Cultured, irreverent, historical, majestic – these are just a few ways to describe the fashionable, multicultural European powerhouse that is Brussels. This capital city is in the heart of Belgium, with visitors flocking to Brussels from all across Europe to sample its history, as well as its chocolate and beer. There’s plenty to do on a city break to Brussels.
Surrounded by historical buildings and beautifully illuminated at night, the Grote Markt is one of Brussels’ main tourist hubs. Within walking distance of the square are two iconic statues that encapsulate the charming irreverence of Belgian humour – Manneken Pis and Jeanneke Pis. Manneken Pis, located on the Rue Charles Buls between chocolate shops and souvenir stalls, is a fountain statue of a small boy urinating and is often dressed up to match various national holidays. Jeanneke Pis is the female counterpoint, erected more recently in 1987.
If you’re looking for impressive architecture, The Grand Place features a range of stunning buildings to see including a number of former guildhalls. Former residents of this area include Victor Hugo and Karl Marx. For an insight into Brussels’ past, make your way to the Gothic Église Notre-Dame du Sablon, which used to be the guild chapel for the archers in the 14th century. An example of Brussels’ more recent architectural heritage is the Old England Building, a striking Art Nouveau former department store that today contains a music museum with over 2,000 different instruments on display.
Flanders has historically been renowned for its lace-making craft, and the best place to learn about this rich heritage is the Musée du Costume et de la Dentelle. Here you’ll find a range of fascinating exhibitions on the history of textiles in Brussels. The city was also home to the famous Surrealist artist, Rene Magritte, and at the Musée Magritte you’ll have a chance to learn about the man behind some of the 20th century’s most iconic images. For a fuller view of the area’s artistic lineage make your way to the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, which features collections of both ancient and modern art from masters including Brueghel the Elder and Anthony van Dyck.
Beer and chocolate
Mixing them may be inadvisable, but beer and chocolate can be found everywhere in Brussels. Beer Mania has a stock of over 400 different beers to choose from, and there are small pubs, cafés and bars dotted throughout the city. As for chocolate, there are shops on nearly every street selling quality Belgian treats, although Leonidas is an especially popular chain with the locals.