Belgium stands out as a nation celebrated for its extensive history, diverse cultural tapestry, and delicious chocolate. Renowned as a sought-after haven for expatriates seeking fresh opportunities, Belgium boasts a high standard of living.
Nestled in the heart of Europe, the country boasts excellent infrastructure and a diverse, multicultural populace, providing a distinctive experience for those contemplating a move. If you are considering relocating to Belgium for professional reasons or to be closer to family, thoughtful analysis is essential before choosing your new home.
This guide will explore the top cities for expatriates in Belgium, delving into their unique offerings, encompassing aspects like the cost of living and safety.
Brussels, the capital of Belgium and recognised as the unofficial capital of the European Union, stands as a cosmopolitan hub drawing expatriates globally. Its international ambience, varied neighbourhoods, and an array of multinational entities make Brussels a vibrant and attractive destination for expats. The city prides itself on exceptional public transportation, a thriving job market, and a culturally rich environment featuring museums, theatres, and a lively culinary scene.
Life in Brussels
With a population of 2,110,000, Brussels is the focal point for the European Union's political activities and stands as Belgium's economic hub. Unsurprisingly, Brussels boasts the highest GDP per capita in the country.
The quality of life in Brussels is intricately tied to your choice of residence. The Brussels Capital Region encompasses 19 municipalities, including Brussels itself. Although the inner city is often associated with traffic congestion, tourist attractions, and pollution, tranquillity awaits in the numerous parks of posh neighbourhoods, such as Ixelles and Uccle. Additionally, these areas house numerous international schools and universities.
Cost of Living
Opting to reside in the capital city comes with a significant financial commitment. Brussels is the most expensive city in Belgium, but it compensates for some of the highest salaries available. Maintaining a comfortable standard of living in the capital, especially when renting, generally demands a monthly budget of approximately £1,529. It's important to acknowledge that finding reasonably priced rental accommodations in Brussels might be more challenging due to its status as the largest city in Belgium.
Brussels-Capital exhibits the lowest incidence of crimes among all Belgian regions, according to figures by Statista. Most of the 75,650 reported crimes in 2021 fall under minor offences, such as pickpocketing.
Antwerp, known for its historic architecture and as a global diamond trading hub, is a city that seamlessly combines tradition with modernity. Expats in Antwerp can enjoy the charming old town, world-class shopping, and a thriving arts scene. The city's port is one of the largest in Europe, providing employment opportunities in logistics and international trade. Additionally, Antwerp's multicultural community ensures a welcoming environment for expatriates.
Life in Antwerp
Antwerp, Belgium's second most populous city, accommodates approximately 524,501 residents. As the capital of the Antwerp Province in the Flemish Region, it is the largest city in Belgium, spanning an area of 204.51 square kilometres.
Additionally, Antwerp boasts excellent connectivity through public transportation. It is convenient to navigate within the city and offers easy access to other Belgian cities like Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, and Liège. Moreover, destinations like Paris, Amsterdam, or London are all within a three-hour journey.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Antwerp closely rivals that of Brussels. Typically, you can anticipate spending approximately 5% less in Antwerp, mainly due to slightly lower rental prices. For instance, if you secure a studio for rent in Antwerp, your monthly expenditure will likely be around £1337.
Antwerp, with a crime index of 39.73, is recognised as a tranquil city, providing a sense of safety for its residents. Most areas allow for night-time strolls without concern, although it's worth noting that places like the red-light district Leguit and Central Station might exude a slightly dubious atmosphere during the night.
Ghent, often called Belgium's best-kept secret, is a city that captivates expats with its medieval architecture, picturesque canals, and vibrant student population. Ghent offers a high quality of life known for its emphasis on sustainability and innovation. Expatriates can explore the city's historic sites, attend cultural events, and benefit from various job opportunities, particularly in education, technology, and research.
Life in Ghent
Ghent, the second-largest city in Flanders, is home to approximately 264,000 residents, nearly 30% of whom are students. A vibrant university city, it is renowned for its picturesque waterways and medieval architecture, offering a unique blend of metropolitan energy with a village-like ambience. Often referred to as 'Mediaeval Manhattan,' Ghent proudly boasts two UNESCO World Heritage sites. The University of Ghent stands out as a leading institution in engineering and life sciences, contributing significantly to the city's emergence as a robust hub for research and development.
Cost of Living
Living costs in Ghent align closely with Antwerp's, primarily influenced by the elevated rental prices. To sustain yourself in Ghent while renting a studio, a monthly budget of approximately £1290 is advisable. Opting for a shared apartment offers a more economical range, typically from £770 to £1000 per month.
With its cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, and romantic canals, Bruges is often described as a fairytale city. While smaller than other Belgian cities, Bruges has a unique charm that appeals to expatriates seeking a tranquil and picturesque environment. The city's tourism industry provides job opportunities, and expats can enjoy a relaxed lifestyle surrounded by architectural marvels and culinary delights.
Life in Bruges
Emerging as a hub for technology, Bruges serves as a global meeting point, attracting individuals from diverse corners of the world. Renowned for its excellent banking services, the city facilitates seamless remote work for travellers and expatriates, mainly digital nomads. This conducive environment and top-notch technological infrastructure position Bruges as an ideal destination for those looking to work remotely quickly and efficiently.
Cost of Living in Bruges
Like many European cities, the cost of living in Bruges can vary depending on individual lifestyle choices and housing preferences. Generally speaking, Bruges is known for being relatively more expensive than other Belgian cities. Accommodation costs, including rent and utilities, significantly contribute to the overall expenses. Living in or near the historic city centre may come at a premium. However, everyday goods and services costs can be comparable to other cities in Belgium. Grocery prices, transportation, and dining out can be reasonable, especially if you explore options outside the tourist-centric areas.
Bruges is widely regarded as a safe city to live in. This enchanting medieval city is known for its low crime rates and peaceful environment. As a popular tourist destination, Bruges strongly emphasises public safety, and law enforcement is actively involved in maintaining order. Residents and visitors often praise the city's well-preserved historic charm, friendly atmosphere, and sense of security. Like any community, it's wise to take standard precautions, such as being vigilant with personal belongings and staying informed about your surroundings.
Leuven, home to one of the oldest Catholic universities in the world, is a vibrant university town that attracts students and expatriates alike. Its historic architecture, lively pubs, and cultural events complement the city's youthful energy. Expats in Leuven can benefit from the city's vital educational and research institutions and its proximity to Brussels, making it an ideal location for those seeking a balance between academia and city life.
Life in Leuven
With around 102,000 residents, Leuven is a captivating city in the heart of Belgium, renowned for its vibrant atmosphere and rich cultural heritage. Home to the renowned KU Leuven, one of the world's oldest and most prestigious universities, the city exudes a youthful energy, with students comprising a significant portion of the population. Life in Leuven is characterised by its charming cobblestone streets, historic architecture, and lively social scene.
The city's compact size makes for easy navigation, enabling both residents and visitors to discover numerous cultural attractions, charming cafes, and lively markets. Leuven's rich academic heritage is complemented by a diverse array of events, festivals, and a community spirit that welcomes all. Whether relishing the scenic Oude Markt, famed as the "longest bar in the world," or meandering through picturesque parks and gardens, life in Leuven presents a delightful fusion of academic distinction, cultural vibrancy, and a friendly social atmosphere.
Cost of Living
While it is true that the cost of living in Leuven can be relatively higher compared to other Belgian cities, it is justifiable given the city's numerous amenities and vibrant atmosphere. Accommodation costs, including rent and utilities, constitute a significant portion of the expenses. However, the city's diverse culinary scene, lively cultural events, and accessible public transportation contribute to a well-rounded lifestyle.
Students benefit from various student-friendly initiatives, yet the overall cost of living is mitigated by the city's efficient infrastructure and numerous affordable options for daily needs. While certain aspects of living in Leuven may come at a premium, the city's unique charm and opportunities often make it a worthwhile investment in quality of life.
Leuven is generally considered a safe city to live in. As with any urban area, exercising normal precautions, such as being aware of your surroundings and taking standard safety measures, is advisable. The city benefits from a strong police presence, and the university environment often contributes to a vibrant and secure atmosphere. The crime rates in Leuven are generally lower than larger cities, and it is known for having a welcoming and friendly community.
Nestled by the Meuse River, Liège is well known as a strong industrial city and is committed to economic progress. Expats living in Liège will enjoy exploring the city's many neighbourhoods, experiencing the culture, and engaging in outdoor activities such as walking and cycling. Geographically, it is close to Germany and the Netherlands, which makes it a great centre of intercountry trade and shipping.
Life in Liège
With a population of 682,000 residents, Liège stands as the most populous city in Wallonia. Situated to the east of Belgium along the Meuse River, near the German and Dutch borders, Liège has historically been a pivotal industrial centre, particularly in steel and coal, owing to its strategic location and river port.
In the present day, the city continues to undergo modernisation and economic diversification. Individuals seeking employment in manufacturing, new technology, services, tourism, and aviation will discover abundant opportunities in the dynamic landscape of the 'Ardent City.' However, proficiency in French may enhance your prospects in the job market.
Liège is also a magnet for students pursuing engineering, biology, and earth sciences degrees at the University of Liège. With a student population exceeding 26,863, 22% of whom are of foreign nationality, the city has become a thriving educational hub.
Cost of Living
Residing in Liège is more budget-friendly than Brussels, Antwerp, or Ghent. This is primarily attributed to the more affordable rental prices, which are approximately 29.22% lower than those in Ghent. On average, if you're considering rental homes in Liège, your monthly expenditure would be around £770
Liège registers one of the higher crime rates in Belgium, as indicated by Numbeo, with a safety index of 42.62 and a crime index of 57.38. While it's not inherently unsafe to live there—generally quite secure—you might exercise caution, particularly in areas like the Sainte Marguerite neighbourhood and the outskirts during night-time. Additionally, it's advisable to be vigilant with your belongings in the nightlife district of Carré.
Belgium, with its diverse cities and regions, provides expatriates with various options to suit their preferences and professional aspirations. Whether it's the cosmopolitan allure of Brussels, the artistic ambience of Ghent, or the historical charm of Bruges, each city offers a unique expat experience.
As you consider making Belgium your new home, take into account your priorities, such as career prospects, lifestyle preferences, and cultural interests. With a welcoming and multicultural environment, Belgium stands as a promising destination for expatriates looking for a fulfilling and enriching life abroad.
Pinnacle Removals are experts in International and European removals, and we can take care of every detail for you. Simply move yourself and your loved ones and wait for your belongings to arrive at the other end.