Don’t judge a place by its size. There’s more to Brussels than being that small capital of Belgium, the principal seat of the Belgian Royal Family, and the capital of the European Union.Known for the restaurant and café culture, Brussels offers an authentic feel of the Belgian life as you visit world-class museums and art galleries, amazing old architecture and quirky attractions. Numerous major airlines offer flights to Brussels but it is good to take note that it is best visited between the month of March and May. To give you a closer look at what Brussels has to offer, here are some of the attractions you can visit.
Source: Gianis Pitarokilis
Formerly the location for the executions of prisoners and a market where textiles and wines were being sold, Grand-Place is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the main tourist attraction in Brussels. A cobble-stoned town square surrounded by old buildings and elegant guild houses, Grand-Place is now the main market square where daily business is done and where the quality restaurant and café culture can be experienced – with numerous local bars and cafes. It is also often used as a venue for cultural festivals and events. Chance upon the daily flower market between March and October and maybe even enjoy concerts and a light show when you decide to spend the evening there.
Hotel de Ville
Source: Oleg Brevko
Once at the Grand Place, it is a must to visit the most recognizable building on the square – the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall). This is a gothic style building which was built back in the 13th century and is the current seat of the civic government. It has arched windows, towers and sculptures with the statue of St. Michael slaying demons at the top. Go on a tour of the interiors and marvel at magnificent rooms like the Maximillian Chamber (hung with Brussels tapestries) and or the large Council Chamber (with a superb ceiling and tapestries by Victor Janssens).
Source: Nigel Swales
A few steps away from the Grand Place is one of Brussels’ icons and most photographed statues, a small bronze fountain called the Manneken Pis. According to local folklore, the little urinating boy is said to represent the child of a visiting nobleman who lost his son in the city, and then found him again urinating happily at that spot. Take a photo or more with this famed statue. Just take note that he is usually naked, but he does get dressed during festive occasions (in fact, he has an impressive wardrobe of over 600 outfits) when he’s urinating beer instead of water.
Source: Howard Gadsby
One of the highlights in Heysel Park and one of the best known landmarks in Brussels is the Atomium. Built for the 1958 World Fair to symbolize a new atomic age, this 102-meter high model of an atom is made out of chrome and steel and is an accurate depiction of an iron molecule magnified 165 times. Some say that it is more impressive on the outside than the inside, but see for yourself as there is a high seed glass-roofed lift that can take you to the top in just 23 seconds. Stop for a snack and appreciate the panoramic view of Brussels before going down through the escalator to experience the 9 spheres that make up an atom.
Source: William Murphy
Once you get off the Atomium, visit its next door neighbor - the miniature park of Europe situated in Bruparck. This park represents roughly 80 cities and 350 buildings with numerous live action models such as trains, mills, and even the eruption of Mount Vesuvius among others. At the end of your visit, get to see the “Spirit of Europe” exhibition which gives you an interactive overview of the European Union through multimedia games.
Galeries Royales St. Hubert
Source: Shemsu Hor
A trip is never complete without a day or two for shopping. Visit Europe’s first covered shopping gallery (build and opened in 1847) that now houses a collection of upmarket stores – from clothes and leather goods to theaters and cafes – beneath vaulted glass ceilings. There are three interconnecting galleries (Galeries du Prince, Galeries du Roi, and Galeries de la Reine) which allow you to gaze at beautiful handbags, feast on mouth-watering treats at Belgium’s premier chocolatiers, or sip a cocktail in one of the cafes.
Sometimes the smallest things and places hold the most beauty and wonder. Brussels is just that – and more.