General tips on safety
Brussels seems pretty safe most of the time. Personally I haven't had any trouble so far after numerous visits then living here for a couple of years. I don't mind walking pretty long distances around the city at night. However, I'm a 15 stone, cropped hair bloke with an unduly arrogant way of carrying myself. I have heard of muggings, thefts from cars and violent attacks - not uncommon in any big city, so take the normal precautions.
However, I did want to highlight a few specific areas of concern.
A couple of my friends have been sexually assaulted while jogging in parks, including once in broad daylight with other people around. I guess trying to avoid these areas or places within them, or staying in company might help.
The parks near Anneessens are full of groups of what appear to be drug dealers. Probably a good idea to steer clear.
Lots of my friends and colleagues have had passports, computers or wallets stolen at Gare du Midi.
People have had bags stolen from beside them in bars in town - one even had her phone stolen from her jacket hung over her chair, while she was sitting in it.
the bins in Parc de Bruxelles (the royal park)
I carelessly threw a 10-journey bus ticket into the bin, thinking it was valid for one journey. The bins are locked, impracticable to recover things from them once discarded. And the park itself closes between 22.00 and 06.00 in the summer.
Eating around the Grand Palace
Recently, the place was packed with tourists enjoying the Belgian Beer Festival. Family friends from Indonesia were visiting and I wanted to suggest eating away from the Tourist area, but they wanted to eat at a restaurant in a narrow alley .
Typical tourist hang out I thought
Young Arab men enticing you to come in
nicely set tables
the catch is they put their cheapest item saying only ten euro..
and the menus dont have the prices right
can you believe a paella for two was charged 84 euros.. and it was not even fresh
Two small pieces of bread with melted cheese 4 euros each
Unless others have personally recommended a specific restaurant to you, you would be gouged by the pleasant waiters and maitre of these tourist oriented restaurants with menus in russian included..
Marche au Charbon - be forewarned
Also known as Kookmarkt, which I thought "was cool, I could hang here", but I noticed that as I walked along Marche au Charbon at most of the cafes and bars the men out numbered the women about 10 - 1. In addition to be extremely perfectly coiffured and well dressed, they stood very close to one another. Very, very close to one another. Also maybe it was the one dude dressed perfectly as Snow White. Hmmmm? So the area is a very gay area. So if this bothers you, you have been warned. I had few problems at all and since my B&B was on this street, passed by these cafes and bars quite often over a five day and night period. However, early in the morning while I was on my post dawn photo op hunt at almost every corner there was some guy whispering "cherie" to me in the hopes of whatever he was hoping for. Then there were the two drunk guys, stumbling arm in arm that desperately wanted to say something clever to me as I took photos of a particular church at 6 AM, but they were too inebreated to even speak French or Flemish, let alone English, let alone anything witty so they wisely wobbled along in silence.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Useful more than usual caution at the Stations
I arrived at Brusel zuid from London on Eurostar. Had one piece of luggage and a shoulder bag. was told in London that I could use the Eurostar ticket for a journey within Brusel. Went to the entrance to the metro and tried to use my ticket, it did not work.
then a young black man approaches me and says, do you speak english. That ticket does not work. you need this ticket and he produces a 2 euro metro ticket and then he says, i will help you, with his right hand he puts the 2 euro ticket which is obviously used and with his left hand he puts a magnet like substance and the gate opens..
I said thank you i will get my ticket at the window which is nearby. had i gotten in with my luggage he would have demanded the 2 euros and then when i got to my destination I would not have been able to get out since the ticket is an used one and i would be penalized or have to buy another ticket to get out.
I saw his two handed action otherwise i too could have taken him for a good samaritan.
when I went to get the ticket , there were two eastern european looking people just standing next to the counter and watching me get the carnet of ten tickets, and when i wen to use them to get into metro, they followed me.
the lady after giving me my change said: be very careful of people here, they would try to rob you.
as i entered the station, using my carnet to open the stills, the two young people also squeezed through, but they did not bother me but slinked away..
All in all the atmosphere at the station is a little intimidating. Be careful and take precautions. There are lots of beggars as well
They have a beer by this name in Belgium. The logo is a pink elephant.
I drank some when I was at the VT Meet in Fredericksburg, VA a couple of years ago.
Be very careful if you decide to take it on.Related to:
- Beer Tasting
Women on the street.
In some districts of Brussels women dressed in occidental clothes are not welcome (this is a soft euphemism). A documentary film "Femmes de la rue" showed how in Brussels women dressed in occidental clothes were insulted, sexually harassed by a certain type of men.
Many reactions in the media and in the political world. Read the Belgian newspapers to learn more about what appears as a "civilization shock".
I know that many tourists like Brussels. First they stay in the safe tourist areas and don't live 365 days/year in Brussels so that statistically the risk of bad experience is lower for them than for the inhabitants.
The documentary film "Femmes de la rue" from Sofie Peeters has now also made uproar in countries like France and the Netherlands where the same type of men have the same insulting attitude toward women.
There is now a reaction from the authorities from the City of Brussels (elections are approaching!) to fine the authors of these insults toward women: 75 - 250 Euros.
The practical question being that of the application of these fines; now already in some areas Brussels' policemen are aggressed by groups of men who don't want to see policemen entering what they consider as their territory.
Brussels' policemen are so fed up being aggressed in these areas that they intend to go on strike on 13 - 17 September!Related to:
- Women's Travel
Being capital of EU, you'd think Brussel is an elegant city. But it is far from being as such, in fact the city is dirty, unsafe. The city is filled with concrete block buildings that is soviet union style, which is truly ugly. The railway station is shabby. The ticketing system at their railway station does not respond well as you touch the glass screen, it is slow and inaccurate. The closest metro to old cityhall is dirty, it is filled with urine smell. The old city hall looks dirty too although key statues are gilded with gold. The metro station or train station does not offer maps to tourists. The city is not safe either. On the street it is full of people who stealthily at tourists as if trying to figure out whether you are worth a robbery. In my short stay of 2 days, I have witnessed tow instances (1) shop lift being chased by store clerk (2) man beaten up by police at rail way station. I have not even witnessed such in New York city metro after dark. The waiters at restaurant are snobbish. This attitude is also observed from attendant from city hall. I have no idea what reasons they have to behave as such. The food is fatty, mainly composed of steak and french fries, or waffel topped with cream. I went into a carrefore express store, I cannot find censodine toothpaste, store display is old and dusty. Food has very few variety. Overall, this city is a big disappointment to me !Related to:
- Study Abroad
Bogus Helpers for Tourists
I found that in both Brussels and even in Milan, and I am sure a lot of other places in Europe, there is a network of scammers who stand around metro kiosk machines. Because the directions for getting a ticket are almost impossible to understand, a benevolent local comes up to help you, takes the money out of your hand and feeds it into the machine. The first bill in not enough for the ticket and the second bill you give her/him produces the ticket. The helper keeps the change as their service fee, but the total price is way more than expected with two bills inserted.
What I encountered (as told by the metro police who are aware of these people), where gypsy con-aritists.
The first bill is actually "palmed" and not even inserted into the machine, and the second bill buys the ticket with the change taken by the good Samaratin. Cost me three times more for the price of a one-way metro ticket. Live and learn the expensive way!Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
This is so sad.
Moaning about Belgium. For example, no HSE in Belgium or the cobbled streets making pulling a suitcase difficult. Have you not considered that these differences make it what it is? If I might offer some simple advice; If you want everything to be just like at home, don't travel.
I love Brussels. The unwelcome approaches from the scruffy Albanians, the scams, the businessmen relieving themselves in shop doorways while on the way home, the truly fabulous food, stunning beers and where do I start with the museums and galleries?
- Women's Travel
- Arts and Culture
- Food and Dining
Why we drink beer
Long, long time ago, and I am speaking from Middle Ages and after, water was very dangerous to drink. Unless you lived right next to the well, or you boiled it, it was ok.
When monks from the South came to settle here, they wanted to import the winemaking as they did so in their monasteries. The wine was a good alternative for water and safe to drink.
However, grapes were difficult to cultivate here so far North and the harvest not sufficient enough to provide them the wine necessary.
By special permission of the Church, they were allowed to brew beer instead of wine.
Yeast, one of the most important elements of the beer, was to each monastery a treasure to be kept secret. But I guess espionage and stealing are of all ages, so it happened that someone took a part of the (living) yeast and took it with him to another monastery. Slowly also others then monks were brewing beer and you could find a lot of microbreweries all around.
I think in Bruges there were over 300 of them some centuries ago!).
If you see the water on the picture (taken at Brussels), then you see it is “not drinkable water” as the sign says! So… you will have to taste one of our beers instead!
I would recomend you to visit my Belgium page and have a look at the "tourist trap" tips if you want to make some choices.
It will be time I update that chapter because I have tried out many more beers since!Related to:
- Family Travel
Gare du Nord old condition
We were surprised upon arriving at Gare du Nord, with our baby stoller and luggage, that the elevators at Gare du Nord--to get into the station off the platform (at least the one we arrived at) didn't work and that there were no elevators to get down to the pre-metro trams--my husband had to end up hauling all our stuff and breaking out into a sweat--I think it took three trips each time--6 times in like 30 minutes!! I later figured out, as Brussels isn't very big, we could have just gone onto the Central Station and (I would hope) things would have been more functional/up to date.
Would You Really Want To Use This Company?
Perhaps not the best name for a driving school, but do note that they offer payment facilities!!
Actually this is just me being a bit naughty with a carefully chosen camera angle. The company is actually called Escam and by all accounts is pretty good.Related to:
1 more image
Beware of Cyclists on the Pavements!
There I was wandering up the Rue de la Loi (the busy 4-lane road that runs through the European Quarter) trying, with my camera, to capture the feeling of being in the heart of Europe, when suddenly a couple of cyclists whizzed past from behind, close enough for their slipstream to ruffle my hair.
"Bloody Idiots!" I thought, "Must grab a pic and a write up a tip about reckless cyclists when I get home."
It was only after I'd taken the pic that I realised that I had in fact been dawdling along in the clearly marked cycle lane which shares the pavement here. Ooops!Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
walking on the grass
When I was at the Garden of Sculptures/Le Petit Sablon taking photos from the entrance I noticed a guy walking all over the place taking photos as well in all directions - I stood where he had been and shortly after finally took noticed of this loud whistling noise which seemed to be getting louder and closer - I was mortified to see this uniformed very stern looking woman walking towards me still blowing her whistle!
Did get some good photos - but how come the guy didnt get noticed when he had been walking all over it but I did when I stood on it!Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
- Adventure Travel
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