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Brussels

Return to Belgium

Guild Halls, Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium
Guild Halls, Grand Place, © Can Stock Photo Inc. / interlight

Brussels became the capital of Belgium in 1830 after the Belgian Revolution.  It is also the headquarters of NATO and the effective capital of the European Union.  The city is the largest in Belgium, with an urban population of more than a million.  The city walls were constructed in the mid 1300s.  Many buildings were destroyed in 1695 when King Louis XIV of France had forces attack the city.  Brussels was part of the Austrian Empire in the 1700s.  Dutch and French are official languages of the city, but expect to speak French in Brussels.  The French name is Bruxelles and the Dutch name is Brussel.

Weather:

Brussels is near enough to the English Channel to be heavily influence by a maritime climate.  Expect overcast skies and consistent levels of rainfall throughout the year.  May, early June and early September provide the best opportunities for good weather with lower tourist volumes.  The summer months are also excellent times to visit.  Expect average summer highs in July and August of 73 F (23 C) and average lows of 57 F (14 C).  Winter highs from December to February average about 45 F (6 C) while lows linger just above freezing.

Transportation:

Brussels Airport (BRU) is an option but many tourists arrive by train from other cities.  There is frequent rail service from the airport to the city, which provides a much better option than cabs or buses.  It takes just over a half hour to reach Gare Centrale, the central city train station.  Most high speed trains arrive at the Midi-Zuid station, south of town.  It provides connections to Amsterdam and cities in France.  The Nord-Noord station, north of town, provides access to Cologne and Frankfurt.  The public transit system, STIB-MIVB,  is a great option with day passes and multi-trip tickets available.

Mont des Arts, Brussels, Belgium

Mont des Arts, © Can Stock Photo Inc. / chrisdorney

Attractions in Brussels:

Things to see and do:

  • La Grand Place (Grote Mark) is the central square of Brussels and its only a short walk from the train station.  The Town Hall (Hotel de Ville) towers over the square and its surrounded with Guild Halls that were predominate in the late 1600s.  The City Museum (Bread House) is located here too.  Each summer the square is transformed back to the 1500s by the Ommegang Festival and in mid August the Flower Carpet covers the square with more than half a million begonias.

  • Head north from the square to Rue des Bouchers (Butcher's Street) which is lined with restaurants. Enjoy Belgian waffles and chocolates at the Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert.

  • Ascend Mont des Arts for views to the Old Town.  It's located to the east of the square, closer to the train station.

  • Manneken Pis - a small fountain statue of a boy urinating.  The statue is dressed in an ever changing array of costumes and is very popular with tourists.  It is located two blocks southwest of the Town Hall on Rue Charles Buls/Karel Bulsstraat.  

  • The Royal Museums of Fine Arts includes the  Museum of Ancient Art and the adjacent Museum of Modern Art.  The Museum of Ancient Art has Belgian and Flemish art back to the 1500s, including Flemish Primitives, the Portrait of Antoine de Bourgogne by Rogier van der Weyden, Bruegel's Landscape with the Fall of Icarus and works by Bosch, Rubens and Rembrandt.  There are a number of other museums in this area including the Magritte Museum and the MIM (Musical Instruments Museum).  Also located here are the Coudenberg excavations of the former site of the Palace of Coudenberg, which are open to the public via the BELvue Museum.

  • Royal Palace of Brussels - used by the King and Queen of Belgium.  It is located at Royal Park, opposite the Belgian Parliament.

  • Place du Grand Sablon for its antique dealers and Notre Dame du Sablon.

Triumphal Arch in Cinquantenaire Parc, Brussels, Belgium

Triumphal Arch, Cinquantenaire Parc, © Can Stock Photo Inc. / anmalkov

  • the Congress Column commemorating the creation of Belgium.

  • European Parliament - the site is open to visitors via the Parliamentarium.  The European Commission and the Council of Ministers are also found here in the European Quarter.

  • Cinquantenaire Park - the Triumphal Arch was built in honor of  the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence.  The Royal Museum of the Army and Military History (free), the AutoWorld Museum and the Great Mosque of Brussels are located here.

  • Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula

  • National Basilica of Sacred Heart of Koekelberg in Elisabeth Park.

  • Heysel Park and the Atomium, built in 1958 for Expo58.  The Atomium has panoramic views from the restaurant.  Beside Atomium is Bruparck, with Mini-Europe plus a 27 cinema complex (Kinepolis), an Imax, a planetarium and the Oceade water park.

  • Museums of the Far East (part of the Royal Museums of Art and History) -   In 2015 the exhibits were closed for safety reasons. The Chinese Pavilion at the Royal Estate at Laeken has a collection of ceramics obtained by King Leopold II in the early 1900s.  The adjacent Japanese Tower hosts a collection of Japanese art.

  • Brussels Hop-On Hop-Off Tour

Things to see and do near Brussels:

Royal Palace, Brussels, Belgium

Royal Palace, Brussels, © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Neirfy

Savor the Tastes of Brussels:

Brussels Tours:

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