Brussels

About Brussels


SKYLINES AND VIEWS:        
   
Skylines and views
-part 1: from hills
 
  Skylines and views
-part 2: from Atomium
   
from Place Poelaert, Mont des Arts (Kunstberg), European Quarter, CBD and more


CITY CENTER
(CENTRE-VILLE, OLD TOWN):

       
   
Grand Place  

Old Town
(LaVieille Ville)

 

Vismet
Pl. Ste-Catherine

Grote Markt
Old Town
Town Hall
 

Galeries St-Hubert
Rue Bouchert
Manneken Piss

 

Place de la Bourse
Place de Brouckère
Place de Monnaie

   

Royal Palace
Parc de Bruxelles

 

Mont des Arts
Place de l'Albertine
Marché aux Herbs

  Place de la Nation
Cathedral St Michel
Congress Quartiers

Place Royale
Place Palais

Old buildings like these are at risk of serious water damage. Leaf Filter is a great first step to preventing flooding.

 

Kunstberg
Place d'Espagne
Central Station
Square de la Putterie

 


Rue Royale

EUROPEAN QUARTER:

 


EUROPEAN QUARTER:

 


MAROLLES:

 

Luxembourg
European Quarter

 

Jubelpark/Parc du
Cinquantenaire

  Palace of Justice
Petit Sablon
Place Louise

EU Parliament
Place du Luxembourg

  Rond-Point Schumanplein
Le Berlaymont EU bldg
  Place Poelaert
Rue de la Régence
Avenue Louise, Tour du Midi
   
NORTHERN BRUSSELS:  

 

   

   


Atomium  

Mini-Europe

  Business District
Laeken
Heysel
  Miniature theme park   North of city center

NIGHT PHOTOS:
     


   
Brussels by night        

MUSEUMS:
       
   
AutoWorld   MOOF Comics Museum    
     
Coudenberg

  Museum of Music Instruments    
Royal Palace basement   MIM    

AIRPORT:
       
       
Brussels Airport        

ABOUT BRUSSELS:

Population: 1 139 000 (metro 1 830 000)
Country:
Belgium - capital and largest city
Tallest building:
Tour du Midi (150m)
District:
Brussels-Capital Region
Founded year (city rights):
979
Area:
151.38 km² (region/city)
Year visited: 2014

Brussels is the capital and largest city of Belgium, situated almost in the middle of Belgium. Brussels is also considered the inofficial capital of the EU, since it hosts many of its major political institutions. It is also the headquarters of NATO.

The central city is divided in two parts: the Upper town and the Lower town. The landscape is both flat and hilly and forests surround the city. Brussels has several large parks, some in the city center. Brussels has a mixed character with both small historic quarters in the old town, and huge modern office buildings, many of them belonging to the EU, and skyscrapers. One of Europe's most beautiful squares, Grand Place, is situated in the heart of Brussels. It is famous for its diverse style of architecture with beautiful decorations, dominated by the old Town Hall. Less impressive, but still the most famous symbol of Brussels, is Manneken Piss, a very small fountain sculpture of a pissing boy that stands just a few blocks away from Grand Place.

All streets and square names in Brussels are written in two languages; French and Flemish. But the main language of Brussels is French, even if it is totally surrounded by Flemish regions. The city is called Bruxelles in French and Brussel in Flemish. And most people also speak English, so that would be no problem. Even if the city has over 1.1 million inhabitants, the municipality called City of Brussels (Bruxelles-Ville), that is situated in central Brussels and parts of the outskirts, only has about 166 000 inhabitants. That is because the city consists of several municipalities. It is juridically only City of Brussels that is the capital, but in reality, the authority buildings and embassies are de facto spread out all over the city.

The Old Town , situated around Grand Place in Lower Town, is very beautiful with its beautiful squares and narrow lanes, as well as some wider roads that remind of Paris. The majority of old buildings are built in either French style or Flemish renaissance. Besides the already mentioned Grand Place, here you can find Galeires St-Hubert, a historic shopping galleria, comic museums, an instrument museum and just to the North Place Ste-Catherine with its cathedral. There are many large churches in Brussels, the majority in Gothic style.

Outside the old town you will find the European Quarter, where our hotel was. Here you can find the more impersonal large scale buildings in glass and steel that host political institutions of the European Union, as well as more beautiful old buildings, and Jubelpark were you find the Arch of Triumph and many museums, such as a large car museum, a military museum and a large art museum . In my opinion, these quarters remind of the modern parts of Berlin, and some part of Paris.

Between the European Quarter and the Old Town, you can find the Royal Palace and Parc de Bruxelles. We visited the Coudenberg, an ancient basement beneath the palace. To the North of Parc de Bruxelles, a small park that is good for relaxing, you can find the Belgian Parliament.

To the southwest of the city center, in Upper Town, you can find the Marolles quarters with the huge, impressive but decadent Palace of Justice (under renovation) at Place Polaert where you have amazing views of the Lower Town. The square is also the beginning of the exclusive shopping road Avenue de Louise, and Place Louise. Along the road Rue de Régence you can find the small but beautiful park and square Petit-Sablon, as well as the gothic church with the same name.

To the North you can find the financial district with the majority of Brussels skyscrapers. In the Northern outskirts, you can find the impressive landmark Atomium with its futuristic architecture from the 1958 world exhibition, that we also visited inside. Next to Atomium is Mini-Europe, a theme park with miniatures of buildings in EU countries.

MY EXPERIENCE

We visited Brussels for 3 days as a part of a 5 day tour to Belgium and a one day visit to the Graspop rock festival. We arrived at the large Brussels Airport.

Brussels is not situated by a sea, any major lake or river, the small river Senne (Flemish: Zenne) can only be seen a bit away from the city center since it was covered up to make way for boulevards in the 19th-20th centuries. Despite the lack of water and a lot of grey EU buildings, I liked Brussels a lot as a tourist attraction; the mix of old buildings and futuristic buildings, the beautiful squares, parks, the magnificent food and drinks and the large number of rare museums make this city unique!

The weather was mixed -grey and sunny, and some heavy showers also occured. Grey weather is very common in Belgium, even summertime.

During our visit in June 2014, World Football Championship was going on, so the streets and pubs were really lively. As a contrast to that, the streets were almost empty on Saturday and Sunday during our visit. It was a bit grey and rainy and we were not in the old town these days, but still strange to see so less people outdoors in central Brussels, especially since this is common weather in Belgium.

The infrastructure of Brussels is good. The city has metro, trams and buses. The trams are modern but we didn’t use it since the city center is very pedestrian friendly and we needed the metro to get to the outskirts. The metro system is working good but a bit worn; the underground trains are not very modern and some stations look really bohemic with no escalators. Brussels have several train stations, the central station is not the largest.

Food in Belgium is really good, the meatballs are really tasty for example, and you can find food from Belgian restaurants as well as international kitchen (Italian, Asian, Spanish, French etc). Belgium is also famous for its beer, waffles and chocolate that is in top class, and of course we tried it!

Traffic can be really harsh during rush hours, since there are many cars –Belgium is not by far as bike friendly as the Netherlands- and the streets are really small, so you often see cars stucked in the middle of an intersection. At one occasion, we watched about 10 incident that nearly lead to accidents in just a few minutes! Even if the traffic can be aggressive, motorists generally stop for pedestrians.

It felt pretty safe to walk around in central Brussels, even after dark. The only problems we had were with some Romanian beggars that tried to fool tourists. Don’t let them make you sing anything, it’s just a scam!

We stayed at the 4 star Renaissance Brussels Hotel at the Rue du Parnasse in the European Quarter, right next to the huge EU Parliament. The location is about 15 minutes walk to the Old town, and even closer to the Royal Palace. The hotel is a modern 7-storey building with elegant but a bit impersonal interior. It has 262 rooms and is part of the Marriott/Renaissance chain. The room was really large and nice with a large flatscreen TV, a large king size bed and a long corridor. It was furnished in earth colours and had views over a small street. The staff were very friendly, but the breakfast is really expensive (25 euro and 15 euro with discount) so it is hardly worth the money, and they made a mistake to charge to much, that was corrected later after many e-mails. But for the hotel over all we got really good value for money. The hotel has a bar, a Starbucks, a restaurant, a gym and a pool in the basement.

It is highly recommend to buy the Brussels card, that gives you free transportation with metro, trams and buses, free entrance or discount on most museums and other offers.

I also visited Antwerp and the Graspop festival after Brussels.

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