We are flying into Brussels (main airport) in September and want to go immediately to Bruge. The books seem to imply that the only way to get to Bruge is from the Zuid (Midi) train station. I'd rather do it from the Central station (for simplicity sake, plus I read the area around Zuid is full of pickpockets). Is it possible to go directly from Brussels airport via local train to the Central station and then go directly from there to Bruge, or do we have to go from the airport to Zuid and then to Bruge? Also, after visiting Antwerp (by train from Bruge), can we get back to Brussels Central station directly, or do we have to pass through Brussels airport first?
It is just paranoia to think Bruxelles Midi/Brussel Zuid would be more (or less) dangerous than other train stations in Belgium. Makes no sense at all. In any case, on most trips you can actually pick whether you want to change at Bruxelles Nord, Centrale or Midi because on most scheduled train trips both the trains from the airport and the trains to Brugge run on the same direction between these stations. Trains from Antwerpen to Bruxelles do not take the line via the airport, except for a few ones that terminate on the airport and branch off in Mechelen. So no reason to travel from Antwerpen to Bruxelles via airport - unless you want to go to the airport.
Most domestic trains that originate or pass through Brussels service all three downtown stations, so it doesn't matter which one you use. ""The books seem to imply that the only way to get to Bruge is from the Zuid (Midi) train station." All Brussels to Brugge trains will pass through Zuid, but that doesn't mean it's the only station where you can board the train. I would dobut that Zuid is any more prone to pick-pocketing than the other two.
Thanks to everyone who answered. This is very helpful.
Some high-speed international trains like Thalys and ICE miss out Centrale and/or Nord. Domestic trains serve all three stations.
Just FYI - I have just finished a trip to Belgium where I used the Brussels Midi station three times. 1. transfer from Thalys train from Paris to a regional train to Bruges (made it in less than 9 minutes despite never having been there before) 2. Return from Bruges to Brussels
3. Departure on Thalys to Charles de Gaulle airport It seemed about as safe as any other station I've been in - I think you should always be alert for pickpockets. There are a lot of little shops and useful ones too for getting food, drinks, etc. for the trip. Clean, attended bathroom (and yes, you have to pay for it). Also, had to ask staff for help and they were quite helpful and nice.