Brussels: Main Sights
The Smallest World-City
Brussels’s top sights are best reached by foot. It is typically unnecessary to take public transportation. Between medieval squares and cobble stone streets, a lively political scene, markets, top museums and galleries Brussels has many main sights certain to please even the most discerning visitor.
The Grand Place and Town Hall
Grand Place is the main tourist attraction in Brussels. Originally a market centre in the Middle Ages houses began to build up developing the commercial nature of the area today (The Grand Place is Brussels' busiest market). In 1402 the Town Hall (Hotel de Ville) was built. The Town Hall is a Gothic masterpiece with a 100m spire, atop of which a statue of Archangel Michael slaying the devil sits. Inside find tapestries from the 15th -17th century. Between March and October there is a daily flower market as well as concerts and light shows. The Grand Place also boasts a variety of cafes and bars. Every second year, the Market Place is covered with a thematic floral tapestry or floral carpet. August 2010 is the next event.
The oldest member of Brussels' public, Manneken Pis is the city's icon. The world famous urinating boy enjoys affection not only from Brussels' residents but from around the globe. Only 60cm high the statue was designed by Jerome Duquesnoy in 1619. There is a small fountain piece where the water emerges from a tiny metal penis that the boys points at the viewer. Manneken Pis is dressed for special occasions and has an impressive wardrobe of 600 outfits displayed in the Maison du Roi.
Royal Museum of Fine Arts/ Musee Royal des Beaux-Arts
Belgium's Royal Museum of Fine Arts is one of the largest and best art galleries in the world, consisting of two museums, the Museum of Ancient Art and the Museum of Modern Art. The Museum of Ancient Art was founded by Napoleon and is known for its remarkable collection of Flemish and Dutch Old Masters. The Modern Art Museum was added in 1984 and has eight floors. The floors are made up of 600 years worth of painting, sculptures, and drawings mostly by Belgian artists.
The King's House or Maison du Roi
Opposite the Town Hall awaits the King's House a neo-Gothic triumph. Now home to the City Museum the dates of a building on this site go as far back as the 13th century when bakers used the ideal location to sell bread. In the 19th century the mayor of Brussels bought the House and opened its doors as a museum showcasing statues, paintings, wall tapestries, and artifacts depicting Brussels’s history.
The Supreme Court Palais de Justice
The Palais de Justice is considered by many to be the largest building to be constructed during the 19th century in Europe. Greco-Roman in architecture, it sits proudly above Brussels's most ancient neighbourhood, the Marolles (also its poorest). The Palais de Justice literally serves as a moral reminder to those who gaze upon it. The building sits on a site “Gallows Hill” that was for centuries used for executions.
St. Hubert Gallery
One of three surviving covered shopping galleries in Brussels, St. Hubert was opened in 1847. The gallery, a successful mix of metal and glass, is divided into the King's and Queen's gallery, and a smaller Prince Gallery. Find fine Belgian shops such as chocolate house Neuhaus, quaint cafes and restaurants. Along the promenade find boutiques, book stores, cinemas and antique shops.
St Michael & Gudula Cathedral
Originally built in Romanesque style St. Gudula church was transformed into Gothic style during the 13th century. Amazingly enough the foundations of the first church can still be seen under the crypt of the Cathedral. Within the interior you will find portraits of several kings and emperors. In 1999 the Belgian Crown Prince Philippe married Princess Mathilda here.
European Parliament and European Commission
Visitors to Brussels can tour the European Parliament Monday to Thursday at either 10am or 3pm and Fridays at 10 am. Visitors should arrive at least 15minutes ahead of time. Tourists can also explore the European Commissio.
Park du Cinquantenaire and Monuments
King Leopold II in 1880 celebrated the 50th anniversary of Belgium's independence with a world exhibition and built the Cinquantenaire park with its imposing monuments. Most noticeable is the Triumphal Arch (it was not completed until 1905). The park also holds the exhibition halls and Bordiau Halls which now house museums such as the royal Army Museum, Museum of Art and History, and Autoworld Museum.
Mini Europe and Atomium
Mini-Europe is found at the foot of the Atomium (the Eiffel Tower of Brussels). A literal symbol of atomic power, an elevator takes guests to the upper sphere for a panoramic view of Brussels. Mini Europe recreates the most iconic monuments in the European Union such as Big Ben or Rome's Coliseum; the models are at a scale of 1:25. Roughly 80 cities and 350 buildings are represented. The park is renowned for the quality of its models, and contains numerous live action models (train, mills, eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Airbus, cable cars, etc.).
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart
One of the best known landmark's of Brussels' skyline, the dome of the Basila was not finished until the late 1960's. Worth a visit, see 1930's inspired Art Deco marble interior. Visitors can also climb the dome to enjoy great views of Brussels.