Where to Stay in Brussels First Time: Best Areas

In this post, I will help you to find Where to stay in Brussels first time, best areas to stay in Brussels for tourists (with a map and video) and best hotels in Brussels for all budgets (including the hotel where I stayed).

Brussels is one of the best cities in the European continent for travelers. Home to world-famous chocolate, incredible architecture, and vast history, this capital city has been a pillar of European culture for centuries.

Over 18 million tourists visited Belgium’s capital in 2019, making it one of the world’s most visited cities.

Where to stay in Brussels first time?

The best areas to stay in Brussels for tourists and first timers are the City Centre, Sablon, Avenue Louise, Ixelles, European Quarter, Saint Gilles, and Brussels Expo. These are popular and safe areas, offering a wide range of attractions and amenities.

Brussels city center is the overall best area for first-time visitors due to its proximity to top attractions and many choices in accommodations. Staying here allows you to be located in the middle of everything, within walking distance to major sights, restaurants, bars, and shops.

The area between the Grand Place and the Central Railway Station is the best place for one night. it’s a convenient area near the train station with a good transport link for the airport train. Due to its convenient location, the area near Grand Place is also best base for two nights and weekends.

Saint-Géry is the best area to stay in Brussels for nightlife. It offers plenty of bars, restaurants with live music, drinks, and fabulous cuisine, it makes Saint Gery the ideal spot for party.

Avenue Louise is the best place for shopping. It’s the shopping hub of Brussels with a 2km street long with a wide range of luxury boutiques and high-end designers.

The area between the Place Sainte-Catherine and Grand Place and in Historic Centre is the best place to stay for Christmas markets. The best Christmas markets are held at the Grand-Place, Marché aux Poissons, Place de la Monnaie, Place Sainte-Catherine, and La Bourse de Bruxelles.

You may be wondering how many days you should allocate for your stay. Well, that depends on what you want to see and do in Brussels. If you’re just looking to see the main sights and taste some delicious Belgian waffles and chocolate, then a couple of days may suffice.

However, if you want to explore the city more in-depth, check out its museums, and try out some local beer, then you may need at least four or five days. You can also take a day trip to Antwerp, Ghent, Leuven, Liege, Ostend, and Bruges by train. 

Where did I stay in Brussels?

When I first visited Brussels, I stayed for 3 nights in the city center at the Hotel Hubert Grand Place. The hotel is located in a prime location, a great base for sightseeing. I felt safe staying in this area. I had easy access to major attractions such as the City Hall and Grand Place. I had a great night’s sleep with a comfy bed and a quiet room.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:Brussels City Centre
💎 Best luxury hotel:Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:NH Collection Brussels Grand Sablon
💰 Best budget hotel:Sleep Well Youth Hostel

Map of areas and neighborhoods in Brussels:

Map of Best areas to stay in Brussels for tourists
Map of Best areas to stay in Brussels for tourists

Best areas to stay in Brussels for first-time tourists are:

1. Brussels City Centre

City Centre, where to stay in Brussels for first-time tourists

Brussells City Center is the best overall area to stay in Brussels for first-time visitors due to its prime location. If you stay here, you will be located within walking distance to popular attractions such as the Grand Place and Brussels Town Hall, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops.

Visitors will enjoy a range of attractions in the city center from the Brussels Stock Exchange, the Grand Place, to the fantastic bars, restaurants, chocolatiers, shops, and cafes.

Visitors of all different ages, interests, and cultures will love the city center. It has a wide range of perfect accommodation for any budget and is a generally brilliant spot to stay.

Brussels City Centre is the best area to stay in Brussels for tourists and for short trips one night, two nights or just for weekends. It is also the best area to stay in Brussels near the train station, for the Christmas market, and for the gay LGBT community.

Best things to See in Brussels Centrum:

The Grand Place (Grote Markt). The Grand Place is the main town square in Brussels, one of the most popular attractions in the entire city, if not the most popular. The architect first built the structure in 1452. And the square surrounding the grand place is stunning; it has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since the 90s. 

Brussels Town Hall, a Gothic building from the Middle Ages in Grand Place, faces the Brussels City Museum.

Manneken-Pis. The Manneken-pis is one of the best symbols of the city. Initially built in the 15th century, the Manneken-Pis is a pillar of the city’s history. The statue emboldens the great humor of Brussels.

Mont des Artes, the hill of the arts, is a big green space to relax and is located between the Place Royale and the Place de l’Albertine. You can enjoy movies at Cinematek (the Belgian Royal Film Archive), concerts at Bozar, and exhibitions at the Royal Museums of the Fine Arts, the Musical Instrument Museum, and the National Archives of Belgium.

Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts is one of Belgium’s best museums. It’s home to 20,000 artworks that include a variety of art from around Europe. If you love art and history, then you should visit this art museum. 

Place Royale (Koningsplein) is a good photo opportunity spot, this square houses the Royal Palace (Palais Royal).

You can also visit the Brussels Stock Exchange, the Royal Theatre of the Mint, shop at Royal Galleries of Saint-Huber, the Belgian Comic Strip Center.

Best places To Stay In Brussels City Centre for first-timers:

NH Collection Brussels Grand Sablon This fabulous, 4-star hotel is situated in a central location, in the historic Grand Sablon Square. Guests can enjoy its modern, air-conditioned rooms, which all feature Wi-Fi and a minibar, as well as a wonderful American breakfast each morning. All this comes with the added convenience of being just 450 yards from the Central Railway Station.

The Hotel Brussels This 4-star hotel is one of the city’s tallest buildings, so in addition to being iconic, offers stunning, panoramic views of Brussels. The rooms are stylish and feature a range of amenities, such as safes, minibars, Wi-Fi and flat-screen TV’s. The hotel also has plenty to offer outside of the rooms and views, as a gym, restaurant, sauna, and spa are all located on-site.

Sleep Well Youth Hostel is a wonderful budget option, that offers a surprisingly stylish destination, considering its price range. With a choice of private rooms or shared dormitories, it’s entirely up to you whether you want to mix with the other guests or you prefer a bit of privacy. If you opt for the former, the hotel’s bar and terrace are great places to get to know your fellow travellers.


See more: 

2. Sablon

Sablon, where to stay in Brussels for chocolate lovers
Brussels-Sablon/ source Erin Borrini

Located to the south of the Brussels City Centre and Grand Place, Sablon is centered around the Grand Sablon and Petit Sablon. Sablon is also very close to the Central Station and the famous shopping area on Avenue Louise.

If you want to stay in a quieter area, but one that’s still very close to the city center then you’ll enjoy Sablon (also known as Zavel). Although more relaxed than the city center, this part of Brussels has a vibrant feel to it.

Sablon is also a great spot for foodie and chocolate lovers with the many waffle stalls, and chocolate shops like Godiva, Marcolini, Neuhaus, and Leonidas. Visitors will also find numerous fantastic bars, restaurants, and coffee shops.

There are many landmarks in this area too, with some great spots for tourists to see:

The Gothic Notre-Dame du Sablon Church. Europe has a lot of incredible gothic architecture, and Brussels is home to some of its finest. If you love gothic architecture, you should check out the beautiful Gothic Church Notre Dame du Sablon, it is a stunning building. 

The architects first constructed the building during the fifteenth century. And ever since, it has been a landmark of Brussels. The church has many highlights, but one of the main highlights is the wooden pulpit made in 1697.

Magritte Museum. The Magritte Museum is an excellent option for those who want to see some historic Belgian artwork. It’s home to an array of artwork from the great René Magritte. Inside the museum, visitors will see over 230 works of art. You will witness the paintings, sculptures, advertising work, music, photo, and films of René Magritte; it’s a must-see. 

The Jewish Museum. The Jewish Museum is a fantastic introduction to the history of the Jewish Religion. Visitors will love the exhibits that portray the Jewish religion’s birth, symbols and objects related to the Jewish faith, and the variety of artwork linked to the religion.

The museum aims to provide guests with an open-minded insight into the history, religion, and culture of a belief that has played a leading role in Belgian history.

Don’t miss out on the Square du Petit Sablon Hidden Garde, a beautiful square and garden that was built in the late 1800s with neo-Renaissance style.

Best Places to stay in Brussels in Sablon for first-time visitors:


2. Ixelles

If you want to stay in one of the most diversified international neighborhoods in Brussels with an incredible array of accommodations, then Ixelles in the southeast of the city center is for you. It has a multinational population with many ex-pats, young hipsters, artists, writers, and students.

Ixelles has something for everyone from the main shopping around Chaussée d’Ixelles, Porte de Namur, and Toison d’or to the greenery of the Abbaye de la Cambre. If you like historical and art attractions, you can visit Musée d’Ixelles, the Flagey Building, and the Abbaye de la Cambre.

The nightlife area around the famous Matongé, the African quarter area, and the Université Libre de Bruxelles. If you want a quiet area head to Square de Meeûs, Parc ten Bosh, Parc Abbé Froidure and Bois des Commères.

The neighborhood is only a short walk from other famous places in Brussels such as the City Centre and Avenue Louise with its upmarket shops, cafes, restaurants, and bustling nightlife. Furthermore, visitors enjoy everything from the historic buildings to the great parks, shopping, and multicultural vibe. 

Ixelles is also very close to Brussels-Luxembourg Railway Station, making it a convenient location to travel to other parts of the city.

You can find everything from luxury accommodation to budget backpacker hostels. The area’s general trend is more expensive apartments and luxury hotels, but cheap Airbnb is easy to find.

Best Things to See in Ixelles:

The Tenbosch Park. Brussels can get hot in the summer months, and there is no better spot to relax during the summer than Tenbosch Park. Situated next to beautiful lakes, houses, and trees, you will find the perfect relaxing Place. It’s a popular swimming spot during the summer, and many people will use the cold lake as a refreshing swim. And it’s right next to Avenue Louise so that you can enjoy the shops then relax in the summer sunshine.

The Flagey Building. The architects constructed this building in the 1930s to be a radio broadcasting complex. And ever since, it has been a famous studio with some of the world’s best recordings. In today’s era, the building is home to cinematek, a great spot to catch a variety of modern and classic films. It is a child-friendly spot with numerous kids’ workshops available.

Chatelin Square. The Chatelin Square is a beautiful square that is between Saint Giles and Avenue Louise. It’s home to a variety of outstanding bars and restaurants, and many are upscale. Visitors will enjoy the incredible markets in the area, including the Farmers Market, where you will be able to buy lots of local wine and beer. 

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


3. European Quarter

European Quarter, a high-end area to stay in Brussels

Brussels is home to a global center of world politics. If you’re in the European Quarter, you can experience the home of the European Union. European Quarter is located to the east of the city center, north of Ixelles, and northwest of Etterbeek.

The European District is home to many important Euro-buildings and business centers such as Berlaymont, the Council of the European Union, the Parlamentarium, and the House of European History.

However, this part of Brussels is not only home to the European Union; it’s home to an array of fantastic things. One of the best things to do is explore the extraordinary green spaces, museums, and architecture.

You can find a variety of accommodation options in the European Quarter. The majority of the accommodation is apartments and high-end hotels. However, it’s possible to find many youth hostels, guest inns, and many airBnBs that are reasonably priced. 

Best places to visit in the European Quarter:

European Parliament. If you’re in the European Quarter, you should check out the European parliament. You can visit the parliament and do a guided tour of the vicinity, and there are tours in 24 different languages. The guides will give an extensive overview of what happens in parliament. They will show you the building’s history and how it became a global beacon of democracy. 

Visit the Musée Wiertz. Antoine Wiertz is one of the most popular painters in Belgian history. He is famous for his artwork during the romantic movement in the 1800s. And this museum is an excellent place to appreciate his work. The museum has a massive collection of his work, which has been inside this museum since 1868. 

Cinquantenaire Park. If you’re looking for a great place to relax in the sun, then Cinquantenaire Park is a superb option. It is home to an array of landscaped gardens. Guests will enjoy the Triumphal Arch, which is an emblem of the history of Brussels. Another option is Leopold park, full of hills and ponds that offer a genuinely fantastic outdoor oasis.

Place du Luxembourg/ Luxemburgplein (Plux) is a neoclassical station square with many terraces and restaurants making it a meeting point for young ex-pats from the EU institutions. Check out the trendy organic market or in Noordzee on Rue du Luxembourg – Luxemburgstraat to experience international Brussels.

Place Jourdan/ Jourdanplein, a local international hub, with terraces, cafés, nice restaurants serving international and local cuisines. Schuman roundabout or Rond-point Schuman/ Schumanplein offer views of Cinquantenaire Park with the Triumphal Arch

Place Jean Rey /Jean Reyplein with its trendy shops and businesses in this new place in EU squares. be sure to check out the trendiest bar Le Grand Central, Maison Antoine for Belgian chips, for Belgian-French food in the Art Deco setting of Residence Palace.

Best Hotels in Brussels – European Quarter for first-timers:


5. Saint Gilles

Saint Gilles, where to stay in Brussels for culture vulture
Saint-Gilles/ source: Michel Huhardeaux

If you want a laid-back neighborhood that is still in a superb location, this is a great option. Located to the west of Ixelles, the artistic district of Saint Gilles is home to an array of museums, cool art galleries, and markets, great for those who love art and culture.

Saint Gilles is also well-connected public transportation. it is served by La Gare du Midi train station.

Visitors will love the quiet residential streets and marvel at some of the gorgeous Art Nouveau buildings of the area. The area has fantastic multicultural cuisine and a considerable number of restaurants. Furthermore, you will find an array of accommodation from budget hostels and B&B to high-end hotels.

Best places to visit in Saint Gilles:

Gare du Midi Market. The massive Gare du Midi Market is the largest in the city of Brussels. And not only that, it’s the 3rd biggest in Europe. So I’m sure you can imagine the incredible array of things to see and do here. Visitors will enjoy the vast number of international market stalls that offer guests a variety of colors, smells, cheeses, chocolate, olives, and a general feel of the European continent. Brussels is a hub of Europe, and this market shows that. 

Art Nouveau architecture and Indie art galleries. Visitors will enjoy the numerous art galleries in the area, which show the Art Nouveau style of art, which was immensely popular between 1890 and 1910. During this period, the art style is on architecture, interior design, jewelry, and glass. And there isn’t a better area in the city than Saint Gilles. It’s one of the best places in Europe to witness this kind of art.

The Horta Museum. The Horta Museum is a museum dedicated to the life of Victor Horta. And the creators built the building between 1898 and 1901, ever since it has been a staple of the city’s artwork. Visitors will love the beautiful interior made from stained glass, mosaics, and beautiful wall decorations. There is even a research centre inside the building entirely dedicated to Art Nouveau.

Best Places to stay in Saint Gilles for first-time visitors:


6. Avenue Louise

Avenue Louise, where to stay in Brussels for shopping
Avenue Louise/ source: William Murphy

Are you someone who loves to go shopping? If so, you will love the modern neighborhood of Avenue Louise, which stretches from Place Louise to Bois de la Cambre. It’s a trendy spot with locals and tourists.

It’s primarily known as the shopping hub of Brussels. The street is around 2km long, but there are numerous opportunities to empty your wallet. 

The road is one of the most luxurious in the world and is a staple of luxury shopping. It’s also next to great attractions like the King’s Garden and Phoenix 44.

Visitors will enjoy everything from the upscale boutique shops to the luxury restaurants. You can find many luxury hotels in this part of the city, but some budget options nearby are a short walk away. 

There are a few art nouveau buildings on Avenue Louise. Art nouveau is a popular internationally style of architecture and art during the 20th century.

The street has a long history that dates back to the 1800s when the builders built the street. One of the darkest moments in the street’s history was World War 2 when Nazi Germany occupied the street. The Nazis used the street as the headquarters of their security operations. However, after World War 2 it returned to the vibrant street it is today. 

For fine dining, luxury restaurants, check out the popular French restaurant De la Vigne a L’Assiette, or try fine Italian at Gazzetta restaurant.

Best places to visit near Avenue Louise:

Place du Chatelain. The Place du Chatelain is very close to Avenue Louise and one of the most famous squares in the city. The square is home to numerous flower shops, cafes, and a lovely outdoor marketplace. The artisan market in Place du Chatelain is a good spot for a foodie. You will enjoy some delicious local cuisine, wine, and many other delights. Furthermore, it’s one of the best markets in the city. 

Louise Tower. One of the most iconic buildings in the city is the Louise Tower. This 85-metre tall building peers over Brussels skyline and offers some of Brussels’ best modern architecture. The Louise Tower is home to offices and hotels. It’s the stand out modern building in the area.


7. Saint Josse-Ten-Noode

If you want to experience a great residential area in Brussels, which is multicultural and vibrant, visit Saint Josse-Ten-Noode (Saint Josse) which is just 2 km away from the center of Brussels. This area is home to many fun things, including gardens, museums, and historical buildings.

The area is the most densely populated in Brussels. However, it is the most deprived area too. But it is home to some of the best shops in the area. Despite being rough around the edges, there is some cool stuff to see here.

Accommodation here is cheaper than in other areas in the city center, great for backpackers and budget travelers.

Best places to visit in Saint Josse-Ten-Noode:

Le Botanique. One of the best places to visit in Brussels is Le Botanique. This garden was the first botanic garden in Brussels. First built in the 1800s, it has since been a popular place for locals to visit and relax. Visitors will enjoy the art centre inside the Botanique, which showcases a wide range of fine arts, concerts, and contemporary arts. 

Charlier Museum The Charlier museum in Brussels is a fantastic spot to go if you wish to check out local art. After being bought by art collector Henri Van Custem, the building was remodelled and made into a museum in 1925. And ever since opening in 1928, the museum has been a pillar of the local art scene. Visitors will enjoy a wide range of art that includes furniture and art objects from different eras. Some of the exhibits date back to the 19th century.   

Best Places to Stay in Brussels in Saint Josse-Ten-Noode:


8. Gare Du Midi

Gare Du Midi, also known as Midi Station, is the busiest rail terminal in all of Brussels. With both national and international trains, including the Eurostar, stopping here, the district is a fabulous choice for anyone going in or out of the city by rail.

In the area surrounding the station, you will find numerous affordable options on accommodation, bars, shops and hotels, making it ideal for those traveling on a budget.

There is little in the way of attractions in the area itself, however, it is located in the central part of the city. This means many of the most popular and historic locations are within a 20-minute walk, giving you convenient access to everything you could need.

Along with the Grand Place and the Central Railway Station, Gare Du Midi is a convenient location if you have only one night in Brussels and have an early train to London or Paris.

Stay In Gare Du Midi If you are arriving or leaving by train; you are traveling on a budget; you want easy access to the city’s attractions; you don’t mind staying in a less eventful area.


9. Brussels Expo

Brussels Expo, where to stay in Brussels for fairs and events

The Brussels Expo district was the home of Expo 58, the 11th World’s Fair. Since that time, it has built on that reputation to become the primary location for fairs and important events held in the city.

Its most popular attraction in modern times is a landmark called The Atomium. Built in 1958 for Expo 58, it stands 102 metres tall and is made of stainless-steel spheres that connect to form a cell unit representing an iron crystal.

Due to the high footfall in the area, there is a huge range of shops, bars, restaurants, and accommodation. The styles and prices of each vary dramatically, ensuring everyone will be able to find something to accommodate them during their stay, no matter their taste or budget.

Stay In Brussels Expo If you want to see The Atomium; you are attending an event or fair; you want a wide range of shops, bars, restaurants and hotels.


10. Saint Gery

Saint Gery was originally an island in the Senne River; however, the waters have since been diverted, connecting the neighborhood to the mainland. Its location near the historic center of the city makes it a fabulous option for those interested in culture and history, and lively nightlife.

It is also the home of the Les Halles Saint Gery, a converted indoor market that now houses an exhibition center. This makes Saint Gery a fabulous place to stay for anyone attending an event here.

Saint Gery is also within walking distance from Bruxelles Central train station and Manneken Pis.

What truly sets the area apart though, is its reputation for vibrant nightlife. Restaurants, cafes, and bars are abundant in the district, even spilling out onto the streets during the warmer months. With live music, drinks, and fabulous cuisine, it makes Saint Gery the ideal spot for those looking to party.

Stay In Saint Gery If Nightlife is a priority during your stay; You want to be near the historic center of the city.


11. Koekelberg

Koekelberg is an almost exclusively residential area, located around 5km from the center of Brussels. With the smallest population of any neighborhood in Brussels, it has a peaceful atmosphere, ideal for those seeking a quiet break away.

However, unlike many residential parts of the city, Koekelberg has a number of incredibly popular attractions too. 

You have the Basilica Of The Sacred Heart, one of the largest Roman Catholic churches in the world. The Belgium Chocolate Village, where you can discover how the famous Belgian chocolate is made. You also have the Brussels Aquarium, where you can see and learn about marine life first-hand.

There are even incredible public transport links connecting you to the rest of the city. This all makes Koekelberg the ideal choice for anyone looking for a fun-filled trip, without having to be surrounded by the mobs of tourists you’ll get in the city center.

Stay In Koekelberg If you want to stay in a quieter, more residential location; you want to visit the Chocolate Village, Brussels Aquarium, or Basilica Of The Sacred Heart.


12. Schaerbeek

Schaerbeek is a neighborhood that has a number of different sides, suited to different types of travelers. For starters, it is on the outskirts of the Financial District. When combined with its lower prices, this makes it a great choice for those who want to save a little money while on business.

On the other hand, it is home to the city’s red-light district. This makes it a good choice for anyone interested in that sort of entertainment, potentially making it suitable for events such as stag dos.

While there are a few other attractions, such as the Botanical Garden, Schaerbeek is a neighborhood best reserved for those looking to save a little money while visiting the other districts surrounding it.

Stay In Schaerbeek If you are traveling on a budget; you want to visit the red light or financial districts.


13. Les Marolles

Les Marolles (also known as (Marollen), is a largely residential area that is one of the oldest parts of Brussels. Its quiet setting plays home to a number of quaint antique stores and a daily flea market, giving it a truly authentic feel.

Without an abundance of tourist attractions, it hasn’t traditionally drawn a large number of visitors to the area, meaning the prices have stayed reasonably affordable. However, this combination has slowly begun to draw in more and more people to Les Marolles. 

As a result, numerous stores, eateries, bars, and hotels have begun to spring up in the district, making it one of the most up-and-coming parts of the city. This has created a hip vibe that makes Les Marolles ideal for younger travels, those on a budget, or anyone seeking an authentic experience.

Stay In Les Marolles If you are traveling on a budget; you prefer a more traditional, residential area; you want to stay in an up-and-coming neighborhood.


Check out my virtual tour of the best places to stay in Brussels in this video:

Where should I stay in Brussels for the first time?

Brussels city center is the best area to stay in Brussels for first-timers due to its super central location. If you stay here, you will be located in the middle of the action.

What are the best areas to stay in Brussels?

Brussels City Centre, Sablon, Avenue Louise, Ixelles, European Quarter, Saint Gilles, Gare du Midi, Saint-Joose-ten-Noode, and Brussels Expo are the best areas to stay in Brussels for tourists because they are the most popular areas that offer a wide range of attractions and amenities.

Which areas to avoid in Brussels?

Brussels is overall a safe city to visit, but as you travel to any tourist city, you should always practice common sense and be aware of pickpocketing. You should avoid walking alone in these areas at night: Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, Anderlecht, Marollen, Brussels-South Station, and Anneessens.

How many days are enough for Brussels?

For a good introduction to the city, 3-4 days is usually sufficient. However, if you want to explore the city more thoroughly or take day trips to nearby towns, you may want to stay for a week or longer. It’s all up to your personal preferences!

Read More:

The best thing about public transport in Brussels is the unified ticketing system which means you can use the same tickets for the different modes of transportation in Brussels. There are a variety of ways to buy public transport tickets which include Kiosks, Newspaper shops and supermarkets, Go machines, Metro, Brussels bus, tram, and train.

In my opinion, the best areas to stay in Brussels for first-timers are either the city centre or in Ixelles. If you’re staying in either of these spots, you will be next to the best attractions, food, and architecture that the city has to offer. And you will be connected to public transport. 

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

Leave a Comment