Belgium’s capital Brussels is a popular destination for solo travelers looking to immerse themselves in culture, history, food, and nightlife.
But as an international city and the de facto capital of Europe, is Brussels safe for solo female travellers?
The short answer is yes, Brussels is generally a safe city for women traveling alone if you use common sense precautions. Having NATO and European Union Headquarters in Brussels, you can easily understand Brussels security.
In this detailed guide, I’ll give an honest look at safety in Brussels, including up-to-date crime rates, what areas are safest, tips to stay safe as a solo female traveler, and whether Brussels is safe overall.
I’ll also compare the pros and cons of visiting Brussels alone as a woman.
An Honest Look at Safety in Brussels
The majority of trips to Brussels are incident-free. Violent crime rates are relatively low here. But as in any big city, tourists need to be cautious of petty crimes like pickpocketing and scams.
There are also some neighborhoods that women should avoid when traveling solo.
To make your trip worry-free, it’s key to understand the risks, take sensible precautions, and choose safer areas to explore.
Here’s an in-depth look at the main safety concerns in Brussels as a solo female traveler.
Petty Theft and Pickpocketing in Brussels
The most common safety issue travelers face in Brussels is petty theft, especially pickpocketing. As a popular tourist destination, thieves unfortunately target Brussels for these types of crimes.
Pickpockets often operate in busy tourist areas and on public transportation where they can more easily slip away unnoticed in a crowd after stealing a wallet, purse, or phone. Prime pickpocketing hotspots include:
- Grand Place and surrounding streets
- Brussels Central Station
- Metro system
- Trams #92 and #93 up to Sablon
- Flea markets like Place du Jeu de Balle
Solo female travelers face perhaps even greater risk of theft because women often carry purses and wear jewelry that attracts thieves looking for a quick and easy target.
It’s not just Brussels residents behind these crimes either. Pickpocketing gangs known as “Romani clans” frequently travel from Eastern Europe to target tourists in Brussels and other European cities.
The best way to avoid becoming the victim of pickpockets in Brussels is to be hyper-aware of your belongings at crowded tourist sites, on public transport, and when walking around busy areas.
Carry a cross body bag rather than a purse that can be easily snatched. Keep valuables in an inside zippered pocket or hidden money belt under your clothes. And be alert in crowds don’t be distracted looking at your phone.
Scams Frequently Targeting Tourists in Brussels
Beyond pickpocketing, tourists in Brussels need to watch out for common scams designed to part you from your money or steal personal information. Here are some of the top scams to know:
- Petition scams: Criminals approach you asking for a signature to support a fake petition or charity. While you sign, they steal your jewelry or wallet. Only sign legitimate petitions inside offices.
- Spilled food or paint scam: Thieves “accidentally” spill food or paint on you, then offer to clean it while stealing your valuables. Just walk away if this happens.
- Fake police scam: A person impersonating a police officer might demand to check your wallet for counterfeit money or drug search you. Real police won’t do this.
- Rigged games: Common in Brussels parks and tourist areas. They’re designed so you can’t win. Don’t be drawn in to playing games on the street.
- Over-friendly locals: Someone overly friendly might be distracting you for their accomplices to pickpocket you. Or they’ll convince you to visit a bar only to leave with a huge bill.
- Sob stories: People with elaborate stories about lost tickets and needing money for a train fare. They just tell the story to collect money from sympathetic tourists.
- Attraction ticket scams: Black market vendors sell used attraction tickets that have already expired or are forged copies. Only buy tickets from official sites and booths.
By learning the main scams in Brussels, you can avoid falling victim while traveling solo. Trust your instincts—if something feels sketchy or too good to be true, walk away.
Sexual Harassment and Assault in Brussels
While Brussels has relatively low violent crime rates, including sexual assault, solo female travelers do still face a risk of sexual harassment, especially at nightlife spots.
Grouping and catcalling by intoxicated men at clubs and bars is not uncommon. Spiked drinks are also a potential danger at Brussels nightlife venues.
Use extra caution at Brussels’ nightclubs and bars as a woman alone:
- Avoid very late nights out and take registered taxis rather than walking home alone
- Don’t accept drinks from strangers that could be spiked
- Stay near the bartender or security staff if feeling harassed
- Attend bars and clubs with highly-rated safety policies
- Only visit well-known venues and check reviews for warnings
During the day, Brussels is generally safe, but it’s also wise to beware of sexual harassment at some cafes or on public transportation. Sit near other women or families and don’t be afraid to firmly tell someone to stop harassing you.
While rare, sexual assault has happened in isolated areas like parks. Avoid wandering alone in dark, deserted areas of Brussels at any time of day as a precaution.
Top Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers in Brussels
While Brussels has its share of petty crime, it’s very manageable with some simple precautions. Make sure to:
Choose Where You Stay Carefully
The Brussels neighborhood where you base yourself can have a big impact on safety. Areas near the Grand Place like Marolles and Sainte-Catherine have more petty crime due to high tourist traffic.
Look to stay in “safer” residential neighborhoods like:
- Etterbeek: Affluent area with universities near the European quarter
- Ixelles: Trendy and upscale neighborhood full of shops and restaurants
- Uccle: Safe, primarily residential district in South Brussels
- Woluwe-Saint-Pierre: One of Brussels’ wealthier and low-crime neighborhoods
Avoid higher crime districts like Molenbeek, Brussels North Station, and parts of Anderlecht if traveling alone. While they aren’t “no-go” zones, other areas are much safer.
Use Ride Share Services at Night
At night, call an Uber or registered taxi rather than walk alone or take public transportation. Brussels’ metro system closes by midnight anyway.
Ride share apps are generally safe in Brussels. Drivers undergo background checks and you can share your trip details with friends for peace of mind.
Avoid unlicensed taxis that approach you on the street, these could be unsafe or charge very inflated prices.
Research and Avoid Higher Crime Areas
We’ve covered some general districts to avoid already. Beyond this, get familiar with specific spots in Brussels associated with crime such as certain Metro stations (like Brussels North Station after dark) and isolated parks.
Ask your hotel or the tourist information office for a run down of areas solo female travelers should steer clear of. Planning your route in advance helps avoid accidentally wandering into an unsafe area.
Additional Precautions for Staying Safe
A few more tips for minimizing risks during your Brussels trip:
- Keep the door locked at your hotel using the deadbolt
- Back up your passport, credit cards, and other ID in online storage or photos in case they are lost or stolen
- Avoid public parks and forested areas like Bois de la Cambre at night
- Only withdraw cash from ATMs in banks or other secure locations, not in dark streets
- Keep smartphones and valuables out of sight on restaurant tables
- Remain vigilant of pickpockets and scammers in crowded tourist sites
And as always, avoid walking alone at night, don’t accept drinks from strangers, and steer clear of isolated areas to stay secure.
The Safest Areas for Solo Females to Stay in Brussels
To recap, some of the best areas for women traveling alone in Brussels are:
The historic central district between Grand Place and Brussels Park is highly walkable and compact. This makes it a good home base since major sights are close by.
The downside is high tourist traffic also means more petty crime. But the convenient location and proximity to attractions outweigh the small risks for most travelers.
Just south of the city center, Ixelles mixes upscale shopping and dining with charming townhouses and art galleries. It’s popular with students and young professionals.
Ixelles feels low key while still offering trendy cafes and restaurants. And it has lower reports of petty crime than central Brussels.
Bordering the EU quarter, Etterbeek charms visitors with its cozy European vibe. This safe, lively neighborhood has great access to Brussels’ museums and sights.
As a university district, Etterbeek offers an authentic experience of daily life. Lots of families and students on the streets creates a feeling of safety.
For a calmer experience, Uccle south of downtown makes an ideal base. This largely residential area offers scenic parks, boutiques, and castles, away from tourist crowds.
Uccle’s reputation as an upscale district also correlates with very low crime rates. The area is popular with Belgian families.
Similar to Uccle, this neighborhood is one of Brussels’ most affluent. Its safety and tranquility appeal to business travelers and diplomats.
Don’t expect much nightlife—Woluwe-Saint-Pierre is better for museums, architecture, and relaxing in its green parks.
Pros and Cons of Visiting Brussels Solo as a Female Traveler
To help decide if Brussels is the right solo trip for you, here are the main pros and cons of visiting as a woman alone:
- English is widely spoken and understood
- Compact, walkable city that’s easy to navigate
- Affordable taxis and ride shares for getting around safely
- Lower violent crime rates compared to other European capitals
- Can stay in safe neighborhoods like Ixelles and Etterbeek
- Amazing culture, history, food, beer, and nightlife scene
- Strong tourist infrastructure including tours for solo travelers
- Meeting other travelers is easy at hostels and activities
- High rates of petty crimes like pickpocketing targeting tourists
- Sexual harassment is a moderate risk at nightlife venues
- Scammers frequently operate at tourist sites and transportation hubs
- Need to take extra safety precautions walking alone at night
- Terrorism is a small but potential threat to be aware of
- Some areas like Brussels North Station are unsafe at night
While Brussels has its share of petty theft, it doesn’t differ dramatically in safety from other major European cities. Violent crime is low and Brussels offers amazing cultural experiences. For a solo female traveler using common sense precautions, it’s absolutely worth visiting.
Conclusion: Brussels is Safe for Solo Female Travel With Precautions
Brussels continues to attract millions of tourists annually despite some safety concerns around theft and scams. While vigilance is key, serious crimes in the city remain rare.
Solo female travelers shouldn’t feel deterred from visiting Brussels. The city is beautiful, friendly, and easy to navigate for those taking basic precautions.
Does the safety information in this article help you feel more confident visiting Brussels solo? Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions!