An exciting destination……so get ready to exploit………go berserk with your adventure……..splurge………indulge…….on your visit to Brussels with an access to the city’s most popular attractions and activities which give your family and companions fantastic views of the sights on board as you stroll around colourful resorts, traditional culture and tropical natural wonders……artistic architecture, green areas and vibrant restaurants, cafes and bars…….this adventure is seasoned with a blend of all the spices……….lending versatility and uniqueness in it’s contrast……..and familiarity!
Brussels is the capital city of Belgium and of Brussels Capital Region. It might also be considered something of a capital for the European Union. Being at the crossroads of cultures…… the Germanic in the North and the Romance in the South and playing an important role in Europe, Brussels fits the definition of the archetypal “melting pot”, but still retains its own unique character. It operates as a bilingual city where both French and Dutch or Flemish are official languages. Thus all the streets have two names, which can sound totally different. For example, the Main Square is called both la Grand Place and de Grote Markt. Although officially bilingual, French is undoubtedly Brussels’ lingua franca. English is also widely understood, but not always widely spoken.
The grand and opulent city is split into nineteen communes or gemeenten or municipalities……boroughs……which are worth exploring to bring that sparkle in your eyes, as you move along different paths, vividly described…… as under………through some experiences…….
Bruxelles/Brussel encompasses many charming and beautiful attractions, with deeply ornate buildings on the Grand Place/Grote Markt, and a fish-and-crustacean overdose of St. Catherine’s Square Stroll along, and stop in for a drink at one of the many bars on Place St-Géry/Sint-Goriksplein, or max out your credit card on the trendy Rue Antoine Dansaert/Antoine Dansaertstraat.
Marolles/Marollen is a neighbourhood close to the city’s heart, and one of the few places where Dutch or Flemish could still be heard. The area is best known for the flea market held daily on the Place du Jeu de Balle/Vossenplein as well as a plethora of shops selling everything from old radios and bent wipers to fine china and expensive Art Nouveau trinkets. Visit on Saturdays or Sundays……..in case you decide to splurge!
Brussels/Ixelles-Elsene…… is a vibrant part of the town with a high concentration of restaurants, bars and other services to satisfy the good-looking or the heavy-spending. Some wandering around will reveal small bookshops, affordable ethnic restaurants or independent record shops tucked away in side streets. The Matongé district just off Chaussée d’Ixelles/Elsenesteenweg is the city’s main African neighbourhood. It is a large district spreading from newly gentrified immigrant neighbourhoods to leafy suburbs close to the Bois de la Cambre/Ter Kamerenbos…………..enlivened with plenty of green space!
Molenbeek|Molenbeek is a commune with a very large Moroccan and, lately, Romani or Gypsy population……..charming enough for a walk!
Saint-Gilles/Sint-Gillis…… is the city’s bohemian epicentre with thriving French, Portuguese, Spanish, Maghrebi and Polish communities. The area around the Parvis de St-Gilles/St-Gillisvoorplein is the arty part, with the area around the Chatelain/Kastelein and the Church of the Holy Trinity being definitely more glorified. It boasts of several Art Nouveau and Haussmann-style buildings.
St-Josse/Sint-Joost…… has a few small, welcoming streets. A part of it is also home to a relatively small Indo-Pakistani community, so this is the place to head to for a tikka masala.
Uccle/Ukkel…… is Brussels’ poshest commune as green, bourgeois and starched- like all posh communes should be, and has retained many of it’s enchanting medieval cul-de-sacs, tiny squares and small townhouses as has some nearby areas.
Woluwé-Saint-Pierre/Sint-Pieters-Woluwe and Woluwé-Saint-Lambert/Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe are two communes at the eastern end of the city. Mainly residential, with a mixture of housing blocks, quaint neighbourhoods and green areas….. this place is well-loved by Eurocrats and other professional strata. The enormous Wolubilis cultural complex is well worth a visit.
You may accommodate the above commumes……as many as you can….otherwise spare some time to discover the most important landmarks of Brussels that would leave you spellbound…….
Grand Place or Grote Markt……. is surrounded by the city tower and a range of beautiful three hundred year old buildings. In the evening, surrounded by bright illumination, it is simply ravishing. During some evenings a music and light show is provided with the buildings serving as a canvas. Have a “gaufre de Liège-Luikse wafel” here …a Belgian waffle with caramelized sugar…..delectable, isn’t it?
A unique sight……but thought-provoking……..perhaps for a change in vision and mind-set……Manneken Pis…… just a short walk from the Grand Place-Grote Markt is the Manneken Pis, a small bronze statue thought to represent the “irreverent spirit” of Brussels. This statue of a child performing one of Nature’s most basic functions. Belgians have created hundreds of outfits for this statue, and there are many stories of the statue’s significance. It is believed to have been inspired by a child who, while in a tree, found a special way to drive away invading troops. Another story goes that a father was missing his child and made a declaration to the city that when he found him he would build a statue of him, doing whatever it was that he was doing. It has also been said a witch turned him to stone for committing an undesiring social etiquette on her property. These are all myths……..may not be believed! Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark ……definitely check out the Arc de Triomphe-Triomfboog on the east side of town. It is possible to go up to the terrasse above the arch, from where you’ll have a good view of the city. Entry is through the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History and is free.
Atomium, Square de l’Atomium/Atomiumplein…. the unavoidable icon of Brussels and Belgium, important place for international tourism, unique creation in the history of architecture and emblematic vestige of the World Fair in Brussels….. this continues to embody it’s ideas of the future and universality, half a century later. Five of the nine spheres are open to the public….. one of them is housing a permanent exhibition dedicated to some small models of some countries pavillions. Another sphere is dedicated to temporary exhibitions with scientific themes The upper sphere offers spectacular views of the city. When the sky is clear, the view reaches till Antwerp. Basically, there are only three spheres……. the top which has a restaurant, the middle has a snack bar and the bottom where the only thing to see really is the view….. at night, all the spheres are illuminated to offer a very special show Palais de Justice/Justitiepaleis is larger than St. Peter’s basilica in Rome…… Basiliek van het Heilig Hart /Basilique du Sacré Coeur….. is the fifth biggest church in the world, with an impressive interior and an amazing view over Brussels and it’s surroundings. Palais Royale/Koninklijk Paleis is a Royal Palace with a park out front. Mini-Europe…… hosts a set of scale models of famous European structures. Statue of Europe also referred to as Unity in Peace…. the sculpture symbolises peace through European integration. Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire is a museum that has an important collection of art objects from different civilizations from all over the world…… Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique…… features both historical art and modern art in the one building. In a vast museum of several buildings, this complex combines the Musée d’Art Ancien-Museum voor Oude Kunst and the Musée d’Art Moderne…..Museum voor Moderne Kunst under one roof connected by a passage. The collection shows off works, most of them Belgian, from the fourteenth to the twentieth- century, starting in the historical section, with Hans Memling’s portraits from the fifteenth -century, which are marked by sharp life-like details, works by Hiëronymus Bosch, and Lucas Cranach’s Adam and Eve. You should particularly seek out the subsequent rooms featuring Pieter Brueghel, including his Adoration of the Magi. Don’t miss his unusual Fall of the Rebel Angels, with grotesque faces and beasts. But don’t fear, many of Brueghel’s paintings, like those depicting Flemish village life, are of a less fiery nature. Later artists represented include Rubens, Van Dyck, Frans Hals, and Rembrandt. Next door, in a circular building connected to the main entrance, the modern art section has an emphasis on underground works…..the collection includes works by van Gogh, Matisse, Dalí, Tanguy, Ernst.
Musées d’Extrême-Orient comprise a Japanese tower, a Chinese pavilion, and a museum of Japanese art. The architecture and decor may seem over the top to today’s tastes, but there are some outstanding examples of Chinese export porcelain, and rotating exhibitions of Japanese artefacts from the Edo period…….. Musée BELvue features Belgium’s history…….. before it became a museum, the former eighteenth -century luxury hotel was a royal residence……the Natural Sciences Museum of Belgium…..which is well-known for its famous collection of iguanodons or dinosaurs discovered in a coal-mine in Belgium. The dinosaur collection has been refreshed and includes discovery activities for the children. The other parts of the museum are also interesting, as an exhibit of all animals that live in our houses and a collection of mammals……..
The Horta Museum…… is the home of noted Belgian Art Nouveau architect and designer Victor Horta. It can be very busy on rainy Sundays and the queue is outside, so don’t forget your umbrella……….dancing in the rain……..breathing in every drop of water….and also sipping a hot or cold beverage! The Royal Museum for Central Africa collection of ethnographic objects from Central Africa is in fact the only one of it’s kind in the world. It also contains the entire archives of Henry Morton Stanley which are of great historical value. The actual state of the museum makes it some kind of “museum in the museum” The Belgian Comic Strip Center…… is a permanent exposition featuring the early beginning of comics as well as its’ development. There is enough room for other varying expositions. The bookshop at the ground floor sells many different comics. A readers’ library operates on the ground floor, where, for a low entrance fee, you can read many different comic books and buy fries.
The Musical Instruments Museum……the mim houses more than seven thousand instruments, from all times and all over the world……..it’s reputation is built on the extraordinary collection. The exhibits are displayed on four different floors featuring a wide range of instruments from all time periods and areas of the world. The MIM is a place to experience music. An infrared headphone system allows each visitor to enjoy the sound and melodies played by the instruments presented. The restaurant on the roof is also famous because of it’s panoramic view over Brussels. You need some hours to really enjoy the whole museum and make sure you have enough time…….The Musée Juif de Belgique is dedicated to the craft, folk art, culture and religion of the Jewish people in Belgium.
Bibliotheca Wittockiana is a museum that is dedicated to the art of binding books, with one of the most prestigious bookbinding collections in the world. Quite interesting. A discovery of forgotten discipline……another food for thought and a change in ideology and philosophy or acceptance…..each to his own but to the best of being positive……if possible…….without impositions! Amazing use of materials, that unexpectedly gives room to innovation…… Scientastic has one hundred and one surprising and wonderful hands-on science exhibits.
The Bourse is the stock market building in Brussels. Locals like to sit on the steps, and you may do the same….. sometimes with fries, sipping a beverage. Several turn-of-the-century houses and manors can still be seen today……such as the Stoclet/Stokkel House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was built on a design by Josef Hoffmann and contains mosaics and paintings by Gustav Klimt. The Paleis voor Schone Kunsten or Dutch or Palais des Beaux…..arts is often referred to as “Bozar” or “PSK”……… contains a large concert hall, a recital room, a chamber music room, lecture rooms and a vast gallery for temporary exhibitions………showcasing it’s various divisions….. Bozar Architecture is open to the public with exhibitions and lectures……. Bozar Cinema has showings of quality films for the general public……. Bozar Dance hosts international contemporary dance productions…… Bozar Expo has many exhibitions every year, alternating the great collections with contemporary art, various national heritages, and support for young artists…….. Bozar Literature hosts meetings with Belgian and foreign writers…….. Bozar Music concerts in almost a dozen venues, both at the Centre for Fine Arts and elsewhere in Brussels, with Western classical music from the Middle Ages to our times, as well as non-European classical music, traditional music, jazz, blues, rock in a great variety of line-ups and genres, from chamber ensembles to big bands, from recitals to concert performances of the opera…….. Bozar Theatre is oriented towards avant-garde theatre………. Bozar Studios is the Centre’s educational service, operating as an artistic department in its own right.
Belgian lace and Belgian chocolates….. how can any visitor leave without souvenirs of the country’s two most famous products? For pralines, the Belgian term for chocolates, visitors can do no better than Leonidas, the Belgian chocolatier with the Greek name. This chain sells high-quality, handmade pralines at reasonable prices. For lace, the city’s largest maker is Manufacture Belge de Dent. Their selection is large, their lace is handmade, and the quality is top-notch. For another excellent souvenir, purchase some of Belgium’s many celebrated brews. Comic lovers will also want to stock up on Tintin memorabilia…… the best selection is at Boutique de Tintin. In addition, fashionistas don’t need Paris for the hottest designers. Desirable boutiques line Avenue Louise, and the Kaat Tilley shop offers terrific designs too. Boutiques, not to mention excellent window shopping, are available in the Galleries Saint-Hubert, considered by many to be Europe’s oldest “mall” Speaking of old, antique lovers should venture to the chic Place du Grand Sablon for the city’s largest selection. Be sure to stop in at Wittamer, Brussels’ most famous patisserie, for a snack. On weekend mornings, an antiques fair is held in the Sablon square. Bargain hunters, however, will find the Vieux Marche more to their tastes. This flea market has been in operation since the seventeenth- century selling…… antiques, old postcards, retro clothing, household items.
Marche Du Midi is the largest…… colourful outdoor market in open places around Brussels and has everything from food to flowers to bathroom accessories, with many ethnic stalls of Turks, Middle-Eastern and Africans. Place Du Grand Sablon is a shopping district……dotting art galleries, boutiques, upscale cafes, epicentre of Brussels’ antiques trade, historic homes surrounding the square have been turned into antique shops, and an antique weekly market is held here on each weekend……. Christa Reniers…. Belgium’s top contemporary jewellery designer with exquisite ornaments….. Claude-Noelle has an elegant setting on Place Du Grand Sablon….a jewellery store selling shiny jewellery and expensive antiques objects.
Brussels is chock full of chocolates, but the ultimate indulgence for the chocoholic is Place du Grand Sablon-Grote Zavel Plein, where you will find three shops selling some of the best chocolate in the world……. Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini and Wittamer. Each store has it’s own specialities Passion Chocolat is a bit out of the way but it’s artisan chocolate is worth a visit, and you can taste lots of it for free at the entrance.