The capital of Belgium is acosmopolitan city that unites history and modernity, with unique culinary traditions and spectacular architecture. Brussels is considered the de facto capital of the EUas it hosts a number of its main institutions, which in 2013 made up 16.7 % of the regional employment with 121,000 jobs. As most of the employees come from every corner of Europe, Brussels isprobably the most international city of the continent.Here is a list of the sights that you cannot miss if you are visiting this picturesque melting pot:
Probably the most spectacular sight of the city, the Grand Place is the main square of Brussels. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998 and it is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. The cobbled rectangular market square is enclosed by a 15th-century town hall and almost 40 guild houses with golden details that illustrate the Baroque architecture of the late 17th century. Its mercantile and administrative nature is emphasized by the absence of churches or other religious buildings. Every two years in August a marvelous flower carpet made of a million colorful begonias is set up in the Grand Place. The colorful flowers, set in patterns, cover a surface of 1,800 m2. During Christmas time the square acquires an even more magical flare: a life-size Christmas crib and a huge Christmas tree are placed in the square and an enchanting 360° sound and light show takes place every hour in the evening. But it’s not the only sound and light show of the city, asyou can find others in the streets of the city centre, which are filled with food and market stalls and carousels.
Mont des Arts
The picturesque slope garden connects the lower part of the city (working-class) with the upper part (aristocratic). It was commissioned by Leopold II, who dreamed of building a cultural nucleus outside the windows of his Royal Palace. The area includes the Royal Library of Belgium, the National Archives of Belgium, the Square – Brussels Meeting Centre and other religious and cultural sights are located within walking distance from Mont des Arts.
The literary translation for Manneken Pis is “Little Pissing Man”. The little bronze fountain statue depicting a little naked boy urinating into the fountain basin is a replica of the 1618/1619 original statue, which is now kept in the Brussels City Museum. The Manneken Pis has become a symbol of the people of Brussels who often dress it up (in Santa Claus’ clothes for example). It symbolizes their humor and independence of mind.
Now a landmark building in Brussels, it was designed by the engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair Expo 58. It is 102 m high and has nine 18 m diameter stainless steel clad that, together with several 3 m diameter tubes, form the shape of a unit cell of aferrite crystal magnified 165 billion times. The structure encloses stairs, escalators and a lift (in the central, vertical tube) to allow access to the five habitable spheres, which contain exhibit halls and other public spaces. The top sphere includes a restaurant which offers a panoramic view of Brussels.
Palais de Justice
The “palace of justice” is locatedin the Marolles/Marollen district of Brussels and it’s the most important court building in Belgium. It was built between 1866 and 1883 by the architect Joseph Poelaert in the eclectic style, and it is thought to be the largest constructed in the 19th century. This grand palace was the inspiration for the construction of the Justice Palace in Lima, Peru, which houses the Supreme Court of Peruand even Adolf Hitler was reportedly fond of the building.
Basilique Nationale du Sacré-Cœur
This Roman Catholic Minor Basilica is the largest church of the city and among the ten largest Roman Catholic churches by area in the world. Its construction began in 1905, when King Leopold II symbolically laid the first stone of the basilica during the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Belgian independence.The construction was interrupted by the two World Wars and finished only in 1969.It was inspired by the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur in Paris.
Palais Royal de Bruxelles
It is the official royal palace of the King and Queen of the Belgians located in the centre of the nation’s capital Brussels. However, it is not used as a royal residence, as the royal family live in the Royal Palace of Laeken on the outskirts of the city. The construction of the modern palace began in 1783 but the current facade was only built after 1900 on the initiative of King Leopold II. The Royal Palace is situated in front of Brussels park and it is often used for political receptions and meetings and royal wedding banquets.
Musée Magritte Museum
If you are passionate about art you cannot miss the Musée Magritte Museum, dedicated to the most influential Belgian painter. It is situated in the heart of Brussels and it hosts the world’s largest collection of works of the renowned surrealist artist René Magritte. The total amount of works and archives displayedis 230. They include paintings, gouaches, drawings, sculptures and painted objects, as well as advertising posters, musical scores, photographs and films. The Museum also has the most important collection from the artist’s “vache” period.Signs and labels are in French and Dutch only so English speakers should consider getting the audio guide.
If you still need reasons to visit this buzzing multilingual capital, you can think about the possibility to try the real chips (here is where they were invented) choosing from a wide variety of sauces, Belgian beer, Belgian chocolate and other dishes such as moules-frîtes (mussels cooked in white wine and served with chips) and carbonnade, a traditional beef and beer stew. If you want to find out more, visit Backpacking in Belgium.