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Enjoy but look out!
Advice given by the State Department to American tourists and just published in the belgian press (La Libre Belgique 17/06/2011):
The three main stations in Brussels (North, Central, and "especially" the South) are a fertile ground for pickpockets, thieves bags, small luggage and computers, warned the State Department in its recommendations to U.S. tourists . These tips are not new, but since June 14, they are available on a smartphone application, "Smart Traveler".
In the "crime", American diplomats point out that Belgium is saved "relatively" by violent crime, but the little street crime is "common".
"The mugging, theft of wallets and détroussages are common, especially in big cities," said the State Department, which points the subway stations and three stations in Brussels. "Something that thieves use is to distract you from spraying shaving cream or another substance," says the recommendation. "Another tip is to ask for directions while an accomplice steals your suitcase."
47.491 criminal acts with violence!
It is always possible to write that nothing bad happens in Brussels. Brussels politicians were especially strong in telling people that everything is fine and when criminals shoot at police with an AK 47 automatic assault riffle it was only a "fait divers".
But that talk is now over and out because:
1° elections are near and citizens are fed up with that criminality.
2° police is also fed up because they are more and more aggressed violently by some groups of the population and see no reaction from the justice. They announced a strike because things can't go on like it is now.
I could also write that when I lived in Brussels nothing happened to me but I left in time (that is many years ago). My son who stayed in Brussels got aggressed several times. Twice he got injuries that did send him to the hospital.
I prefer to stay on the objective side and give you here official figures from the press (14/08/2012):
"The Brussels police reported in 2011 not less than 47.491 criminal acts in which violence were used, according to figures supplied by the Ministry of the Interior, Joëlle Milquet, in response to a Parliamentary Question."
This is an average for the various police zones covering several "communes" (districts) of Brussels and of course more "bourgeois" districts like the two Woluwé have less criminality.
Actually these figures show a criminal act WITH VIOLENCE every 11 minutes.
Interesting would be a comparison with other capitals. Here I refer to the warning from the US State Department (another of my tips).
Area around the Gare du Nord/Noordstation
Boulevard Albert II, Rue d'Aarschot, Rue de Brabant and its surroundings aren't really safe places to walk in late at night. It is the red light district and when you drive or walk around, girls or transvestites are likely to harrass you to offer you their services. If you're not into this kind of amusement, avoid this area after dark.
it is hard to find any problem in Brussels unless you love to invite problems. Just standard precautions are necessary. I have noticed that few gangs of men standing by the road in late night time which looks very intimidating but nothing happened to me and I found city very safe.
Avoid getting mugged by gangs
Brussels has lots of gangs and there's no way to totally avoid getting mugged by them but some stuff might work.
Don't wear expensive jewelry (normal)
Don't avoid eyecontact, if you see a gang, have a quick look at them but don't stare.
Don't cross the street when seeing a gang, Just walk by them.
Smile cause there's no fun in mugging a happy person. And if you're talking don't stop because they're watching.
Don't look too much like a lost tourist...
If they ask you a cigarette, give them one but if they ask for more just say: "No, I already gave you one" in a friendly manner...
And off course, stay out of the dark and weird alleys...
Brussels has the highest crime rate in Belgium but it still is a safe city. Police is present and it's rare that tourists get into trouble if these tips are considered.
South Station Midi/Zuid
A place I would not easily wander around at night is the area around the South station.
At daytime you only have the stunning smell or should I say stench? of the pee of many men who consider the walls and every corner as a public toilet, but at night it also looks dangerous.
If you need to go to Brussels centrum and you arrive late, you better take the train to Central station or the metro, if you have too much luggage, just take a taxi but don't let them rip you off! That happens.
Around gare du Nord and gare du Midi late at night
Avoid those areas as they are dangerous, packed with prostitutes and dangerous peoples.
Strange feeling for me while stating that the huge Boulevard Albert II - that houses Ministry premices, Belgacom company, the then External trade office and Gare du Nord (North station) and other international companies- is packed with "girls" at night. Well, while girls are not dangerous, their bosses may be around... So guys, beware!
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Brussels , a dangerous place to be!
Me (15years old) and my girlfriend (14years old) are both from Leuven but we went for a day together to Brussels (full day trip 8hours+-) We arrived at 16.00 at Brussels-North Station , we went by train. We left the station and headed for the Brabanstreet. It was a very crowded place with alot of people including alot of tourist, just normal peoples seeking for shopping but also groups of youths that were drunken and were yelling at us (happend several times). Anyhow we just ignored them and nothing happend then we continued our journey by following the N277 , followed by some other streets heading for Oceade and Atomium (all by foot since we don't know anything about the bus traffic there and we dont want to get lost , we had a map though) the N277 is a nice comfortable safe street with large pavements.
After visiting Oceade, Atomium, Mini-Europe and having dinner we went back to the station. We left at about 21h00 it was slowly getting dark at 21h30 we were back in the Brabantstreet and suddenly a car pulled over and yelled at us : STOP POLICEE POLICEE!! Me and my girlfriend were a bit scared but we stopped , two men step out of the vehicle and showed their "batch" which didnt looked that realistic they couldn't talk good dutch (our language) and only english or french which is pretty awkward since it should be required for a cop in Brussels? He also wasn't wearing any uniform or equipment. (They both were black men). They told us they wanted to bring us to the station. We just made a run for it and headed to the station they followed us by car but gave up after we went into a smaller street. Once in the station we were waiting for our train (It was 21.40 the train arrives at 21.45) and few drunken guys yelled again at us. Another black man standed up for us and went to them and asked if they had a problem then they stopped.
But I do have to say there was alot of police in the city (probably because there's alot of criminal activity) every 10minutes we could see several cop cars with sirenes passing us. We really enjoyed our day although it had some "scary" points.
I am not looking for complains that we are too young to visit Brussels alone. That doesn't change anything about the fact about the "fake police officers" and the other guys yelling at us. We were just tourist trying to have a great time together and didn't payed attention to any remarks or yells. Were teenagers we want to explore! :) It was a whole adventure that ended good! Besides that we really like the city Brussels!
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Rather safe, but stay aware
I found this city very safe, but I'm a kind of person who doesn't like getting into trouble. I walked almost every night in Ixelles, where I lived. Because it's a students area, it's very safe. There is always a lot of people and lights. But I had 2 quite annoying situations (not in Ixelles, of course), so my first tip concerns not using metro on Sunday. There are few people, some little gangs, one little look at them which doesn't suit them and you may get in trouble. And the second one is that it's better to go somewhere by bus in a group. I was very frightened once, travelling by myself at around 2 a.m. and there was some quarrel concerning religions (it's a problem there!). But I was surprised how quickly the bus driver called the police and how quickly they came. Nothing happened to me, but next time I was with a group ;) And the last tip: the best for night life is the city center. Always safe.
I am living in Brussels for about 11 years now, and actually the easiest way to keep out of trouble, is to stay on the big tourist roads, with many people. There are places in Brussels where you find wast numbers of peoples at every time ...day AND night the only problem scenes are the metro entries and some quarters after 1 am.
To be safe anywhere you are going you should simply never go out alone, and in the middle of the city simply stay in the pubs and avoid getting out of the mass.
With these little precautions Brussels is a living and young vital city in which you have to watch out more for the high prices mugging you than aggressive people. So instead of drinking in a bar young tourist should consider buying alcohol in one of the thousands night shops which can save you a lot of money.
Metro stations with nightlife but also with a small possibility of getting mugged are:
From Arts loi - Gare du Sud (Many Clubs and bars but after the last metro partly dangerous)
For Classic Bars and many People you should consider going to the stations:
Montgomery - Schuman (often very Expensive) or
Arts Loi - De Bruckere (Mid City many clubs and bars wast numbers of people on weekends
night shop flood)
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Robbery and Crime in Brussels
There's no doubt a lot of crime in Brussels.
For the few years I have lived here I have seen more crime than during my entire life, mostly lived in another EU country.
You need to be careful and not only in specific areas. Criminals know where people with money are and seek them out there. One thing that seems very common is for two young men to drive around on a motorcycle or scooter, then one of them starts walking around while the one on the bike turns in the opposite direction. If you see this, you can count the seconds until the guy walking around will crash a window in a car and steal something. Both times I've seen this there's been a person driving sitting in the car, shocked. Often, they drive with the scooter looking in the windows, then find a handbag on the passenger seat for example, they knock the window, jump up the waiting scooter and then drive away.
I've seen several, especially ladies, being robbed in daylight on crowded streets in popular areas. Have also seen fights, sabotage on cars and more. All going on at day when lots of people are around. Don't even think about what happens at night... Happens in Ixelles, St Gilles and in the other city areas where most people are. There are also numerous break-ins and other problems. You see smashed windows on shop stores etc all the time, all over the city. Grafitti is everywhere. Some areas just look depressing.
Overall I would advice people new to Brussels to be very careful as it seems to be a very unsafe city. Sure, there are lots of police and you can imagine why there is.. But it does not prevent criminals from operating even in the most crowded and 'nice' neighborhoods.
Don't believe people telling you its a safe place. I guess it depends where you are from but in my experience, and I've traveled a lot, its one of the least safe places I've been.
Better with a car
Brussels is a nice city, but one cannot deny it has some serious issues with safety, especially at night. For men who observe a minimum of caution and are not too unlucky, there shouldn't be any problem, not even for wandering around at night at any location.
For women and girls, even in group, the situation is entirely different. The best tip I can think of is to come by or rent a car and avoid walking around the streets at night, especially alone. Avoid in any event taking the metro at night: it is NOT safe.
Even during day, there are unfortunately lots of places where walking around alone as a girl will probably not be a pleasant experience, although these are probably not the places you will want to go anyway. If you use a car, avoid public transport and walking around in unsafer parts of the city, safety should not really be an issue.
I know more than one girl/woman who moved to Brussels and were not planning on buying a car at all, but thinking of using public transport instead. They all changed their mind.
Brussels is a quite safe city I can't believe what I read here !
I live in Brussels for a long time and I lived in different parts of the city.
I honestly felt unsafer the last time I went to Paris in some areas people are so rude there ...
What I could suggest is always the same in every city : avoid the train stations at night and if you are there just take a taxi they re friendly. Avoid south station and north station at night but go to central station it's easier for everything you have metro bus taxi connections and you are directly in city center ! Grand place by walk !
Then if you book an hotel take hotel near grand place or nearby royal palace or in the European quarter. The better areas !
You should just avoid to go to the west of the city other side of the canal on the left of the map and also north of Brussels want there's nothing to see anyway.
I will try to make my top ten of the best things to do in Brussels,
1 grand place and all the new pedestrian areas around (rue des bouchers, galeries royales you can in there to the theater,...
2 the mont des arts /kunstberg beautiful sight on the city panorama on the grand place and beautiful coloured at night
3 place royale and the court of justice and the royal palace/royal gardens all in the same area
4 atomium (best way and beautifulest to go there is with hop on hop off bus because with the metro it's underground and quite long trip so no so nice :-) ) go upon to see the exhibitions inside and the panorama
5 parc du cinquantenaire /jubelpark with the arc de triomphe/triomfboog go into the army museum it's free take the lift to go up and you can enjoy a panorama on the city !
6 go to royal court of justice you can go inside to see the big big entrance it's impressive ! Then go to the left and enjoy another panorama on the city ! You can see the atomium from there, then take the lift on the left side and you can go to the area called "les marolles" one of the oldest quarter of Brussels there is a nice flee market and antiques shops ! I just love this area with his special ambiance and all the historical houses
7 if you want to rest a little take the metro to Montgomery metro station then tramways 39 or 44 and go down at musée du tram. You can take there ancient wood tramways to go visit the palace of tervuren (Africa museum) the tramway goes trough the forest it's the beautifulest tramway line of Brussels (or you take the usual line44) . You can also stop at the tramway museum and go by walk to the woluwe park to take a picnic. Then just nearby there is the park mellaerts you can rent a pedalo little boats to go on the lake it's so nice !!!
8 then if you want to see nice areas to go shopping go to the area porte de namur / avenue Louise. You can go just nearby to the sablon area. Nice antiques and chocolates and exhibitions ! It's an artist quarter. Then there is a so nice palace and garden called Egmont palace . It's a little bit hidden you will have to search ;-)
9 if you want to go out there are typical things more for young hype people (madame moustache cabaret, le goupil bar so nice!, belga café in the evening at flagey place, ). There are too much things anyway :-)
If you are in Brussels during summer at Wednesday there is open air cinema at 21.30 evening (metro station roodebeek) do not miss that it's a so wonderful and international place ! A lot of eurocrats :-)
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Well, don't avoid all together....
The Red Light at night might seem kinda rough, but if you handle yourself in an appropriate manner you should have no problems. Most of the people I saw there were just checking out the girls anyway. However, don't park your car there, it is notorious for car jackings/break-ins.
Taxi's not acceptin women late for short trips
Please, please, please, any women travelling to Brussels, in particular Gare du Nord, beware!
I arrived after delayed flight at around 11.30 on Sunday evening, tried to get a taxi to hotel Albert on Rue Santa Maria and was told by 2 taxi drivers that it was a 5 minute walk and not feasible for them. I was subsequently "picked up" by a guy whom I asked the way and then taken away from my destination, which I picked up on within 10 mins. He insisted it was fine, but then near a park was told to "look, there's a white rabbit in the park", then hand mauled and eventually raped having been punched and kicked several times. He stole my bag, all my money, passport and visa cards and I spent a dreadful 24 hours working with what I can only say was a superb police force, victim support team and British Consul getting me home and safe.
I urge any women coming in on the later flights to travel into town by taxi, from the airport direct to your hotel.
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