‘Brussels is the capital city of Belgium and has long been famous as the site of the European Parliament. It’s also famous for being the home of European comics…’
Amongst its other achievements is being the epicentre of the Art Nouveau movement and the birthplace of Audrey Hepburn. It is officially bilingual and predominantly made up of Dutch (Flemish) and French (Waloons), with a small percentage of German speakers. The city is easily walkable and has so much to offer. These are my top Six Sights for a Saturday in Brussels:
This teeny little bronze man stands at a mere 61cm high and is widely seen as the symbol of the Brussels. He stands on a plinth above the fountain, casually peeing water into the basin below. It’s difficult to reconcile this until you actually see him, and the crowd of people around him All Of The Time.
‘Seriously, he’s a very popular wee bloke. I honestly thought Taylor Swift was in town when I saw the crowds’
He represents the sense of humour and laid back attitude of the city so perfectly. Manneken Pis is located on the corner of Rue de Chene, just a few minutes walk from the Grand Place. He also has a sister and a dog. No, really.
Also known as the Grand Place, the main square in the heart of Brussels city centre is an assault on the eyes from all angles. Comprising the Town Hall, Guidhalls, Breadhouse (which holds the Museum of Brussels), plus numerous other buildings, it’s undoubtedly the most impressive square in the city. It’s a peaceful yet busy area throughout the year.
As well as various events throughout the calendar (there were awesome fruit and veg art displays on while we were there), there are numerous restaurants, cafes and bars on the square to sit and relax while enjoying the spectacular views. The entire square is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site; one of many in Brussels.
If you visit Brussels between mid-July and the beginning of September, the Royal Palace opens its doors to the public. This gives you the ability to have a glimpse into the lives (and rooms) of the Belgian Head of State and his family. The Palace is the main office of the King (pretty fancy digs, huh?), and the official Palace.
However, it’s only open for mere mortals when the family goes on holiday over the summer. After all, they don’t want us trampling over their immaculately shorn grass and pruned rose bushes while they’re actually at home, do they? I mean, I think you’re all lovely, but when I look out over my garden, I don’t want to see people darting across it, either. Also, when they say they ‘open their doors’, you can’t actually stay there or anything; it’s not a hotel.
‘What you *can* do is just have a look and appreciate the architecture and manicured grounds. If you want to wear a tiara while you do this, it’s entirely your call. I’m not here to judge you…’
OK, so it doesn’t sound that exciting, but stick with me. The European Parliament is a bit outside the centre of Brussels, but it’s such an interesting place to visit. It’s free to enter and the Museum of European History is first class in terms of design and subject matter. No, seriously.
The parliament buildings themselves, being fairly new, are an interesting stop and there’s a ton of open space around the complex. This includes Parc Leopold, where visitors can relax and enjoy the industrious atmosphere. We personally had just as much just as much fun standing in front of the rows of flags, trying to work out the more obscure ones and generally arguing about who’s in the EU and who’s not.
The House of European History is located in its own building, just down from the main complex and is split over 6 floors, covering topics, such as wars, economies, food, life, and culture, and is sober reminder of how we haven’t always worked together, as well as celebrating each member state in their own right.
‘Also, it was on this hallowed turf that I learnt that croissants aren’t even French. I’m not even kidding: they were invented in Vienna! It’s like the world I thought I knew doesn’t even exist’
It’s genuinely going to take me a while to get over that, you know. Anyway, aside from the subject matter, the museum is fully interactive and of exceptionally high quality and we ended up spending almost 2 fun-filled hours there, albeit a large percentage of that was taken up playing with all the stuff that’s aimed at visitors under six. Someone needs to make sure it’s safe for them, folks. It’s a public service.
Galeries Saint Hubert
The beautifully covered shopping mall is the largest of its kind in Europe. Furthermore, it’s literally stuffed full of gorgeous chocolate shops, cafes and independent boutiques.
The domed glass and steel ceilings are beautiful and walkways are generally bustling. This includes tourists taking photos of the incredible window displays. That’s what I did, anyway. There’s some seriously arty stuff going on inside the stores and the chocolates and macaron towers will make your greedy ass SO hungry.
‘Be warned though; quality Belgian chocs will set you back; they are NOT cheap. However, they are amazing and totally worth remortgaging your house for’
Royal Museum of Fine Arts (Magritte Museum)
Because I love art, I can always be found dragging my long-suffering husband into a gallery or four, much to his eternal delight… There are few things I enjoy as much as casually wandering aimlessly around a gallery.
I don’t pretend to know anything about art, you understand, but I do appreciate a pretty painting. I was aware of the works of Magritte and Bosch before my visit. Due to Bosch not having a museum in Brussels (there’s one in Amsterdam), Magritte seemed like my best target.
Magritte was a Belgian artist who was influenced by many different styles before finding his voice and shaping his now iconic style as a Surrealist. The Museum which bears his name has only been open since 2009, despite the fact that the artist died in 1967. It displays the largest collection of his works found anywhere in the world. Many of the pieces belong to the artist’s widow, Georgette.
The museum also holds some of his most well-known works, such as the Empire of Light and The Man Of The Sea. Sadly, it does not include the wonderfully odd The Son of Man, which is owned by a private collector. 1,2,3…waaaaaah!
The Museum is located on Rue de la Regence 3, just outside the city centre.
Do you have any other must-see sights in Brussels?