Recently, I took a fantastic solo trip to Belgium, flying into Brussels Charleroi. I spent three days in Brussels and then travelled on to the beautiful cities of Bruges and Ghent. I found Brussels to be a fantastic city for solo travellers, with plenty of cafes, walkable tourist trails and street art. It’s an international city, too, making it easy to meet other travellers and digital nomads. In all honesty, I could quite happily live in Brussels….I will definitely be returning! Today, I am excited to share with you my guide to solo travel in Brussels.
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Introduction to solo travel in Brussels
Brussels is a lot smaller than London or Paris and so it feels more manageable to get around. Much of the centre is pretty walkable, and I would recommend a walking tour on your first day, which will give you a good historical overview and help you to get your bearings. Regarding budget, I would recommend that you plan for at least 100-150€ per day. Even if you stay in a hostel, Brussels isn’t cheap (I paid around 45€ a night a LATROUPE hostel) and spent around 30-40€ a day on food. Then you need to consider tips for guides and entrance to attractions and museums.
Is Brussels safe to travel alone
I was in Brussels for three days and felt very safe there. I saw a few homeless people, but no-one that bothered me. You are recommended to wear your backpack on the front rather than on the back, some guides reported the odd pickpocket ‘tagging on’ to walking tours’ ready to take any opportunity that they can to swipe your wallet. Pick pockets and muggers are common in the following areas…
- At Brussels Gare du Midi/Zuidstation and Brussels Gare du Nord
- On international trains, particularly the Paris-Brussels and Amsterdam-Brussels
- In busy areas of central Brussels, including the EU quarter.
Also, there has been a recent terror attack on Brussels – two Swedes were shot dead by someone allegedly inspired by ISIS (October 2022). Always check the foreign office recommendations and guidance before you travel. However, on the whole, these incidents in Brussels are rare and it is generally a safe place to travel alone.
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How long should I spend in Brussels?
I would recommend 2-3 days in Brussels to fully enjoy and immerse yourself in the city. The main sites CAN be seen in just one day, but you would be very rushed and tired, so I would not recommend doing it that way. If you give yourself 2-3 days in Brussels you will also have some time to explore the different neighbourhoods in Brussels such as the Sablon and St Catherines.
If you are lucky enough to have a week in Brussels, you will be able to see a great deal of the city and also take a few day trips while you are there – I highly recommend a day trip to Bruges and Ghent. You might also find this article on one week in Belgium helpful.
Best Youth Hostel for solo female travel in Brussels
The best Youth Hostel in Brussels that I have found so far in LATROUPE Hostel on Boulevard Anspach. It is a great location – walkable to Grand Place. The hostel has clean and comfortable rooms with bedside charging points and clean bathrooms. There is good Wi-Fi throughout and a bar serving drinks and snacks (including pizzas). There are always friendly staff on hand and you can even pay 25€ for unlimited beer for the day! I felt very at home at LATROUPE Hostel and would highly recommend it for solo female travellers.
Safety tips for travelling alone in Brussels
- Avoid busy areas, particularly protests or marches.
- Wear comfortable shoes such as walking boots to avoid trips, slips or falls.
- Keep your phone charged with plenty of charge and if possible have plenty of Data (I pay for roaming for my mobiles so that it works in Europe as well).
- Don’t stop to speak to homeless or beggars on the street.
- If walking at night stick to well lit areas and avoid quiet dark alleys.
- Always check safety with the UK Foreign Office or your countries government travel advice before travelling. The up to date UK Foreign office advice on Belgium can be found here.
English is widely spoken
Belgium has three official languages: Dutch (Flemish), French, and German. Brussels is kind of in the middle of Wallonia (French speaking) and Flanders (Dutch speaking) parts, although Brussels itself is about 75% French. So a little French will help you along your way – my GCSE French helped me out a fair bit!
BUT, if you find all these language issues confusing, worry not….most people in Brussels can and will speak English! I found people would speak English to me in most bars, restaurants and museums. If English or French are your first language, you won’t have a problem in Brussels.
Money in Brussels
The currency used in Brussels is the EURO. It is recommended that you take a mixture of cash and cards. Your UK credit or debit card is likely to work in Brussels, and there are some places that don’t like to accept cash, so quite often you will need to make sure you have your card ready!
Small € cents (0.01 and 0.02) are supposed to still be accepted in Belgium but many people do not take them! Have a few 50c coins in your purse for toilet stops.
Reasons to Travel Alone to Brussels
There are so, so many reasons to travel alone to Brussels! I found it a very easy and comfortable place to travel, and the trains were double deckers – fast and efficient! Here are my top reasons to travel alone to Brussels…
- Brussels has an extensive travel network, making it an ideal base for further exploring other parts of Europe. For example, you can easily do day trips to Lille (France), Ghent and Bruges.
- If you want to travel further afield and make Brussels a part of your Euro-trip, then other main capitals are really accessible. You could be in Amsterdam, Paris or Cologne by train within just a few hours!
- Brussels is a very manageable capital (smaller than Paris) and you can see a lot for free on foot! Join one of the free walking tours that start at Grand Place at 10.30am (tip based so give what you can).
- Brussels is an EASY place to get around for solo travellers – the ticket machines for public transport all have options in English and all take credit or debit card (my Barclaycard worked really well in Brussels).
- Brussels has fantastic food options – you will get to try some amazing dishes including Flemish stew, moules-frites, the Pistolet (round breads) and, of course, plenty of Belgian chocolate!
- There are some really fun touristy days out to be had, including the Atomium and Mini-Europe.
- Architecture is stunning – don’t miss La Bourse, St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral, the Town Hall, the Galleries, the Royal Palace and the Palace of Justice.
- Brussels has beautiful parks – don’t miss Parc du Cinquantenaire, Jardin du Mont des Arts and le petit Sablon.
- Brussels is an international city, making it easy to meet other travellers and digital nomads.
- If you like Street Art then you will LOVE the comic book route!
- Remember to find the three peeing statues! Mannekin pis (the boy), Yaneke pis (the girl) and Zinneke pis (the dog!)
Solo travel Brussels – Dining out
Dining out in Brussels is an absolute privilege! I had the pleasure of being guided around by my friend Mark who now works for the European Commission. We went to Brasserie Surrealiste, which has a fantastic selection of burgers and beer, with a divine interior! Also I got the chance to try some moules-frites at Restaurant Francoise in St Catharines. Eating out isn’t exactly cheap in Brussels – plan to spend around 30€ for each meal out with drinks (can be more if you go for starters or desserts).
A good tip to save money when eating out is to avoid places with pictures of food (tourist traps!) and look for the Plat du Jour (dish of the day) which is often a set menu for say 25€. You are not expected to tip in Brussels – tipping is not really part of their culture because the waiting staff are paid a very decent wage. It’s not like the USA where the wages for servers are low and then topped up with tips dependant on good service.
Meeting other Solo Travellers
You don’t feel lonely in Brussels as a traveller. As it is such an international city, it’s easy to meet other travellers, international workers and digital nomads. Bars, cafes and hostels are great places to meet people. I met some great people in this hostel including an Australian board game designer and a Korean Police officer! If you are staying a bit longer in Brussels, there are plenty of meet-up groups and Facebook groups for people working in Brussels remotely. There are also a number of social groups for different activities including walking groups and board game clubs!
Brussels has Excellent Tourist guides
The tourist guides in Brussels are excellent – most (if not all) will speak English and have an excellent knowledge of the history of the city. As I’ve previously mentioned, I highly recommend the free walking tours, most start from Grand Place at 10.30am every morning. It is advisable to book online in advance and although they are advertised as ‘free tours’ they do work on a tip basis, so pay what you think the tour is worth. I went on the ‘Ambassador’ free walking tour which was excellent! Book it here.
You can also book private tours, which are slightly more expensive but they can be tailored to your needs and interests. There are plenty of specialist tours as well – beers tours and the street art tour!
Brussels Solo Travel tips
- Toilets – Most museums have toilets that they will let you use. You can also go into a local bar or cafe and they will probably let you use their facilities, although it is polite to buy a drink there. Some paid toilets will ask for 50c.
- Take a refillable water bottle (mine is a SIGG) as there are plenty of places you can fill up your bottle and this will help you to avoid dehydration in Brussels.
- Wear some sturdy walking boots (mine are Karrimor) because you will be doing a lot of walking in Brussels!
- Take a rain jacket and sun hat – the weather can be very changeable. It can be very hot in August and rainy and chilly from around November to February.
- Have some comfortable and conservative clothing for visiting Churches in Brussels. inn trousers and a blouse or hiking pants and T-shirts with sleeves (no tops with cleavage or shoulders showing) are ideal. When visiting churches remain silent, avoid flash photography and follow the rules as it is a place of worship.
- Use the Metro to get between districts – it is fast, easy and cheap.
- If you want to use the bikes or scooters in Brussels then download the following apps: Lime, Dott, Bolt.
Packing list for Solo travel in Brussels
- Passport and travel documents (I travel with Ryanair and download the app on my phone)
- Sturdy walking boots or comfy trainers – I like my Karrimor Weatherlite walking boots, which have good ankle support and are lightweight.
- Comfortable clothing – jeans, shorts, T-shirts and leggings or hiking trousers.
- Comfortable dress and shoes for evenings out.
- A refillable walking bottle – I use SIGG because they are sturdy and durable.
- Plenty of Euros (including small coins) and a VISA or MASTERCARD (Credit or Debit)
- Padlock – for securing your belongings, especially if you stay in Youth Hostels as most have a locker or under bed chest available but padlocks not always supplied.
- The Lonely Planet Belgium & Luxembourg – I love to have a hard copy of the Lonely Planet to read on trains and also at times with poor wi-fi.
Always get travel insurance
Remember to always book travel insurance for your trip to Belgium as medical care can be expensive. You will need to declare any pre-existing medical conditions if you have any.
Overall Verdict – Should I travel to Brussels alone?
Overall, I really enjoyed solo travel in Brussels and would highly recommend it. Brussels would work well for a newbie solo traveller or also can be enjoyed by someone more experienced. Don’t miss this fantastic diverse, manageable and exciting European city as a solo traveller!
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