By Laura de Boer

Did you get an internship in Brussels? Or are you planning on working in the heart of the EU in the future? Either way, in this short guide you will find some helpful tips so you can get a flying start! TL;DR at the bottom.

Finding a room

Brussels is known to be a city filled with temporary citizens. Because of this, people are constantly moving and often many rooms are available. Finding a room should therefore not be a problem. The real issue lies in finding a room in a good neighbourhood. So how do you do that?

Good neighbourhoods

Brussels is made up of nineteen municipalities, each with its distinct culture and vibe. After living in Brussels for five months, I have experienced most of these neighbourhoods myself. Municipalities that I (and my co-workers) recommend are: Saint-Gilles (Sint-Gilles) (especially the eastern side), Ixelles (Elsene), Etterbeek, and Bruxelles-ville (Brussel-centrum). However, some streets in these municipalities are much nicer than others, so I recommend using Streetview to make sure you end up in the right one.

Bad places to live

Brussels has a bad reputation and is often seen as an ‘unsafe’ city. While some stories can be exaggerated, others are very true. So avoid the following places:

Train stations. Listen, I get it, living close to the station is very convenient. And if that is the most important thing to you, go ahead. But train stations in Brussels – especially Nord, Central and Midi – are known to be noisy, have a piss odour, and most importantly, they are very dangerous places at night. So I recommend avoiding them when looking for a room.

‘Bad’ Municipalities: Some municipalities in Brussels are quite infamous. So is Molenbeek-Saint-Jean (Sint-Jans-Molenbeek) known for being the hometown of the perpetrators of the Paris terrorist attack in 2015. Not a place you want to be associated with. Things are getting better though. The Belgian government has invested 39 million euros in Molenbeek and other ‘problematic neighbourhoods’, such as Saint-Gilles, Anderlecht, Koekelberg and Schaerbeek. This will hopefully resolve the worst issues.

Keep in mind that ‘bad’ neighbourhoods can also have nice places to live. Just like ‘good’ neighbourhoods have streets you should avoid. I have lived in Anderlecht for five months and I never felt particularly unsafe. It has nice parks, a pretty shopping area, and a mall close by. These infamous neighbourhoods are far from unliveable, but if you are not a risk-taker it might be good to avoid these municipalities altogether.

List of websites you can use to find a room

These website can give you a good idea of everything that is available in Brussels. I, and some of my colleagues, have used Housing Anywhere because it is often the safest option. One good/annoying thing about Housing Anywhere is that you and the landlord both have to pay a fee of 500 euros to match. So it can be little more expensive that other websites. However, because of this, chances are that you don’t get scammed since everyone involved has already invested money into it. You will also pay your first payment through Housing Anywhere, which they will keep safe for you after you have moved in. This way, if you are unsatisfied, you can simply get your money back from the website and your landlord can’t just run off with it.

Transport options

After going through a lot of afford to find your room, it is now time to leave that behind and step into the outside world. But Brussels is big. And no matter how healthy you are, you won’t be able to walk everywhere. So how are you getting from point A to point B?

Public transport

This is the obvious answer for most people and luckily a good one. The public transport company in Brussels is called STIB-MIVB (a mouthful, but that is what you get when you need to abbreviate both the French and Dutch names). When you move to Brussels you want one of their MOBIB cards, which allows you to use the Metro, Tram, and Bus. You probably want a personal MOBIB card to get some sweet discounts, so be prepared to take a picture of your lovely face in a damp photobooth at the train station. With your identity photo and your passport, you can get your MOBIB card at one of five BOOTIKs in Brussels.

Once you have gotten your hands on your very own MOBIB card, you will be able to get your student discount! That’s right, students under 25 can travel unlimited for only twelve euros per year. The only thing you must do is hand in an original school certificate at a KIOSK or BOOTIK with your MOBIB card and you should be fine.

Do note the following things:

  • Since the subscription is for the whole year, you will have to pretend that you will be in Brussels for the whole year. When I tried to get my discount, I had some trouble because I had filled in that I was only doing an internship for five months.
  • The subscription does not work in some instances. Busses from De Lijn are not part of STIB-MIVB since they drive around Flanders as well. Your discount or even your MOBIB card may not work here, something I found out the hard way.

Older than 25? If you have a personal MOBIB card, you will probably have to pay around 50 euros monthly for your subscription if you take public transport daily. You can use the ‘Find the Best Fare’ page of the STIB-MIVB website to find the best subscription for you.

For those who do not want to use public transportation all the time, it is also possible to pay for trips in buses, trams, and metros with your bank card, so don’t feel forced to buy a MOBIB card if you don’t really need one.


If you are born with the terrible hereditary condition of being Dutch, you might feel a strong urge to laugh in the face of danger and cycle through Brussels. While I personally care too much about my well-being to have tried it, some of my former colleagues have taken the odds and brought out the good ol’ steel horse. So here are some of their experiences.

An easy way to get a bike in Brussels is through Swapfiets. This company offers bike memberships in many Dutch and Belgian cities (you cannot go two meters in Groningen without running into a Swapfiets it seems). If you live close to your internship a Swapfiets subscription can be a good alternative to public transport. Especially if you are too old to get the student discount at STIB-MIVB, or if you want some exercise mixed in with your busy work schedule.

Once you have your bike, you must be careful riding around Brussels. If you consider yourself smart you might want to invest in a helmet and a yellow vest (also recommendable for public protests, so a good two-in-one deal).  My (Dutch) colleagues were too stubborn to dress up appropriately for the Brussels cycling environment, mostly because they are used to the safety of Dutch cycling infrastructure. But Brussels is very different. The city has improved its cycling facilities over the past few years, which has led for instance to the protected bicycle lanes in both Rue de la Loi and Rue Belliard (the streets that you will use if you need to get to and from the European Commission building). However, don’t be surprised if you get dumped in with car traffic while cycling through Brussels.

Other options for getting around

With a bike and a MOBIB card, there is probably no place in Brussels where you can’t go. But if the weather sucks or you just want something different, consider these options:

  • Scooters (Lime, Dott, Tier, etc.) Perfect for when you are looking at your legs and thinking to yourself ‘what if I didn’t walk?’. Please don’t park them in the middle of the sidewalk, I’m begging you.
  • Electric bikes (Bolt, Villo, Tier, etc.) These are similar to scooters, with the big difference being that you can sit down while travelling. Amazing! (Villo bikes have to be returned at one of their docking stations, so keep that in mind.)- 
  • Taxis (Uber) This is for those who would like to pay money to be stuck in traffic! Taxis may be a good option for long distances, but they can get pretty expensive so make sure to be with multiple people so you can split the costs.

Things to do in Brussels

The best thing about an internship is that the work stops when you’re no longer on the clock. This means that you might find you have a lot of time on your hands during the weekends. Here are some typical tourist attractions for you to gawk at. Also, check out this website to stay up to date with all the upcoming events in Brussels.


This is where you need to go when you are an intern in Brussels. Every Thursday evening after six, many EU interns and employees gather together at the Place de Luxembourg (Plux) for drink and chats. If you want to network for your next job, this is the place to do it.

Grand Place

This is the main square of Brussels city. Here you will be surrounded by amazing historical architecture (and lots of tourists). Many of the buildings are decorated with plated gold, so I advise you to go when the sun is out to get the full experience. From here, you will be able to go visit Brussels’ Hotel de Ville or the shopping street the Brouckère. Close by, you will find other attractions like Manneken Pis or Saint Catherine’s Church.


Ah… the Atomium. Also known as the less successful little brother of the Eiffel Tower. It is pretty to look at, but you will have to buy tickets beforehand if you want to have a chance to look inside. The Atomium is at the edge of the city, so it might take some time to get there. Luckily, you can combine it with many other things to turn it into a day trip. You can visit Mini-Europe to see a miniature version of Europe’s landmarks, the Royal Planetarium if the sky is too limiting for you, or you can simply walk around Laeken Park if you want to enjoy a little nature.


Brussels has a lot of museums and not all of them are cheap. This is why I recommend checking out Brussels Museum Night Fever if you can. This will allow you to visit many museums while only paying around 14 euros. Tip: the most popular museums can get really busy, so if there is a museum that you really want to see, go there first and be on time.

More of a morning person or did you miss Museum Night? Here are some museums that – in my opinion – are worth it to pay for.

Bars, clubs, and other places with booze and friends

I will be honest, these places are not for me. I was born to be a grandma so I will act accordingly. Nevertheless, I have heard stories about Brussels’ nightlife, and I’ve been to some quite cool places.

  • Celtica. An Irish pub where you can listen to music, watch sports, or go to the disco. It’s in the middle of the city, so expect it to be busy
  • Little Delirium. This one is for all the beer lovers out there. Get ready to try out 2000 types of beer and listen to live music every Thursday.
  • Goupil le Fol. This one is very cool and not very well-known. If you are ready to become more than a tourist, you should check this place out. Imagine a second-hand shop that went bankrupt and rather than throwing all their old stuff out, they simply decided to turn it into a bar. It’s a cosy and magical place for you to discover.
  • La Tricoterie. This one is more of a cultural centre where you can grab some food and chat with friends. It has amazing brunches and the Monday evening jam sessions are the best way to start your week.

One day trips in Belgium

Maybe, one day, you get sick of Brussels and want to explore the other parts of Belgium. Luckily for you, the trains are pretty affordable and other cities are close by. Here are some of my favourites:


Travel time: around 1 hour

Antwerp is known for being the diamond capital of the world. This is why you should definitely check out Antwerp’s diamond district, right next to the central station. You probably won’t be able to afford anything here, but sometimes diamonds are just a little more special than rent. On the other hand, if you like printing presses and the smell of old books you should visit the Plantin-Moretus Museum to learn everything about the power and history of ink on paper.


Travel time: around 30 minutes

When Amsterdam was still a swampy village of a few hundred people, Ghent was already a powerful trading city with a highly profitable wool industry. All right, I get it, wool does not sound as “fancy” as diamonds, but – in my humble opinion – clothes are much more useful. And if you wanted the best clothes of the highest quality in the late middle ages they were coming from Ghent (and Bruges). A lot of this former wool wealth is still visible in the city. Go up and enjoy the view from the Ghent belfry, tour the Castle of the Counts, and visit Saint-Bavo’s Cathedral.


Travel time: around 2 hours

Dinant is a little further away but definitely worth it. It is a little smaller than the other cities, so don’t expect to spend a lot of time there. Dinant is known for being the hometown of Adolph Sax, inventor of the saxophone. It is also absolutely gorgeous. I recommend going to the cathedral and visiting the Leffe Abbey for a beer tour. However, one thing to avoid is the “Coque de Dinant” or the “Dinant cookie”. If you like having teeth, don’t bite into this!


Finding a room in Brussels can be quite easy but do some research about the different neighbourhoods. Once in Brussels, the public transport system will probably be your primary mode of transportation so make sure to get your MOBIB-card with the student discount. Want to explore? There is much to do in Brussels itself and they keep organising new events, so check the city’s website regularly. And don’t forget to travel around in Belgium, many of the cities are absolutely worth it!

I hope that these tips will be helpful for you when you set off to Brussels. It can be a hard city to fall in love with, but with the proper preparations it can become a lot easier. Take your time to explore, walk around and discover, because there is more than enough to do in the heart of the European Union!

Photo Credits: Stephanie LeBlanc

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