Art, food, fashion and design, nightlife, and the best chocolate are just some of the highlights of this cosmopolitan city.
By Mary Elizabeth Collins
Springtime in the Grand-Place
Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is an amazing city with an enormous artistic heritage. The city hosts treasures contained in its excellent museums, but also in every corner and square.
Brussels boasts a great Art Nouveau and Art Deco legacy with its typical sgraffiti, wrought iron balconies, and beautiful curvaceous lines. The city is also known as “The City of the Ninth Art” (the comics) and has museums devoted to such familiar characters as Lucky Luke, Tintin, or the Smurfs.
A giant carpet of flowers at the Grand-Place
If we were to choose the most beautiful site, and probably the quintessential Brussels, it would have to be the Grand-Place, declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Seeing it for the first time, the French playwright Victor Hugo said: "It is the most beautiful square in the world."
The Grand-Place—without a doubt, the heart of Brussels—is delineated by stunning 17th-century guild houses and a beautifully ornate town hall dating from the 15th century. During spring and summer, there is no greater pleasure than to sit in one of its terraces to enjoy a good microbrew and immerse yourself in history while observing the comings and goings of tourists and locals.
Life on the streets of the Belgian capital.
A few feet away, you will find one of the most controversial figures of the capital: the Manneken-Pis, a small fountain with a bronze statue depicting a young child urinating. Legend has it that, by doing so, he extinguished the fuse of a bomb destined for the monumental plaza. However, it can also be said that it personifies the irreverent and playful character of the city’s inhabitants.
Located in this same perimeter are the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, opened in 1847. Under a sublime glass roof, you will find the best leather goods stores, chocolate shops, and luxury boutiques of the capital.
Above: Sculptures in the Berlaymont building.
Below: Petit Sablon Square
The great Belgian artist René Magritte lived much of his life in Brussels. In Régence Street, there is a museum that bears his name and displays the best pieces created by one of the greatest surrealist painters in history.
As you stroll through the city center, relax for a moment in one of its typical cafes, which are usually full of people in the afternoons.
Going through the outdoor markets, such as the Place du Jeu de Balle, is always a pleasant experience as is a tour of the buildings that host the government of the European Union. And don’t miss the Atomium, an icon of Brussels and Belgium, originally constructed for Expo 58, the 1958 Brussels World's Fair, which symbolizes an iron crystal enlarged 165 billion times.
Museum of Fine Arts.
Avenue Louise and Rue Dansaert are ideal shopping destinations where you can explore the beautiful Belgian modern design. Saint-Jacques, on the other hand, is the center of vintage fashion. At nightfall, Brussels reveals its more relaxed personality with a variety of concerts, clubs, and discos.
Brussels is a paradise for food lovers; the first chocolate praline was created here—chocolate is a Belgian passion—and so are beer and the best “French fries”, an invention created to circumvent hunger.
Those who had the opportunity to visit Brussels describe it as “charming, cosmopolitan, lively and colorful.”
Photos: Courtesy of Wallonia-Brussels Tourism (WBT). ■
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