Between Amsterdam vs Brussels, which is better? Well, while these two cities have a lot in common, our Brussels vs Amsterdam guide takes a deeper look to identify what makes each city unique.
Planning for a vacation is not always easy, especially when you have to choose between two great cities like Brussels vs Amsterdam. These are two cities in Western Europe that are just 173 km apart by train, 201.5 km by road, and a mere 45 minutes by air.
At first glance, these two cities seem to have more similarities than differences. However, each one of them offers a pretty unique experience that will make your vacation pure bliss.
While Brussels is the capital of Belgium, Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. This means that even in structure, economy, and population size, these two have some significant differences. But today I want to make your choice even easier.
If choosing between Brussels vs Amsterdam seems tricky, read on this guide to understand what makes each city unique. This way you’ll make an informed choice, on where to travel.
Table of Contents
Brussels vs Amsterdam: Main Differences
Here are the key points to help us understand the difference between Amsterdam and Brussels.
Brussels is not only a political capital in Belgium, houses the Belgian Royal family, but it’s also the capital of the EU. In addition, the city holds the mantle of being the education and economic hub of the country. With a population of over 2 million, in a 162 km2 region, the city is regarded as the richest city in Belgium.
But that’s not all. If you are visiting as a tourist, the city also has plenty to offer. From the amazing restaurants, culture, world-class museums, art galleries, and welcoming people, you’ll love being in Brussels.
So let’s get to it and see what makes Brussels a unique city.
While the city is somewhat small in size, it has more people than many bigger European cities. According to the world population review, Brussel’s population as of 2021 was around 2 million people. The population has grown by 14,900 annually since 2015, representing an annual rise of 0.72%.
As for the main language here, the city is legally bilingual. The two official languages are French and Dutch, although over 90% of the people here prefer French. Brussels is largely cosmopolitan, with over 70% of the city’s residents being of foreign origin.
Most foreigners here are from Morocco and France. This is a big contrast to the rest of Belgium, which is mostly occupied by Walloon, Italian, and Flemish groups.
Brussels city has a rich network of transportation means – both private and public. Transportation within the city is either through the Brussels buses, Brussels metro, trams, and the railway line. People here also use bicycles to navigate the city, with a common culture of bicycle and car-sharing.
For out-of-the-city transport, you can use either the bus system, the train, or simply take a flight. Brussels has two main Airports which make trips outside the city easy and convenient. These include the Brussels-South Charleroi and Brussels National Airports.
Also, you can use boat transport, available through the Port of Brussels. Cars are also commonly used within the city, and it was even named among the 25 world’s most congested cities by the Inrix traffic survey in 2019.
Cost of Living
While the cost of living in Brussels is considered high, it’s still relatively affordable, compared to its neighbors and other European cities. The living standards are high, and it was even ranked 27th in the “2018 quality of living survey” by Mercer.
For instance, it’s 10% cheaper to live in Brussels than in Munich, 23% economical than Paris, and 37% than London. A single person is estimated to use around $967.55 (797.69 Euros) monthly, excluding rent. On the other hand, a family of four would incur monthly expenses of around $3,481.60 (2,870.37 Euros), also without rent.
As for monthly rent, a 1 bedroom apartment in the city will cost you around 844.00 euros, while a 2-bedroom one will cost around 1,520.00 Euros.
On average, you’ll need around 3,800.00 euros a month to afford a decent life in Brussels.
Accommodation is among the most crucial things to consider when visiting a new place. And Brussels is never short of awesome places to stay while there.
If you are a tourist, the city center is the best place to look for accommodation. This is because it’s safer, you’ll be close to almost all the city’s main attractions, and transport is readily available. Also, if you’re planning to take some day trips and tours while there, most of them start at the city center, which will also be convenient.
In terms of costs, the hotels here are relatively affordable as compared to many other European cities. In fact, with around 50 Euros ($ 60.60), you can spend a night at a mid-range hotel in the capital. Booking.com is an excellent platform to start your search for accommodation.
Some of the best hotels to stay in Brussels include the Hotel Brussels, Hotel Amigo, Warwick Brussels, Hotel Catalonia, etc.
In terms of size, Brussels is a compact city. But when it comes to tourist attractions, the city has a good number of these. It may not have as many attractions as the other Belgian regions, but it’s certainly not left much behind.
Some of the main attractions in Brussels include Grand Place, Saint-Michel Cathedral (Sint-Michiels Kathedraal), Mannekin Pis, Place Royale, the Belgian Royal Museum of Fine Arts, etc. There’s certainly no shortage of nice places to visit or things to see in the city.
And since the city is not expansive, you can take around 2-3 days to visit all your favorite spots in Brussels.
While not many people would name even one traditional Belgian cuisine, let alone where you can find it, the city still has some amazing traditional dishes. Right from Mussels, served with fries, Meatballs (Belgian favorite), Flemish stew, Grey shrimp croquettes, and rabbit with prunes, only your appetite can disappoint you here.
You can get all these incredible dishes in various city restaurants including Maison Antoine, Balls & Glory, Café Novo, or Noordzee.
To get to sample some of these dishes and learn more about them, you can book one of the several food tours in Brussels. Some of the best-reviewed tours include:
- The Chocolate Walking Tour
- Express Tour with Lunch, Chocolate, and Beer
- Chocolate Tasting Tour
- The Private Food Tour (10 tastings)
This way, you get to taste some of the most amazing traditional foods in Belgium.
See Related: Best Bus Tours in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ capital and the most populous city in the country. With a population surpassing 1.1 million, Amsterdam is a busy city full of economic activities. Founded back in the 12th century, the city has grown to become one of the most visited cities in the world annually.
Its welcoming people, rich history and culture, as well as its picturesque sites and structures, makes it a major tourist destination.
So, to better understand the difference between Brussels vs Amsterdam, let’s see what makes Amsterdam unique.
Amsterdam is the most populous city in the country, with an estimated population of 1,157,519 as of 2021. It has seen an annual growth of 0.74%, since 2015, according to the updated data by the “UN World Urbanization Prospects.”
As of 2012, Amsterdam’s population was 49.5% Dutch and around 50.5% foreign ethnic groups. The main foreign ethnic groups include the Huguenots, Sephardi Jews, Westphalian’s, and Flemings.
Amsterdam’s official language is Dutch, although the majority of its residents can converse in fluent English.
- Cost of Living
Amsterdam is a European city hub for financial, commercial, and cultural centers. It’s one of the top cities in Europe for a reason largely due to the variety of top things to do in Amsterdam. For this reason, the cost of living in Amsterdam is relatively expensive. But, while it may be more expensive than in cities like Brussels, it’s still much cheaper than in cities such as London.
If you are buying somewhere to stay, this one can take a considerable amount of your money. For instance, an average home here will cost you around $880,000 (between $6,600 and $12,000 per square meter).
As for rentals, a 1-bedroom house in the city center costs an average of $1,490 per month. When you live on the city’s outskirts, you can get the same house for around $1,150 or slightly less.
The good thing is that most of these rent costs include the utilities.
Accommodation in Amsterdam is also relatively expensive, with just a small room going for up to €150. Neighborhoods like Grachtengordel and Jordaan are charming, offer beautiful sites to explore and take photos but are considerably expensive.
Hotels like the Crowne Plaza, Barbizon Palace Hotel, and the Renaissance offer great accommodation and are near the shopping, the central station, and numerous tourist attractions.
But if you are on a budget, you can try Novotel Amsterdam City, Park Inn hotel, Olympic hotel, or TSH Amsterdam West. All these hotels have customer ratings of over 8/10 stars and are below $100 per night.
Just like in Brussels, Amsterdam boasts of an extensive transport network within the city. Whether you prefer to use public means, rent a bike, hop on a boat, or even walk, navigating across Amsterdam is quite easy.
While walking is the cheapest way to get around the city, having an OV chip card would make things a lot easier and fast. This is a disposable card that is used on buses, metros, and trams. Using this card, you can buy tickets for public transport, whether you need a one-hour ticket or a 7-day one.
Cycling is also pretty popular in the city, with bicycles being as many as the residents or even more. The many canals crisscrossing the city also make boat transport quite popular, especially with tourists.
Connecting to other cities around Amsterdam is also easy.
The city has five major airports, with Amsterdam Airport Schiphol being the largest, not only in the city but also in the whole of the Netherlands.
The airport is also the 3rd largest in Europe, which helps us answer one of our pressing questions; Amsterdam vs Brussels airport, which is better? A flight from Amsterdam to Brussels is just 45 minutes.
Amsterdam is famous for several reasons. From its rich history, culture, extensive canal system, museums, art centers, and restaurants, the city is full of spectacular views and things to do. Some of the main attraction sites include the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum, the canals, Jordaan, Vondelpark, etc.
You can also take a bike ride around the city or go for an afternoon stroll at Vondelpark, which sits right at the center of the city.
Sundays are a special day here, as there’s always a market somewhere in the city, where you can enjoy some freebies, including food, drinks, and souvenirs.
For complete fun, you can book some tours with GetYourGuide, where there are more than enough options for you.
An average traditional meal in Amsterdam will consist of meat, boiled vegetables, butter, potatoes, and salad. However, there are numerous mouth-watering dishes you can enjoy in this great city. Nothing makes your day more refreshing than a plate of a well-prepared, tasty meal at a nice restaurant.
Some of the unique foods you can try out in Amsterdam include, Bitterballen, Thick Dutch fries, Stroopwafel, Dutch pancakes, etc. And if you are looking for the best restaurants to enjoy your meal, Café Restaurant Amsterdam, Stamppotje, Restaurant Vermeer, and the Pantry will be ideal choices.
You can also join some culinary festivals & events while there to get a taste of Dutch’s best meals.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Rotterdam, Netherlands
Between Brussels vs Amsterdam: Which is Better?
Amsterdam is better connected owing to its numerous charming canals, extensive public transport network, and numerous cycling lanes. The city is larger in size and has more restaurants, museums, and parks, thus its overflow of tourists. In addition, Amsterdam has more people fluent in English, making it easy for tourists to communicate with locals.
On the other hand, Brussels is an easy-going city with charming traditional architecture, shopping arcades, and many beautiful museums. It’s also the source of some of the world’s best chocolate and finest Dutch cuisines.
So, Brussels vs Amsterdam, whichever city you choose, you’ll certainly find amazing things to do and see there.