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Is there any particular area in Brussels to avoid visiting after the recent events?

I am going to visit Bruxelles in a couple of weeks. Mostly museums, restaurants and some nightlife. Is the city centre considered "safe enough"?

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Post is related to a rapidly changing event.

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yes. Europe is considered 'safe enough'. – Mark Mayo Mar 17 at 12:32
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What recent terrorosim events? The police have arrested a few people, but there's been no terrorism in Brussels for quite a long time. – CMaster Mar 17 at 12:47
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@AlessandroDaRugna My understanding was that the Police went to arresst some suspected terrorists. The suspects appeared to confirm at least some of those supsicions by resisting arrest with firearms. I'm sure it's not exactly every day in Bruxelles, but its also a far cry from a terrorist attack on the population at large. – CMaster Mar 17 at 14:55
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There's just been a bombing today. – Andrew Grimm Mar 22 at 8:22
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@MertKarakaya Your point about the USA is completely false. There were exactly four mass shootings in the U.S. last year with 2 the year before. Please stop spreading nonsense. Any comparison to other countries should also consider relative sizes. Per capita, there were more mass shootings in public places in France last year than in the U.S. Unless you're trafficking drugs or in a gang, the U.S. is quite safe. – reirab Mar 22 at 19:05
up vote 33 down vote accepted

UPDATE: A few days after this answer an attack took place. I maintain that attacks are possible, but very unlikely. Just like anywhere in Europe. I added a community wiki answer focusing on the implications for travelers of the 22 March attack. Read that answer if you are looking for practical information.

The last event considered a terrorist attack in Brussels was the shooting at the Jewish Museum on 24 May 2014. Hardly something that would warrant special precautions today.

Most of the terror related news coverage that Brussels recently received has to do with investigations into the November 2015 Paris attacks. Those were planned and executed by people coming from Brussels.

The trigger for your question is probably yesterday's shootout in Vorst. The short story there is that the police wanted to search a suspected empty safehouse. It turned out to be not empty from police point of view and not very safe from terrorist point of view. It resulted in a shootout leaving one suspect dead. This is a rare event, which can happen (but is unlikely to happen) in any city where police is investigating serious crime. That would be any city, I guess.

What does this mean for a visit to Brussels? Not much. You can consider it like any European city for all practical purposes. The security services are on high alert, just like they appear to be about everywhere in Western Europe. If you have already visited Brussels before, you will find that there will be more police officers around and even military (which was unthinkable until a few years ago).

The main safety concern for tourists would be, like in any big city, avoiding to encounter people that will happily carry your wallet for you. All the usual advises that you certainly know hold for Brussels. Some neighborhoods are higher risk than others and pickpockets like crowds and unsuspecting tourists. Nothing new.

Regarding terrorist attacks, Molenbeek is (half jokingly) considered to be the safest region of the city. We suspect that terrorist will not attack their own houses. Regarding other crimes, the story is entirely different, but it is not exactly the most touristy part of Brussels.

Depending on your point of view there might be other "terrorism events" going on in Brussels. At the moment there is an EU summit going on with the leaders of the EU countries (and Turkey for the occasion if I'm not mistaken). In fact it is on the other side of the street from where I am at the moment. Many people would consider those leaders at least dangerous and probably even terrorists. You should not worry about them. We keep them well locked in limo's with bullet proof windows so they can not directly harm you. Indirectly with their decisions, however... If those are the ones you are worried about, you should avoid the European Quarter.

EDIT: you should also be careful about traffic. Some people consider the other users of the road to be terrorists. But I'm not aware about particular recent events. Just the usual crazy stuff going on.

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Nice answer, and very much worth pointing out the traffic issue. There can be very few countries in the world where terrorists kill anything like the number of people that cars do. – CMaster Mar 17 at 16:06
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Even the waffles will eventually kill you. – Spehro Pefhany Mar 17 at 18:22
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I'd maybe include the terrorist safe houses as places to avoid, though. :) If you're planning to visit those, you should probably avoid it. – reirab Mar 17 at 19:48
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Brussels was the only place I have ever been pickpocketed -- twice within three hours. Joke was on them though -- I just spent all my money on the expensive suit that made me a target. – Simon Richter Mar 18 at 11:14
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It's also worth considering that drugs raids in any city (including Brussels) are tens of times more common than anti-terrorism raids in Brussels. Anti-terror raids make the news, and anti-regular-crime raids because the former are unusual and the latter are not. – user568458 Mar 18 at 13:26

Because of events a few days after the posting of the question, I'm adding a second answer. On 22 March 2016, there were several attacks on Brussels. At the moment confirmed are a bombing of Brussels Airport and an explosion in or near Maalbeek metro station.

The points below are partly speculation, but based on the experience of someone working in Brussels. They might get outdated quickly. I've made the post a community wiki, so feel free to edit.

From the point of view of a traveler:

  • The chances that you will be the victim of an attack are minimal. I wouldn't worry about that. And I am at 300 meters from where the metro bombing took place. Watch out for traffic instead of terrorists if you want to stay safe.
  • The airport is closed and judging from the pictures that circulate now it looks like it might be a while. Talk is an entirely destroyed departure hall. I'm supposed to fly from Brussels Airport on Friday. No idea if that will be possible.
  • The metro is closed at the moment. My estimation (based on experience from what happened after the Paris attacks and some guessing) is that it will not operate for a while. I'm counting on a week or more.The metro is running on a limited number of stretches (lines 1 and 5) on both sides of Maalbeek, but with a very limited number of stops. The vast majority of metro stations is closed.
  • The main Brussels train stations (South, Central, North and Schuman) are closed at the moment. This is a problem because I would like to take the train home tonight. My estimation is that trains will operate again as usual soon. I would be surprised if there are still no trains tomorrow.Trains started operating in the late afternoon on the day of the attacks. Queues are enormous at the moment because everybody entering the stations gets a pat down and luggage has to be opened. Source: I just went through it. You can expect things to be close to normal from tomorrow (=Wed 23 March) on, mainly depending on the security measures in place.
  • At the moment there is no public transportation in Brussels. All trams and buses are stopped. I expect this to get back to normal soon (like the trains or sooner). Buses and trams start operating. Expect more or less normal service the day after the attacks. Many underground tram stations remain closed until further notice.

The main points for tourists traveling to, from and in Brussels:

  • Security services will be on very high alert. Expect them to be out in full force. Avoid making any jokes with them.
  • I expect lots of luggage and id checks in the following days. Provide ample time if you would like to travel. I wouldn't be surprised by luggage scans at train stations, especially for international trains, and to enter the airport building once the airport reopens. Traveling with a minimum of luggage might help.
  • I expect the same, but to a somewhat lesser degree in other Belgian cities and in cities in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
  • Keep an eye on the news to see what is operating and what is not.

What if you would like to travel to or from Brussels?

  • Driving a car is possible. There are a few long distance buses, mainly to/from Amsterdam and Paris. Check the websites of Eurolines, Ouibus and Megabus. At the moment I don't know if they are operating, but expect that they will be the first to get back to normal.They are riding.
  • At the moment there are no flights to or from Brussels. It is unclear when flights will resume. If you have a reservation for a flight, follow the news to see when the airport will open. Contact your airline for updates and ask what they offer. They might be able to get you to or from a nearby city. If you are looking for a new booking try the airports of Charleroi, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris and Dusseldorf and to a lesser extent (because there are not many destinations) Eindhoven, Antwerp, Ostend, Liege, Maastricht and Lille. Low cost operators that are also active on the regional airports (Ostend, Charleroi, Antwerp and Liege) have relocated everything there. This is mainly Ryanair and JetAir. Among other airlines I see lots and lots of cancelled flights.
  • Brussels is usually well connected by high speed trains to Paris, London, Amsterdam and Cologne. As long as the rail stations are closed those can not operate. I expect them to resume service soon, but with very high security measures.Thalys, the operator of most HST, announced that with a few exceptions their trains will ride the day after the attacks. They announce extra security measures. If you come early enough to the station you should be good. The other operators will probably similar. Check the websites of Eurostar (to London) and NMBS Europe. Alternatively, you might take local trains to cross the border. That is possible, but slow.
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Update: public transport, rail stations and metro lines 2 and 6 are reopening now, and requests to stay indoors are lifted twitter.com/jamesfraney/status/… – user568458 Mar 22 at 15:59
    
@user568458: metro will certainly not be today, rest of public transportation is restarting. – ptityeti Mar 22 at 18:09

There is not one particular area to avoid.

I would just recommend you to follow the "Conseil national de security” and local media, to be aware of advises, special measures taken by local authorities and alert levels.

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Personally, if it is feasible and you won't lose out financially, I would delay a trip to Brussels for at least a month or so, more for the stress and inconvenience of closed public transit, the fact if you are flying you will have to travel to a distant airport, probably in a neighboring country (Schiphol I would reckon) and take land transportation the rest of the way, and the extra security than any real terrorist threat.

If you were flying in, as I said, your flight will almost definitely be cancelled and your airline will offer a full refund or possibly offer an alternative airport and land transport to Brussels. So you have the opportunity to decide then if you want to cancel your trip. Likewise with hotels, I expect most will be willing to have you cancel your reservation at no cost, even if it is normally not possible, because of the exceptional circumstances. Other costs, well it depends on what you have paid for, you would have to see on a case by case basis. Insurance will be no help whatsoever, the vast majority of policies specifically exclude anything caused by terrorism.

Perhaps consider visiting another European city this time, and save Brussels once things have calmed down a little.

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The only area that would be considered "hot" these days in Bruxelles proper is around Molenbeek-Sint-Jans.

Otherwise, Bruxelles is as safe as any other major cities in the world.

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Could you explain? – André Peseur Mar 23 at 8:39
    
Explain what ? my answer was written last week, before yesterday's attacks. Well, do google search news for Molenbeek and you will see, for good or bad, that it is hot. If I had plans to go to Brussel or Belgium I would not change them, (unless it was today or in the next few days, to let things settle down) – Max Mar 23 at 11:30
    
Have you ever been to Molenbeek or another place in the Brussels region? – André Peseur Mar 23 at 13:55
    
I've been to Brussels 20 years ago, I don't know/remember if I've been to Molenbeek. I did not say it was dangerous, I said it was "hot" the same way some area in Montreal (my home town) are "hot" (or more hot than other areas); all cities in the world have areas that are more "hot" than others. again: "FOR GOOD OR BAD REASONS". – Max Mar 23 at 14:08

ISIS has sent about 400 highly skilled terrorists to Western Europe in recent weeks. This means that large scale attacks similar to e.g. the 2008 Mumbai attacks are possible anywhere in mainland Western Europe. Britain is probably safer because it's more difficult to bring explosives and guns into that country. Within mainland Europe, it's relatively easy to transport guns, ammunition and explosives. These are typically obtained in the Balkan region and then transported unnoticed across internal borders to the destination, e.g. Brussels and Paris in case of the recent attacks.

To kill as many people as possible, a terrorist will try to explode his bomb in a confined place where there are many people. So, you can reduce your risk by avoiding such places. Such places with few exits may also be attacked by gunmen who block all exists and start to shoot people. The safest places to visit would be locations in smaller towns or rural areas. So, you could e.g. consider visiting Brugge instead of Brussels. While there you'll also find the same sort of potentially dangerous locations, a terrorist will probably not strike in low profile locations.

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I would not bet on Brugge/Bruges to be safe if you do not trust Brussels. It does depend on whether they aim at government people or tourist, if the last, Brugge is the worse place to be. – Willeke Mar 24 at 17:23

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