Belgium may only be a small country but with three official languages and distinct cultural differences between the various regions, it is a unique place with an international flavour. It’s a country of both historic cities and sleepy towns and a good base for exploring this part of Europe whilst working remotely as a digital nomad. In this post, we’re going to look at some of the best cities and cheapest places to live in Belgium.
5 of the Best Cities to Live in Belgium & Work Remotely
When it comes to the best places in Belgium to live, Bruges certainly stands out as a good option for remote workers and digital nomads. It is a city that attracts a lot of foreign tourists, so there is already something of an international mindset here with English very widely spoken in the old centre.
As well as being a beautiful and historic city of canals and cobbled streets, Bruges has a lot going for it. The constant flow of visitors in and out ensures it’s lively enough in the evenings, particularly at the weekend, but it’s also small enough that everything is within easy reach by foot, bicycle or a short ride on public transport.
In terms of costs, Bruges can be an expensive or very affordable city depending on how and more importantly where you live. The central districts are home to large numbers of apartments dedicated to short-term visitors but accommodation prices there are well above the national average. Outside of the old walled city though, you can find much cheaper rents and Bruges can prove to be one of the cheaper big cities if you’re happy with being based a bit outside the city centre.
Estimated Living Costs in Bruges (explanation below) – 1000-1700 Euros/month
Antwerp is the second largest city in Belgium with a population of nearly half a million. It doesn’t receive nearly as many visitors as Bruges but this port city on the River Scheldt has more diverse and varied neighbourhoods and it’s easier to find affordable mid to long term accommodation.
It benefits from an excellent public transport system with trains, buses, metros and trams offering easy access to all parts of the city. It is mostly a Dutch speaking city but its status as something of a natural crossroads, ensures most are relatively competent in English too.
Another big bonus is its location at the heart of the Benelux region. It is situated close to the Dutch border and is on most of the main transport routes linking Brussels with Rotterdam and Amsterdam, two of the best places to live in the Netherlands. That makes weekend getaways and short trips very easy to arrange with lots of cool options on both sides of the border.
Estimated Living Costs in Antwerp – 1100-1750 Euros/month
The Belgian capital may not be one of the cheapest cities to live in Belgium but anyone who really enjoys urban living would be wise to consider it as there aren’t that many other genuinely large Belgian cities.
The home of the European Union, Brussels attracts people from all over the continent and beyond. While it’s nowhere near as busy or lively as some major capitals, there are still usually events and things going on throughout the week where you will have the opportunity to meet both locals and foreigners who have made the city their home.
Choosing your neighbourhood is more important here than in smaller cities. Brussels has everything from leafy suburbs to central, student-friendly districts such as Ixelles to ones that have become centres for the city’s various large African and Arab communities. Prices and safety issues vary greatly as you go from suburb to suburb so do your research before committing to anything.
Estimated Living Costs in Brussels – 1200-1900 Euros/month
For something a bit different and much smaller and quieter, but still within easy reach of Brussels, consider Rixensart.
Located to the south of the capital, there are regular, direct rail links into the heart of Brussels taking only 40 minutes. Therefore you can easily hop into the city if you fancy something a bit livelier but this is primarily a great option for nature lovers. The picturesque Rixensart area is home to lakes and rolling green fields that are perfect for walks and hikes when the weather is good.
It is a mostly French speaking area and does tend to attract families who have moved out of the city. That can make it a slightly sleepy place if you’re a young remote worker looking for something to do in the evening but if you want a quiet spot where you get more for your money in terms of accommodation than you might in a bigger city, it’s a nice option.
Estimated Living Costs in Rixensart – 1000-1500 Euros/month
A rundown of the best places to live in Belgium ends in Ghent, another riverside city, in the northwest of the country. This is also in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium with the city located roughly halfway between Brussels and Bruges with good domestic transport links.
Efforts have been made to make this something of a tech hub with lots of startups beginning operations in the city in recent years. That can make it a good place to land a permanent job but it may also be a good place for networking if you’re self-employed or just work remotely. A knowledge of Dutch isn’t really considered a necessity and most young people will gladly switch to English.
Many people come to the city for 6-12 month placements and that’s a positive from the perspective of a digital nomad or remote worker as there is a wider range of mid-term accommodation options than you might find in some places. Overall living costs are less than in Brussels but with Ghent seen as something of a trendy, upcoming city, prices are rising and it’s by no means one of the cheapest places in Belgium.
Estimated Living Costs in Ghent – 1100-1700 Euros/month
Estimated Living Costs Calculation:
In order to calculate the cost of living in Belgium in the table below and the cities featured above, we used Numbeo’s data as a guide. The estimates are only designed to be a guide but should offer a useful starter comparison. At the very least, it should give you an idea of what the cheapest cities in Belgium are and which are the most expensive.
The lower figure for each city might be a plausible budget for students or frugal young people living in a flatshare in a cheaper area of town. The upper figure would offer a lot more freedom in terms of finding a flat of your own whilst potentially enjoying more days and evenings out.
In both cases, they are designed to cover the cost of rented accommodation and all living costs, although it will obviously vary a lot depending on the person. It’s also worth noting that the cost of living is rising quickly across Europe and Belgium is no exception to that. These figures are based on estimates as of November 2022.
What are the Cheapest Cities to Live in Belgium?
The following table shows the estimated cost of living (rent +general living expenses) in 10 of the largest Belgian cities.
|City||Estimated Cost of Living (Monthly in Euros)|
Although only a small place, there is still a noticeable difference in costs between the richest cities in Belgium and the poorer ones. Brussels ranks as the most expensive, but outside of the capital’s metropolitan area, prices tend to fall slightly and you can typically find better deals on rented accommodation.
If you really want to save money as a digital nomad in Belgium, you could consider basing yourself in a less popular city such as Mons, Charleroi or Namur. You might be able to save an extra 100-200 Euros per month, although your opportunities may be less in terms of socialising and meeting other international people.