St Michael & St Gudule Cathedral. It also has Fabulous breakfast and private parking for those who drive. 
  • Mid-range ($$): Hotel Novotel Brussels Off Grand Place, 4-star hotel located in the historic heart of Brussels offering bicycle rental service and Good breakfast. 10 mins walk from Parc de Bruxelles, the Magritte Museum and the Royal Palace.
  • Budget ($): 9Hotel Central, great 3-star boutique hotel, located close to the central train station, Royal Square and Manneken Pis Statue. You can easily find many bars and restaurants nearby.

4. Sablon

Sablon is a picturesque and upscale neighborhood known for its antique shops, art galleries, and chocolatiers. If you’re looking for a more luxurious and quieter experience, Sablon is a good choice.

The Grand Sablon is the main square of the area and is surrounded by cafes, antique shops, and high-end chocolate boutiques. It is a great place to sit and enjoy a coffee or a Belgian chocolate while people-watching.

Nearby you can find Place du Petit Sablon, a smaller square known for its beautifully landscaped gardens and a collection of 48 bronze statues representing medieval guilds. It’s a peaceful spot to relax and escape the city’s hustle and bustle.

Notre-Dame du Sablon Church, a stunning Gothic church, is a prominent landmark in the neighborhood. Its intricate architecture and beautiful stained glass windows make it worth a visit.

The neighborhood boasts several high-end boutiques and designer shops, offering a unique shopping experience for those interested in luxury fashion and accessories.

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, which house a rich collection of art, are nearby. So, if you’re interested in art and culture, you’ll find these museums easily accessible.

Best places to stay in Brussels in Sablon for first-timers:

  • Mid-range ($$): NH Collection Brussels Grand Sablon, popular 4-star hotel located on Rue Bodenbroek, in the historic Grand Sablon Square, a short walk from the Central Railway Station and Petit Sablon tram stop. It has Superb breakfast and private parking for guests who drive.
  • Mid-range ($$): 9Hotel Sablon, 4-star hotel situated on Rue De La Paille, in a quiet area within a few mins walk from the city center. Easy access to Place Royale with its Museum Magritte, and the tram stop at Petit Sablon.
  • Budget ($): Les Chambres de Martin, 3-star accommodation located within a short walk from  Notre-Dame du Sablon, Magritte Museum, Palais de Justice, and Mont des Arts. It has spacious and comfortable rooms.

5. Ixelles

Ixelles is a diverse neighborhood with a mix of cultures, offering a range of dining options, parks, and shops. It’s a bit farther from the central attractions but offers a more local feel.

Ixelles is a melting pot of cultures, and you’ll find a wide range of international restaurants, shops, and cultural events. It’s an excellent place to experience the diversity of Brussels.

Ixelles is home to several beautiful parks, including Flagey Square and Ixelles Ponds. These green spaces offer a peaceful retreat and a great place for a leisurely stroll.

The Ixelles area hosts local markets, such as the Ixelles Market and the Chatelain Market, where you can explore fresh produce, artisanal goods, and more.

While Ixelles isn’t in the immediate city center, it’s well-connected by public transportation, making it easy to reach major attractions in Brussels.

Best places to stay in Brussels in Ixelles for first-time travelers:

  • Luxury ($$$): Steigenberger Icon Wiltcher’s, 5-star hotel located 20 mins walk from the city center. It has an indoor swimming pool, located close to Place Royale, Coudenberg and Egmont Palace.
  • Mid-range ($$): Moxy Brussels City Center, 4-star accommodation centrally located in Elsene /Ixelles, within walking distance from Egmont Palace, Place du Grand Sablon, Notre-Dame du Sablon and Place Royale. Lots of local cafes and restaurants nearby. Close to a bus stop and metro station for bus/train to the city center
  • Budget ($): Jardin Secret, great 3-star garden themed accommodation located in a quiet safe area, 20 mins walk from the iconic Gland Palace, featuring an outdoor swimming pool and comfortable family rooms. 

6. Avenue Louise

Avenue Louise is a chic and upscale area with high-end shopping and dining. It’s a bit removed from the historic center but offers a luxurious and quieter stay.

Avenue Louise is a shopper’s paradise, with numerous designer boutiques, high-end fashion stores, and exclusive brands. If you enjoy luxury shopping, this is the place to be.

The area is characterized by beautiful 19th-century architecture, grand mansions, and tree-lined streets. It’s a visually appealing neighborhood with a refined atmosphere.

While the central tourist attractions are a bit farther away, Avenue Louise is home to some cultural institutions and museums, including the Horta Museum, dedicated to the Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta.

Avenue Louise is not as central as the Grand Place or Brussels Central Station, but it is well-connected to public transportation, making it easy to explore other parts of Brussels and access the city’s attractions.

Best places to stay in Brussels in Avenue Louise for first-time tourists:

  • Luxury ($$$): Hotel Le Châtelain, great 5-star hotel located a short walk from the famous Avenue Louise shopping area, close to Horta Museum, Louise Metro Station, offering shuttle limousine services, underground parking, and a 24-hour front desk.
  • Mid-range ($$): Thon Hotel Bristol Stephanie, lovely 4-star hotel located on Avenue Louise, within walking distance from Louise Metro Station for a direct connection to Brussels-South Railway Station and the Eurostar Terminal. It has soundproof rooms and fabulous breakfast.
  • Budget ($): B&B HOTEL Brussels Centre Louise, extremely popular hotel located on Rue Paul Spaak, featuring family rooms and very good breakfast. Close to the 93 and 81 tram stops.

In conclusion, Grand Place, Saint-Gery, Brussel-Centraal, Ixelles, Sablon, and Avenue Louise are the best places to stay in Brussels for first-timers and tourists. These are generally safe areas with plenty of accommodation options, but always exercise common-sense safety practices wherever you go.

If you are traveling to Brussels during Christmas season, you can read this article: Best areas to Stay in Brussels for Christmas Markets.

I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful. If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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