So you’ve been reading all about the wonders of Brussels and have decided to take the plunge and visit! Or maybe it’s totally un-connected, and you’ve stumbled here from Facebook or Twitter or a search or something. Chances are whichever way you got here you want to know about accommodation in Brussels (I guess the clue really is in the title…).
When I first arrived in the city I wanted somewhere for a week at a time, and was going home every weekend. The plan was that after a couple of weeks and after chatting to my new colleagues I’d have the short term housing market figured out and would have found something to rent for the rest of my contract. This post is a brief summary of what I have managed to pick up along the way.
Short Term Accommodation in Brussels
Hotels and hostels are the norm here, but there are some of what we call in Britain the Bed and Breakfast. Brussels being a capital city and home to the EU there is a large choice available as you’d probably expect. The price ranges are also very large depending on where in the city it is and obviously the quality of the establishment itself. Because everyone has different needs and budgets there is little point in me making specific recommendations. I ended up doing this for over a month, including a couple of weekends and found the best way to find the places convenient to me at decent prices was by using a combination of tripadvisor and booking.com
While they both aim to provide the same service in the end, they go about it in slightly different ways so it can pay to use both and see how they compare. I have found cheaper prices on the same places and dates using both. Tripadvisor gives you lots of different ways to search and refine your results etc and has more user reviews etc, booking.com has a much simpler layout and defaults to cheapest first. I also like it because it shows you the availability and prices right there on the results page, without having to click on each hotel in turn like you do on tripadvisor. They both also have good ipad/iphone apps which was really useful to me too.
Things to bear in mind
Without trying to come across as a travel guru, there are a number of things you need to think of when booking, if only to avoid some of the mistakes I made in my first few weeks here.
- Look at the map – not just in terms of physical distance from the places you want to get to (in my case the office) but also in terms of the transport options available. I spent two weeks at a place that was 5 km away from my office (because it was cheap). It was nowhere near the tram/metro network and a fair distance from the nearest bus stop. I ended up walking it every day, in a cold and wet April.
- Plan as far ahead as you can – as with budget airlines it is no longer always the case that booking late will save you money, quite the reverse in many cases. I spent a week in a hostel in Antwerp and commuting an hour each way by train, because the cost of hotel rooms in Brussels tripled from one week to the next! The reason was the seafood festival which I was completely unaware of.
- Try to figure out what the area is like before you book, which is easier said than done I know. There is often a reason why places are cheap. The first example above is also true of this, when I arrived there the first night I found that it was on a dual carriageway, opposite an estate of tower blocks (that looked run down) and a long way from any facilities like shops and restaurants (as well as the transport links I already mentioned).
- Read the reviews. But don’t get hung up on them. It’s my experience that as long as the reviews aren’t a complete horror story then it is probably just about acceptable for a short stay, as long as it’s cheap 🙂 Bear in mind that everyone has different standards and expectations. I have seen a number of poor reviews for places that I have stayed in and thought wonderful. Bear in mind the age of the reviews too as things change, a review from a couple of years ago may bear very little relation to what is there when you arrive so give more weight to the most recent ones.
Medium Term accommodation in Brussels
If you are going to be staying in the city for more than a few weeks, but you know that it isn’t permanent then Brussels being the centre of business in Belgium and the home of the EU does have some added bonuses. There is the concept of the aparthotel which I know you can find elsewhere too, but this was really my first experience of them, they tend to be found in the bigger cities. An aparthotel is a fully furnished apartment, bigger than a normal hotel room, usually also fully serviced with cleaning etc, often with internet included, but without the hassle of a long term contract or of sorting out TV subscriptions, utilities, insurance etc. There are quite a few of these in Brussels and this is what I went for in the end. It varies from company to company but you can get these on a rolling one month contract, or by the day/week like an ordinary hotel. Obviously the longer you can commit to the better rate you are likely to be offered. There are a number of larger operators providing these in Brussels, all over the city, with different sized apartments and with a wide range of prices.
A couple of the chain operators are Brussels Business Flats and B-Aparthotels but a google search shows a lot of options, they often also come up on the tripadvisor and booking.com results too. A friend of mine here recommended Brussels Business Flats to me, but I went with something smaller and cheaper in the end as I’m here by myself.
Longer Term accommodation in Brussels
If you are staying here permanently or semi-permanently then you’ll obviously be engaged in doing some research of your own! To be honest I don’t know too much about this, having never intended to be in Brussels forever. A couple of snippets I did pick up though. Leases tend to be really long, like 3, 6 or 9 years! The longer the lease the lower the rate usually. Obviously it’s a much bigger area than I can do justice to, but at least you now have a starter for 10.
What are your experiences of accommodation in Brussels? What do you think the overall standards are like? Do you have a recommendation you’d like to share? Please let me know via the comments.