Brussels, the capital of Europe, is probably the best known city of Belgium.
With over a third of its population of foreign decent, it is one of the most cosmopolitan cities of Europe. Brussels is also the nexus of several of the largest economic and political bodies (including the EU and NATO) in the world. It is the number one ranking city for international organizations and number two with regard to the number of diplomats and permanent journalist stations. Summarized, Brussels is the place to be for anyone who is willing to play at the top of the economic and political level.
The Grand-Place is the most beautiful theater in the world
— Jean Cocteau
Historians normally agree that Brussels was founded around 980, when a descendant of Charlemagne built the first fortifications around the city. Located at the main road that connected Bruges, Ghent and Cologne, Brussels grew quickly in the 13th and 14th century. As an important commercial center, Brussels prospered especially in the 15th and 16th century and the luxurious trade houses and City Hall from that period can still be admired today.
A black year in Brussels history is 1695, when the French king Louis XVI heavily bombarded the city, destroying over a third of its buildings. A new important period began in 1830, when Belgium became an independent country with Brussels as its new capital. The construction of several palaces and government buildings, including the Supreme Court House – the largest structure built in the world during the 19th century – and the creation of large boulevards and squares gave Brussels its current form.
Being located at the crossroads of Europe, Brussels became more and more the capital of Europe from the 1960′s onwards. In the European Quarter you can find the Berlaymont-building, primary seat of the European Commission, the European Parliament and several other political institutions. With an even increasing political and economic importance, the city has attracted diplomats and expats from all over the world.
Tease your sweet tooth with a sample of Belgian chocolate in one of the 2,000 chocolate shops throughout Belgium. Try the white, milk and dark chocolate or spoil your tongue with a taste of chocolate flavoured strawberries and pralines.
This little statue is one of Brussels most famous inhabitants. It is believed that Manneken Pis depicts a young boy who saved Brussels from disaster by extinguishing the fuse of the enemy’s gunpowder. When you’ll see the statue, you’ll know how he did it. Manneken Pis served as a public fountain as early as 1388, but the current bronze statue was installed in 1619.
Built for the 1958 World Exhibition, the Atomium represents an elementary iron crystal enlarged 165 billion times. You can walk through surreal tubes and spheres and enjoy a spectacular view from the upper sphere. The 102 m high building also houses several permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Just next to the Atomium, you can find a park with miniature versions of all the famous buildings, monuments and cities of Europe. In one hour, you can see a bull-fight in Sevilla, the Big Ben and the Berlin Wall.
Founded two centuries ago, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium hold some twenty thousand paintings, sculptures and drawings. Located in Brussels, they consist of the Ancient Art Museum (XV – XVII century), the Modern Art Museum (XIX – XX century), the Wiertz Museum, the Meunier Museum and the Museé Magritte Museum.
The City Hall is one of Brussels best preserved historic monuments and contains tapestries from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, Gothic wooden panelling, insignia of ancient guilds and several paintings. Construction began in 1402 but several renovations, especially after the fire from 1695, gave the City Hall its current format. At the top stands a 5-metre-high gilt metal statue of the archangel Michael, patron saint of Brussels, slaying a dragon or devil.
The City Hall borders with the Grand-Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1998. The Flower Carpet, a biannual event at the end of August that has been organised for over 40 years, is one of the highlights of Brussels.
Experience the European Parliament as never before. Through dynamic, interactive multimedia and a stunning 360° digital surround screen, visitors learn everything there is to know about the European Parliament and its members.
There are plenty of bars and cafés in Brussels where you can taste some (or all!) of the Belgian beers, favored for their variety, real flavor and character. You can also visit the Brewer’s House, located in a baroque building at the Grand-Place, where you can learn a bit about the history of beer. The local beer in and around Brussels is called ‘Geuze’-beer, and there are several small breweries just outside of Brussels.
Every fridaynight in spring and summer, hundreds of people meet their friends and collegeas on the so-called ‘Apéros Urbain’, an event in which music and drinks are bringing people together at public spaces. The Apéros are followed by an afterparty in a nearby club.
Every year in July, the Ommegang passes through the streets of Brussels towards the Grand-Place. The procession is a reconstruction of the arrival of Charles V and his court in 1549. This grand spectacle features hundreds of extras in magnificent garb.
Couleur Café is an urban festival at the end of June where music and bands from all over the world reflect the diverse and multicultural character of Brussels. Flow away with African and Latino vibes and try something new at the international food stands.
The Royal Museum for Central Africa is one of the world’s most fascinating and visually striking institutions devoted to Africa. The museum is showcased within a beautiful listed building, surrounded by a vast park with ponds and formal gardens, and employs its unique collections to raise the awareness of a large and diverse audience.
Brussels is a very green city, with over 8,000 hectares of green spaces. Parks that are worth paying a visit and ideal for anyone who is simply looking for some nature include the Royal Parc, Parc Egmont, the gardens of Mont des Arts and Petit Sablon, Parc du Cinquantenaire, Parc Leopold and Tervuren Parc.
Belgium is one of thé cycling-countries in the world, and there is a wide variety of cycle-networks in the entire country. One of the best routes follows the Green Belt around Brussels, a belt of forests, parks and gardens where also several small castles, breweries and towns can be visited at the same time.
The Palace is the place where His Majesty the King exercises his prerogatives as Head of State. It is at the Palace that the King grants audiences and deals with affairs of state. The Royal Palace exhibits several baroque rooms and classic and contemporary artworks. Every year from the 21st of July until September, the Royal Palace can be visited by the public. If the flag at the top of the Palace is raised, King Albert II, the sixed King of Belgium, is present at the palace.
Did you know that:
- The Royal Palace in Brussels is larger than Buckingham Palace?
- The pralines chocolates were invented in Brussels in 1912?
- The world’s biggest chocolate selling point is Brussels International Airport?
- The world’s deepest swimming pool, reaching a depth of 35 meters, is in Brussels?
- The first railway built in continental Europe started in Brussels?
- Karl Marx wrote his Manifesto during his exile in Brussels?
- The Brussels sprouts were first mentionned in 1587 in the vicinity of Brussels?
- Brussels is home to Europe’s oldest shopping arcades: the Galeries St Hubert which opened in 1847?