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Brussels. Photos, information, tours, activities and attractions of Brussels.
Brussels, the capital of Belgium, today is not only the largest city of Belgium, but also a symbol of political power of the United Europe. In Brussels, not only sits the government of Belgium, but also the European Commission – the government of the European Union. In addition to being the center of European political life, this wonderful city has a rich history dating back to the 11th century, when Brussels was still a small duchy, not much bigger than the current downtown. In 1830, Belgium became independent, and under the new King and Parliament, Brussels was made the capital of the country. Since the 11th century, Brussels has changed its appearance many times, but some monuments, buildings and streets still exist. During its long history the city has been home to kings, was a center of trade and business, and even today you can see how old city walls seamlessly blend into the modern cityscape. Brussels is one of the most international cities in the world. Twenty-seven percent of the population are foreigners, and that’s not counting those who have received Belgian citizenship. The city fully complies with its status as the capital of Europe (meeting place of the European Union): Brussels has about 40,000 EU staff, 4,000 NATO employees and about 300 permanent representations (lobby groups, embassies and media corporations).
Weather and climate
Brussels has a temperate and mild climate with temperatures rarely dropping below 1°C in winter and not exceeding 23°C in summer. It rains almost all year round, so you should always carry an umbrella when you walk around the city. Rainfall is lowest in April and May. On sunny days, Brussels is incredibly blue, and it’s a pleasure to walk around on such a day.
It is noteworthy that the Belgians do not have a common language. Belgium has three national languages: French, Dutch (Flemish) and German. Language is such an important part of the political and cultural infrastructure that the country has created official language borders between the south, the north, and a third region, Brussels proper. In the city itself, people generally communicate with each other in French, but officially Brussels is a bilingual city, so all public signs and documents are bilingual. The city’s name is Bruxelles in French and Brussels in Dutch.
Interesting facts about Brussels
Brussels is a city with a centuries-old history that continues to play a prominent role on the world stage today, but apart from politics, there are many other things in Brussels that draw attention to the city. In particular, according to the latest figures there are 249 butchers and 647 pharmacies among the stores in Brussels, and there are 874 barbers in the city. When you walk through the streets of the city, this is immediately apparent: on your way you will meet at least one barbershop and 1-2 pharmacies, which are easily recognized by a sign with a neon green cross.
History of Brussels
Brussels-the heart of Brabant, the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium-has its origins in the first centuries AD, when the island of Saint Gery served as the site of camps of the Celto-Germanic tribes. In 977 Emperor Otto II gave the county of Bruoxelles to Charles of France, Duke of Lower Lorraine. The city of Brussels grew, increasing the number of inhabitants with each decade, bridging the Sennes, a tributary of the Diehl River. In the thirteenth century the duke left St. Gery and relocated to the fortress on the Coudenberg. The city’s burghers grew stronger, crafts and trade developed. The city began to demand privileges, to claim rights of self-government. A few months after the Flemish rebellion on June 11, 1302, the people of Brussels rose up in arms and a city council was created with representation from a broad cross section of craftsmen. In 1459, Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, moved his House of Reports to the city, thereby making it the capital of his state. It was a time of brilliant flowering of the arts. Rogier van der Weyden becomes the official artist of Brussels during this era, Hugo van der Goes ends his days in the Red Monastery on the outskirts of Brussels. The opulent Burgundian court attracts poets, musicians, composers – Dufay, Ockeghem. Jan van Rijsbruck raised the tower of the town hall into the sky, which towers proudly to this day.
In 1531, Charles V orders the digging of the Wilmbrook Canal, and Brussels becomes a seaport. His son Philip II tries to stifle Dutch rebellion under the yoke of the House of Habsburg, and in 1567 a scaffold was erected in the Great Square for Counts Egmont and Horn, which served as a powerful impetus for the perennial rebellion of the whole country. The city was the permanent residence of the viceroys of Spain, and in 1599 the Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella, who reigned until 1633, settled there. On August 17, 1695, seventeen thousand Frenchmen surrounded the city under the command of Marshal Villroy on the orders of Louis XIV. The bombardment lasted thirty-six hours. Three thousand bombs rained down on the city, the center of which disappeared in the flames of a huge fire. The treasures of art in the town hall, the famous paintings of justice scenes by Rogier van der Weyden, and precious carpets were burned. Sixteen churches, chapels and monasteries, and three thousand eight hundred and fifty houses were destroyed. On September 5, however, Villrois was forced to lift the siege of Brussels. Six years later, the city’s corporations rebuilt the Great Square, creating a uniquely beautiful ensemble in the Flemish Baroque style. Brussels’ history is full of dramatic pages. Its monuments of architecture were destroyed, but nevertheless the old part of the city survived and is of great interest to study.
The Grand Place
The main attraction of Brussels is the Grand-Place, located in the Lower Town. The square is the heart of the old city. Back in the 15th century it was home to rows of shops, tournaments and courts. Most of the attractions of the capital are located around this square. The main buildings of the Grand Place are the City Hall with its 96-meter high tower from which the main patron of the city – St. Michael and the King’s House, where the City Museum is located. Also around the square are the houses of the 16th century with the symbolic names of the House of the Star, the House of the Bakers, the House of the Wolf, the House of the Wheelbarrow, the House of the Horn, the House of the Dove, the House of the Fox. Twice a year they make a big carpet of begonias in the square.
House of the King
The ancient 13th-century building was originally a warehouse for bakers and was called Bread Row. From a warehouse the house was turned into a prison, then into the Duke’s tax office, and then into his manor. After a while, the Duke’s House was renamed the King’s House. But kings never lived here. The building was reconstructed many times. The current Gothic look, reminiscent of lace, it acquired in the 19th century. The city museum, which is in the house contains a variety of works of art from different eras of the country.
The Boy Peeing
The famous Peeing Boy is the symbol of Belgium. The Belgians call it the oldest resident of the country. The fountain is on the corner of RuedeL’Etuve street. The height of the sculpture becomes 61 centimeters. During the city celebrations, the boy dressed in various costumes. More than 1000 sets are stored in the City Museum. The fountain is surrounded by a lattice, which always has a timetable for when the boy will be dressed. In 1987, the Pee Boy got a “sister” – JannekenPis, which is engaged in the same ritual. The best way to get to the fountain with the girl is with the RuedesBouchers.
The palace is located in the Upper Town. Around the building is an amazingly beautiful park, just a masterpiece of park art. The palace itself was rebuilt after a fire in 1820. It now serves as the residence for the current royal family, but the monarchs only hold official events in it. If the Belgian flag is flying over the building, it means that the king is now in the palace. In front of the entrance to the Palais Royal there is an equestrian monument of Gottfried of Bouillon. There is a tradition that when the royal family goes on a summer vacation, anyone can visit the palace. The building can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday, the entrance is free.
St. Michael’s Cathedral
Construction of the cathedral began back in 1226 and lasted for 300 years. It is used for all wedding and funeral ceremonies of royalty. It resembles the famous Notre Dame de Paris. Inside there are full-size figures of all the apostles.
Sacré Coeur Basilica
The Basilica is on the list of the five largest churches in the world. The first stone was laid by King Leopold II, who loved Paris and wanted Brussels to resemble the French capital. Sacré Coeur is very reminiscent of the Parisian church of the same name. Inside the temple the symbolic number of chapels is 9, the same number of provinces in Belgium. For a small fee (6 euros for adults, 4 euros for children), you can go up to the dome of the basilica, which offers an amazing view over the city.
The building of the European Parliament
The largest building in Brussels can be seen from anywhere in the city. In the 19th century it was a railway station. Nowadays important decisions of the European Union are made here. You can not only take a tour of the European Parliament building, but also attend a session.
Atomium is a structure that symbolizes the scientific progress, located in the area of Bru-park. It is a module of the atom made of iron, which is magnified 160 billion times. The height is 102 meters, and weighs about 2,400 tons. Atomimus has a permanent exhibition of scientific achievements, a restaurant, an observation deck and even rooms where you can spend the night admiring the city at night. You can go up to this scientific facility daily from 10 am to 6 pm. The ticket office is open until 5:30 pm. Admission is 11 euros for adults and 4 euros for children.
In the same Brue Park, there is also Mini-Europa. Here you can visit the most famous monuments of European cities in a few hours. On an area of 24000 m² there are more than 350 monuments in miniature from 80 cities (museums, churches, squares, monuments, fragments of streets, fortresses, towers, castles). All models are built with the greatest accuracy. Also, in the park hold various performances. For example, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the eruption of Vesuvius and others. The ticket price is 13 euros for adults and 10 euros for children. The park is open from 9:30 to 18:30. At the entrance you can buy a guide, which is available in 8 languages, including Russian.
Mountain of Art
Between the Royal Palace and Parliament is a small hill. To climb it you have to go up the stairs which are decorated with fountains. At the top of the hill are the Royal Library, the Palace of Congresses, the Museum of Musical Instruments (admission to the museum costs 5 euros, opening hours – 10:00 to 17:00). Also on the mountain is an observation deck, which offers a beautiful view of the Atomium and the Sacré-Coeur.
Brussels’ Chevre, or gastronomic center, is located near the Grand Place, on the Rue des Bouchers. There are restaurants with different national cuisines on the long street. Tables are right on the street and waiters in different languages invite visitors to explore their menus. The windows of most restaurants are decorated with fresh seafood. Prices in restaurants are not very affordable, places for dinner in some places should be booked in advance.
Museum of the Far East
For a taste of the Orient in the middle of Europe, visit the Museum of the Far East. On the territory of the museum is the Japanese Tower, the Chinese pavilion and the Museum of Japanese art. For the interior design specially brought jewelry from Japan and China. The museum works every day from 9:30 to 17:00. Monday off. Admission cost for adults is 4 euros, free for children. This is just a small list of the most important attractions in Brussels. It is impossible to give an unequivocal answer to the question of what to see in the city. Some people are attracted by the ancient palaces, some modern buildings or walks in the numerous museums. But one thing is certain, walking through the city, everyone can discover something close to his spirit. To appreciate all the beauty of the Belgian capital a few days will not be enough. Panoramas of beautiful palaces, parks, monuments, squares attracts tourists from all over the world.
Brussels (Belgium) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. Brussels main attractions with descriptions, guides and maps.
City of Brussels (Belgium)
Brussels is the capital of Belgium and the center of its largest urban agglomeration. It is the political center of Europe, which is the headquarters of the European Union. Despite its capital status Brussels is surprisingly small and quiet city. Unlike charming Bruges and Ghent, which are constantly filled with hordes of tourists, the capital of Belgium is the main educational and economic center of the country, which seems to be constantly busy at work. Brussels may not have great ancient sights and historical monuments, but it’s definitely a great destination to experience Belgian life, great restaurants, and stunning museums and art galleries.
Brussels is surrounded by Dutch-speaking Flanders and the Flemish province of Brabant. The capital of Belgium is at the crossroads of two cultures – Romanesque and Germanic. Thanks to it the city has a unique character and a liberal atmosphere.
Things to do (Brussels):
€195 per tour.
Brussels Driving tour
Cover the main attractions of the capital of Europe in the center and beyond
€130 for a guided tour
Discover the protagonists of famous paintings in the streets of the city and have a peek into a folk brasserie.
Geography and climate
Brussels is located in the center of Belgium, closer to the north. The city lies on the Senne River, which in the 19th century was almost completely blocked in the process of urban development. The capital of Belgium has a temperate maritime climate. The weather in Brussels is often gray and humid. Summers here are often cool and rainy. Winter is about the same, with occasional sub-zero temperatures.
- Population 176,000.
- Area – 32.61 km².
- Currency is euro (€).
- Language: French and Dutch. Brussels is officially a bilingual city. Signs and signs have two names, which can sound completely different. Although 85% of its inhabitants speak French.
- Time is Central European (UTC +1, +2 in summer).
- Brussels is generally a very safe city. There are a couple of not very prosperous areas, but the average tourist will never end up there. The biggest problem here is pickpockets and crooks. So follow basic safety rules and everything will be fine in Brussels.
- Brussels is famous for its lace, chocolate and beer. Also here you can taste the famous waffles, French fries and mussels. Typical Belgian beers include gueuze (sour) and kriek (sweet, cherry-based).
- In Brussels, you can try a cocktail, which is a mixture of white wine and champagne.
Brussels is believed to have been founded in the 6th century by St. Gageric. The name of the city is translated from Old Dutch as “settlement on the marshes. Brussels was first mentioned in 996. And a few decades before that, Duke Charles I of Lorraine had founded a fortress on the Senne. In the 11th century, the medieval settlement was surrounded by the first wall.
In the 15th century Brussels became the capital of Burgundy. This period is considered the heyday of the city. Brussels saw the construction of magnificent buildings and the settlement of artists, sculptors and jewelers. In the 16th century, the city lost its capital status and Belgium was invaded by Spain. Brussels was abandoned by bohemians and the elite, leading to its decline.
The streets of Brussels
Brussels remained under Spanish rule after the Thirty Years’ War. In 1695, the French attempted to seize the city by shelling it with artillery and almost completely destroying the Grand Place. At the beginning of the 18th century, Austria took control of Belgium. In 1789 the Belgians in the course of the revolt managed to gain independence, but in 1794 the country was conquered by France. Belgium actually belonged to the French until the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. In 1830, Brussels became the capital of the independent Kingdom of Belgium.
In the 19th century, Brussels experienced a new period of prosperity. The city is rapidly built and grows thanks to industrialization. Brussels suffered little during the two World Wars. After World War II, the capital of Belgium became increasingly internationally important. In 1958, the city hosted the headquarters of the European Economic Community and later the European Union.
How to get there
Brussels airport is the largest airport in Belgium. It receives many flights from various cities in Europe and around the world. You can get from the airport to the center by train, bus (STIB No. 12 or No. 21) or cab. Interestingly, from the station Zaventem Village (Dorp), located a short walk from the terminal, you can get to the city much cheaper.
Brussels has three train stations: Midi-Zuid (south of downtown), Central-Centraal (downtown), and Nord-Noord (north of downtown). Brussels has regular train connections to Cologne, Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, London, Frankfurt-am-Main, Lyon, Lille, Marseille, Bordeaux, and Montpellier. It is also easy to get to the capital of Belgium by bus or car from the above cities.
- Galeries Saint Hubert-Sint Hubertusgalerijen is the oldest shopping center in the world, opened in 1847.
- Galeria Inno on Rue Neuve-Nieuwstraat.
- Woluwe Shopping Center – A large shopping center in the east of Brussels.
- Marché aux Puces – Vlooienmarkt – interesting flea market on Jeu de Balle-Vossenplein. Every day from 7 am to 2 pm.
- Marché du Midi – Zuidmarkt is one of the largest markets in Europe. You can buy almost everything here, from groceries to clothes.
- Anderlecht Market on Rue Ropsy-Chaudron/Ropsy-Chaudronstraat – A large and bustling market, held at weekends.
The Grand Place (Grote Markt)
The Grand Place (Grote Markt) is the main square of Brussels and the heart of the old city. This urban space is considered one of the best preserved historic market squares in Europe. The architectural ensemble of the Grand Place is unique. All buildings are a magnificent example of Baroque and Gothic architecture with a marked Flemish influence. They are decorated with pediments, pilasters and balustrades, as well as carved stone masonry and rich gold decorations. Most of the buildings on the square date back to the 17th century. The history of the square began in the 11th century.
The most beautiful structure on the Grand Place is the Town Hall, founded in 1402. This building is a masterpiece of Brabant Gothic and has a beautiful central tower. The architectural ensemble of the Grand Place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a symbol of Brussels.
The Manneken-Pis is Brussels’ most famous landmark and dates back to the 14th century. The current statue was made in 1619 and has been stolen several times. During major holidays, events and festivals, this sculpture is dressed up in outfits appropriate to the spirit of the event.
The pissing boy is surrounded by legends, and the origin of this sculptural composition is shrouded in mystery. According to one version, the fountain is a monument to the courageous infant who prevented a fire; according to another, it is the son of the count, who succumbed to an urgent physiological desire, participating in an official ceremony.
St. Michael’s Cathedral
St. Michael’s Cathedral is the principal sacred monument of Brussels. This imposing Gothic church was founded in the 13th century and was not completed until the 15th century. The cathedral has a beautiful facade and a rich interior decorated with stained glass and paintings.
A popular museum is the Belgian Comics Center, located in a magnificent building from the early 20th century. It features an exhibition of 200 original drawings of comics by Belgian and French artists.
The Royal Square is the second most popular place in Brussels. The square is an ensemble of historic buildings with neoclassical facades. The most important landmark here is the Royal Palace, which is used by Belgian monarchs as an official residence.
Mountain of Art
The Mountain of Arts is an imposing building complex that includes the Albert I Library and several palaces. This space was created between 1956 and 1958, occupying an elevated site with a beautiful view of the city.
Notre-Dame du Sablon
Notre-Dame du Sablon is one of the most beautiful late Gothic churches in Belgium, built between the 15th and 16th centuries. This religious structure was built on the site of an older church from the early 14th century. Notre-Dame du Sablon has a spectacular interior and beautiful stained glass windows.
Park of the Fiftieth
The Park of the Fiftieth Anniversary was created in 1880 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Belgium’s independence. It is a popular place for walking with an area of 37 hectares. The centerpiece of the park is the monumental Fiftieth Anniversary Palace, whose two wings were joined in 1905 by a massive triumphal arch. The palace is home to the historic Royal Museum with an extensive collection of tapestries and the Museum of the Belgian Army.
The Sacré-Coeur is an imposing basilica founded in 1905 to commemorate the country’s 75th anniversary. It is the fifth largest church in the world and impressive in size. The basilica was not completed until 1970, so the building has a mix of architectural styles. Inside is an excellent art collection and a permanent exhibition on the history of the building.
Cistercian Abbey is an ancient monastery founded in the 13th century, destroyed in the 16th century, and then rebuilt. It now houses a geographic museum amid beautiful French gardens. The former abbey church dates from the 14th century and is an elegant building with baroque vaults.
The Atomium is the most surreal attraction in Brussels. It is a bizarre 102-meter high steel and aluminum structure designed for the 1958 World’s Fair. The Atomium is a building in the shape of an iron molecule magnified 165 million times.
Royal Belgian Museum of Fine Arts
The Royal Belgian Museum of Fine Arts is one of the largest and finest art galleries in the world. Its collection is divided into two parts: the Musée d’Art Ancien (museum of ancient art) with a collection of Flemish and Dutch old masters and the Musée d’art moderne (museum of modern art) with works of Belgian artists of the 19th – 20th centuries.
€65 per tour
Stroll through the colorful Laeken neighborhood, visit the royal parks and learn about local life
From €65 for a guided tour
From Brussels to Wallonia!
We’ll walk through the ruins of Viller-la-Ville and discover the secrets of the Belgian soul