The busy streets of Brussels are always crowded. Tourists seem to be drawn by a magnet to the pompous and coveted capital of the European Union. In the summer, on the Grand Place and the surrounding streets, you can’t find free space in cafes and even on the pavement (especially when the square is covered with a magnificent floral carpet of begonias), the museums and picturesque palaces of the city are stuffy from a large number of visitors.
Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind at the mention of Brussels is the figure of Manneken Pis and the famous Belgian chocolate. But there are other, no less "iconic" places in the city: Gothic, Baroque and Empire palaces, historical shopping galleries, museums full of priceless works of art, as well as pretentious modern buildings of the administrative bodies of the European Union.
What to see and where to go in Brussels?
The most interesting and beautiful places for walking. Photos and a short description.
According to the master Victor Hugo, the Grand Place surpasses in beauty all the central squares of European capitals. This picturesque place has existed since the 12th century. Markets were noisy here, important public meetings were held, and the fate of the city was decided. Active development of the square began in the 15th century. For several centuries, the Grand Place was surrounded by real architectural masterpieces: the town hall, the Bread House, fountains, houses of trade guilds.
The modern monument is a model of a molecule magnified several billion times. The height of the structure is more than 100 meters, the diameter of the atoms is 18 meters. Giant atoms are connected by pipes, inside of which there are corridors and passages. Tourists can go up to the observation deck of the Atomium or visit a restaurant located inside the molecule. The monument was erected in 1958 for the opening of the next World Exhibition of Achievements.
brussels town hall
An elegant, "airy" and elegant building in the late Gothic style that adorns the Belgian capital. The town hall began to be erected at the beginning of the 15th century. As conceived by the authors of the project, the future house of the city council was supposed to symbolize the power and significance of Brussels as an important trading capital. The architects managed to realize their idea, and now the town hall is one of the most beautiful buildings in Brussels.
Bread House - King's House
The building of the XIII century in the Gothic style, another gem of the central square of the Grand Place. The building seems to be woven from lace, its graceful arches and spans create a feeling of flight and striving upwards. Initially, the Bread House was used as a warehouse for bread, then it was a prison, and then it turned into a customs house. As a result, the family of the Duke of Brabant moved here. Today, the building houses the Museum of Brussels, famous for the paintings of famous artists.
An urban area that appeared on the map of Brussels in the middle of the 20th century. Previously, there was an uninhabited wasteland in its place. Over time, the area has become a cultural center of the Belgian capital. There are many buildings built in neoclassical and postmodern style. Many famous museums are concentrated in the area, picturesque parks are laid out and comfortable viewing platforms are equipped.
The current residence of the Belgian kings, open to the public during the absence of the royal family (in fact, they almost never visit this place). The palace is located in the city center next to the historical squares and the city park. The modern building appeared at the end of the 18th century, the facade was modernized in 1904.
In this mansion in the north of Brussels, the royal family really lives, while the Royal Palace is just a formal residence. The Laeken Palace was built at the end of the 18th century. Around it there is a landscape park with greenhouses, which is always full of tourists. The place became the royal residence only at the beginning of the 20th century.
An unusual palace of the early 20th century, built for the railway engineer A. Stoclet. The building was designed by J. Hoffman, a representative of the Vienna Secession school. This architectural style stands at the junction of modernism, art deco and modern. The palace is a UNESCO monument, but it is closed to the public, as it belongs to the descendants of Stoclet.
Palace of Justice
A monumental building the size of a city block. For its incredible size, the locals called it the "mammoth". The pompous Greco-Roman architecture and the gilded statues that adorn the façade look a little ridiculous and even frightening. The palace is located on an area of 30.6 thousand m², the building reaches a height of 122 meters. In the huge halls and numerous passages, the visitor can even get lost.
Brussels Stock Exchange
A late 19th century building located on the site of a former Franciscan monastery. The architecture is dominated by Neo-Renaissance and Empire. The interior space of the stock exchange is distinguished by splendor; famous Belgian masters worked on the decor. The Brussels Stock Exchange appeared at the beginning of the 19th century by decree of Napoleon Bonaparte, and now it is a pan-European stock exchange.
European Parliament building
An imposing building of modern glass and steel architecture. As conceived by the architects, it was supposed to look “unfinished”, since not all countries of geographical Europe have united in the EU yet. The European Parliament, the main supranational legislative body of the European Union, sits inside. You can go to the building with a guided tour or on an individual basis and watch the meeting of European deputies.
A small fountain that has been decorating the Belgian capital for several centuries. Over the years, it has become the most recognizable symbol of Brussels. Unfortunately, there is no exact documentary evidence of where this fountain came from, but researchers agree that it was created at the end of the 14th century. The figure of the Manneken Pis symbolizes the humorous and freedom-loving spirit of the Belgians.
The sculpture "Manneken Pis" is also a fountain. This is a contemporary composition from 1987. According to one version, the figure of the girl appeared thanks to the local restaurateur Debouvri, who was offended by women. The injustice was that there is a Manneken Pis, but there are no girls. With the advent of the fountain, both sexes were equalized in their rights.
Cathedral of the XIII century, reminiscent of the French Notre Dame de Paris. The writer V. Hugo considered it the only true Gothic temple. In architecture, the influence of three styles is noticeable: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance. The cathedral was erected on the site of an 11th-century church (its ruins can be seen through openings in the floor). The interior was created over several centuries and bears the imprints of different eras.
Basilica of the Sacré Coeur
The temple was erected in honor of the 75th anniversary of the independence of Belgium. Construction dragged on for 60 years, and was completed by 1969. The basilica was built in the Art Deco style and is one of the ten largest Christian churches in the world. The building is used not only for church services. On its territory there is a museum, an auditorium for lectures, an exhibition gallery, a venue for concerts.
Notre Dame de Laeken
Catholic church in the neo-Gothic style, located near the Laeken Palace. It was built according to the project of the talented master J. Poulart. Inside is the tomb of the Belgian monarchs. The church building was erected in the middle of the XIX - early XX century in memory of the wife of King Leopold I - Mary of Orleans. Even during her lifetime, the queen wished that her body was buried in Laeken.
Notre Dame du Sablon
Gothic temple of the 15th - early 16th centuries, erected at the expense of military guilds on Sablon Square. In the Middle Ages, crossbowmen's competitions were held in this place. The temple was rebuilt from a small chapel of the 14th century. Inside the church are altars belonging to the military guilds and dedicated to the patron saints of these professional communities.
Royal Museums of Fine Arts
The museum complex, located in four buildings. It includes: the Museum of Ancient Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Constantin Meunier Museum, the Antoine Wirtz Museum, the Margritte Museum, the Fin de siècle Museum. The collection includes more than 20 thousand paintings and sculptures. It houses an outstanding collection of Dutch, Italian, French and Flemish paintings.
Rene Magritte Museum
Museum consisting of the works of the famous Belgian surrealist R. Margritt. It opened in 2009. More than 200 works of the author are exhibited here - drawings, canvases, advertising posters, photographs. The museum claims to be a full-fledged center for the study of the artist's creativity and heritage. You can learn about the life of R. Margritt from the films that are shown in the museum cinema.
Museum of cocoa and chocolate
Belgium is considered the European leader in the production of chocolate. It was the Belgian masters who came up with chocolates with filling and pralines. A museum dedicated to this delicacy appeared in Brussels in the second half of the 18th century. On its territory you can taste delicious chocolates and delicious toppings. The museum is also a shop where you can buy a delicious souvenir to remember your trip to Brussels.
Museum of Musical Instruments
Museum, which contains musical instruments from around the world. The exposition contains about 7 thousand copies. The museum was formed at the end of the 19th century on the basis of the private collection of King Leopold II. At first, the exhibits were located in the premises of the Brussels Conservatory, in 2000 they were transferred to a historic building built in 1899, built in the Art Nouveau style.
Belgian Museum of the Royal Army and Military History
One can hardly recall a military conflict in which Belgium played a key role. However, this fact does not prevent the country from having one of the largest collections of weapons and combat paraphernalia in Europe. The exposition of the museum consists of sabers, swords, rapiers, modern machine guns, pistols, as well as numerous military equipment collected from all over Europe.
The museum's collection includes several hundred vintage cars and motorcycles. There are sports cars, public transport, eco-friendly cars, and even cars owned by celebrities and politicians. The museum exhibits unique models of "Bentley", "Rolls Royce" and "Bugatti" of the 30s, you can also look at the car of J. Kennedy and T. Roosevelt.
The museum's collection is dedicated to the work of the architect V. Horta, who is considered the founder of the original Art Nouveau style. This master had a great influence on the architecture of the Belgian capital. The exposition is located in the house where V. Ort lived. The building was erected especially for him, the master designed many elements of the interior personally.
Royal Galleries of Saint Hubert
Three shopping galleries united by a glass dome. They were opened in the middle of the 19th century and have since become a place of pilgrimage for shoppers. In addition to shops, there are cafes, cinemas, art salons, and a theater stage. The Royal Galleries are a valuable architectural monument of Brussels and a real decoration of the city center.
Swimming complex with one of the deepest swimming pools in the world. The lowest point is located at a depth of 34.5 meters. Inside the pool there are several underwater artificial caves, through special windows you can watch the visitors of the local bar. People come to Nemo 33 for diving and just for recreational scuba diving.
Medieval gate of the 14th century, once part of the city's fortification system. The building survived after the demolition of the city wall. In the 19th century, most of the inhabitants of Brussels voted for the destruction of the gate, but they survived and were recognized as a historical treasure. The Halle gate was restored according to the project of the architect Beyart, and inside there is a museum of the history of weapons.
Miniature park "Mini Europe"
The park, on the territory of which all the main European attractions are located in a reduced size. There is Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, numerous palaces from various European capitals and much more. The area of the park of miniatures is 24,000 m². A detailed examination of the exhibits will take several hours.
50th Anniversary Park
The attraction is located in the eastern part of the Belgian capital. The park was founded at the end of the 19th century, its opening was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Belgium's independence from the Netherlands. The park is decorated with monumental patriotic sculptures, pavilions, frescoes, marble bas-reliefs, luxurious alleys. One of the architectural dominants is the Arc de Triomphe with antique figures symbolizing the Belgian provinces.
Forest area on the southern outskirts of Brussels. Until the 19th century, it was considered difficult to pass and dense, but subsequently its area was significantly reduced. The forest is located on the territory of the provinces of Wallonia and Flanders, as well as on the territory of the Brussels region. Wild animals are found here: wild boars, elk, forest rodents, various types of birds. Fish live in the forest lake.