want to have a wonderful view of the city of Brussels, you cannot miss the
terrace of the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM). This institution, housed in
one of the most famous Art Nouveau buildings in Brussels, is the work of the
architect Paul Saintenoy who built it from forged steel and glass with a
wrought iron elevator. If you have time, the visit of the building itself is
also worth it.
these premises used to house the Old England warehouses; today it is surely the
best museum of its kind in Europe. The collection of instruments began in 1877,
and the current museum was inaugurated in 2000. It contains more than 8,000
instruments out of which only about 1,500 are on display. The collection
includes mechanical instruments, XX century instruments, Belgian, European and
non-European folk instruments, as well as a historical tour starting from
antiquity to the XX century. The most curious thing is that visitors can listen
to the music emitted by each of the instruments exhibited throughout their
visit. There is also a presentation showing the evolution of string and
it has a viewpoint on its top floor, which is accessed through the restaurant.
You do not have to consume anything! You can just cross it to enjoy the 360º
views of the city. This will undoubtedly leave you spellbound at the image of
the town hall tower, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the main buildings of
the European Union, and even the Atomium!
viewpoint is located on Rue Montagne de la Cour, 2. Very close to the Grand
Place and the Royal Library of Belgium.
been brewed in Belgium since the XII century and brewers´ guilds began to exist
in Bruges, Liege or Brussels from the XIV century onwards. Nowadays, beer is
one of the country´s most representative products and we cannot miss trying
some of them ourselves.
beers have barley as their main ingredient, although there are some made with
malt and wheat. Belgium has opted for different, special, and, sometimes,
experimental beers: we can find fruity beers and even some with chocolate
flavor (another of the typical Belgian products).
are over 600 different types of beers and over 1,500 brands in Belgium,
although we don´t recommend trying all of them on the same day! There are beers
of one fermentation, double fermentation and triple fermentation; some can be
white, blonde, toasted or black, and they can also have a fruity taste or up to
14 degrees of alcohol, like the Trappists!
plan to take some beer home, Belgian ones are sold in brown or dark green
bottles so as to avoid the negative effects of sunlight. Although major brands
can be purchased supermarkets, specialty stores offer a wider selection with,
certainly, a higher price. The vast majority of Belgian beers are only sold by
the bottle. Draft beers are generally of the pilsner type.
enjoy their variety of tastes, each beer should be drunk at its ideal
temperature, usually between 8° and 15° C (46.4° F and 59° F). And of course,
each beer has its own specific glass or jar with the appropriate shape and
thickness of the material (glass in the shape of a tulip, a chalice…). Those
are labeled with the beer brand logo that corresponds to it. Those different
shapes will help to experience the quality of the drink, since the taste and
aroma vary depending on the path that the bubbles take along the walls of the
glass. (Beer "packs" are also sold with their appropriate glass).
Brussels there are thousands of cafes that offer a vast variety of beers to
their customers and each city has its own representative beer. The typical
Brussels beer, the Kriek, is a fruity one with a taste of cherry, raspberry,
At any brewery you will find a wide assortment of them.
is something you should not stop buying in Brussels, it is chocolates! In the
surroundings of the Grand Place there are many stores that offer this product
at different prices, brands and qualities. You can walk into a store and buy
the chocolates they have already packed, or pick just the ones you want to take with you. At the counter you
will find different types and you can ask them to fill a box of different
weights (250 grams, half a kilo...) with chocolate to your liking and the
filling that you fancy the most (pure chocolate, milk chocolate, white…). These
chocolates will always be much fresher than those in the prepared boxes.
you can find the best chocolatiers in Brussels and the best brands. Some of
them are so innovative: you can find chocolate bonbons with hot spices to
enhance the sweet taste of cocoa; with seaweed and sea salt, and even with
floral flavors such as roses or violets in spring... Perhaps one of the best
known and richest chocolates are the famous "orangettes", which are
neither more nor less than thin strips of orange peel dipped in chocolate, a
delight for the senses. There is even a chocolate house whose pure cocoa content
is 90 % (quite bitter). Normally the maximum of pure cocoa offered in good
chocolate shops is 70 % .
is world famous for its chocolates and its history begins in 1635, when an
abbot in the city of Ghent, began to market it. Until then it was used by
apothecaries to prepare tonics. In the XIX century, some of the main Belgian
chocolate houses were born, such as Neuhaus or Côte d’Or.
remember that the higher the price, the higher the quantity of pure cocoa and
the lower the quantity of vegetable fats, but they are all delicious! You can
even find chocolates in the shape of the most famous statue in Belgium, the
well-known "Manneken Pis".
The best chocolatiers are on the Grand Place and Rue de l´Etuve.
SNOWY AND… YOU!
a doubt, Tintin is one of the great characters related to this city and this
country. The comic created in 1930 by the incredible Hergé, makes us enjoy the
adventures of young Tintin and his dog Snowy.
is originally a reporter, although we will hardly ever see him working as a
journalist. At first, his partner is just a fox terrier, Snowy, although later
he will meet the police officers Thomson and Thompson, Captain Haddock and
other characters such as Professor Calculus, who will follow him on several of
"Red Rackham´s Treasure", Tintin lives with his dog in an apartment
located at 26 Labrador Road in an undefined city, although it is obviously
Brussels. Therefore, in the city there is an official and specialized Tintin
store, where comics in different languages, official figurines, posters and
memorabilia are sold. From this story onwards, he moved to live at Marlinspike
Hall, the residence of Captain Haddock.
their many stories, Tintin and Snowy will embark on a series of adventures that
will take them across the five continents, often facing a whole group of
villains, surrounded by their friends whom they will meet over time.
and his adventures are so, so famous, that since its creation, more than 200
million comics have been sold in more than sixty languages and even has several
want a photo with this character that we all know, make sure to get to Rue de
l´Etuve 37, a few meters from the Grand Place and very close to the Manneken
Pis. There you will find a spectacular mural with Tintin, Snowy and the captain
Haddock. They are living one of their adventures in a scene from "The
Calculus Affair." Take your photo and live the adventure with them!
Rue de l´Etuve 37.
know the sculpture of the most famous boy in Brussels, the Manneken Pis. This
small figure, which is one of the largest symbols of the country and the city,
dates back to the XIV century. Originally it was made of stone and was stolen
on several occasions. Later, in 1619, the stone statue was replaced by a bronze
one made by Duquesnoy the Elder.
small fountain that represents a boy urinating is only 65 centimeters high and
was protected in the wars against the French in 1695. Unfortunately the statue
was stolen in the 60s and later on recovered. The one we can see on the street
is a copy from 1965, since the original one by Duquesnoy is kept in the City
Museum since its recovery from the “kidnapping”. In this museum there is also
the collection of costumes that, throughout history, have been gifted to the
you know that this young man has his female counterpart? That after being
single for so long, did he end up having a girlfriend? We are talking about the
small sculpture of Jeanneke Pis, a bronze statue far more modern than the
Manneken. In 1987 it was commissioned by the owner of a restaurant. To prevent
Jeanneke from suffering the same setbacks as her lover did, such as being
stolen or vandalized, it is protected by a fence.
Pis is located near the Rue des Bouchers in the small Impasse la Fidélité alley,
practically the same distance from the Grand Place as the Manneken Pis, but in
the opposite direction.
stories and legends surround the figure of Manneken, obviously many more than
Jeanneke, since she is much younger than him. In fact, many Belgians and
countless tourists do not know about the existence of this young girl or the
romance between the two characters. However, there are stories that tell us
that, one day, Manneken and Jeanneke will come down from their pedestals to
finally meet, and all the fountains in the city will pour beer down their pipes
instead of water, celebrating that they are finally together.
story states that they have a puppy that is also found in a peeing position.
His name is Zinneke Pis (this is not a
fountain, it is just a statue). The little statue by the artist Tom Frantzen is
located at 35 Rue des Chartreux.
we leave the city without meeting the cute couple and their pet?
Alley Impasse de la Fidélité.
FOR A NAKED KING.
II, king of whom we spoke a few lines above, is undoubtedly the most famous
king that Belgium has had. For a long time the figure of the king was
untouchable, but we have known for many years now that the king had his lights
1885 to 1908 Leopold was the sovereign, founder and sole owner of the now
officially called Democratic Republic of Congo. It was a private project headed
by himself that brought him a great fortune thanks to the exploitation of
Congo´s natural resources (rubber, diamonds, ivory and other precious stones).
For this purpose he used the native population as forced labor and slaves,
leaving more than 10 million Congolese dead after his passage of exploitation,
torture and slavery.
being married and having four children, Leopold had many lovers, including the
famous courtesan nicknamed "La Belle Otero", or his favorite, Cléo de
Mérode. So in love was he with this courtesan, that the citizens made fun of
the king by calling him Cleopold.
pleasure, he brought one of the pavilions from the Universal Exhibition in
Paris in 1900. It was the Chinese Pavilion, inside which he wanted to set a tea
room. It was a great scandal because
what he wanted in fact was to turn it into a kind of harem with
different concubines surrounded by oriental luxury.
at the age of 65, he fell madly in love with one of his mistresses, Caroline
Lacroix, a young sixteen-year-old French prostitute, and named her Baroness of
Vaughan. A year before his death, Leopold got to marry Lacroix in a morganatic
marriage that was not validated by the nation.
are several statues of Leopold but one is special since it was a scandal at its
inauguration. This is because the king appears completely naked (except for his
genitals, which are modestly covered).
dare to enter one of the most typical and elegant neighborhoods of Brussels and
find the naked king? As a clue, you should look in the area behind the
Cathedral of St. Michael and the Belgian Parliament…
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THE PALACE OF JUSTICE.
are in front of the Palace of Justice... this great building was completed in
1883 and was the largest in the world at the time. Its architect, Poelaert,
also designed the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Brussels. Unfortunately, he
never saw the Palace of Justice finished because he died in 1879.
built in an eclectic style and for its construction it was necessary to
demolish 3,000 houses. It has 26,000 square meters of surface, 104 meters high
and a total of 246 rooms and 8 courtyards. The dome in the main hall is over
100 meters high. The dimensions of the palace exceed those of St. Peter´s
it was planned to be topped by a great pyramid but, after Poelaert´s death, it
was decided to end it up with a huge dome instead.
Palace of Justice is one of the great works of the time of King Leopold II. His
constructions are characterized for being of a colossal size. It coincides with
the time when the king was the owner of the Belgian Congo and the function of
these works was to reflect the strength and importance of the Belgian nation, created
a few years earlier. These works were financed with the money that Belgium got
from its colony in Africa and the budget was exorbitant for the time. In the
inside, consisting of two floors and a basement, the dimensions and quantity of
marble used are striking, an extravagance achieved thanks to the rubber that
came from Congo and enriched the country at the time of Colonial Imperialism.
know that during World War II, when the Nazis were leaving Belgium, they set
fire to the building and the dome collapsed? The current dome is taller and
slimmer as it did not respect the shape of the original one.
curiosity: did you know that the Palace of Justice in the city of Lima in Peru,
is almost identical as this one in Brussels but without the dome? This is
because that one was the work of the Polish architect Bruno Paprowsky who was
inspired by the Palace of Justice in Brussels. However, the one in Lima lacks a
dome, although the original plans contained one and a tower.
FAITH AND JUSTICE.
have decided to take a break in the Place du Grand Sablon (and if not, you can
walk there from the Grand Place), continue to Place du Petit Sablón. This small
square with a garden is the result of the transformations of the city in the
XIX century, when the kingdom of Belgium was created. It was previously a
cemetery and a horse market, until this space dedicated to the exaltation of
Belgian nationalism was created.
the garden we find sculptures representing some key Belgian figures for history
and science, such as the geographer Ortelius, the cartographer Mercator or the
botanist Dodonnée. In the center you can see the monument dedicated to the
Counts of Egmont and Hornes, who led a revolt against Spain in the XVI century,
and were executed by order of Philip II, becoming a symbol of the Flemish
resistance against Spain. The square is fenced and surrounded by 48 bronze
sculptures representing medieval guilds (bricklayers, archers, sculptors,
If we continue
our walk, between the Grand sablon and the Petit sablon, we find the Rue de la
Regence. Walk along it, and you will see the Royal Conservatory of Music. It
has been active since the First French Empire and bears this name since 1832
being, since then, the highest musical and theatrical school in Belgium. In its
library there is a collection of 250,000 music sheets and music books. The
conservatory is located in a former palace of the Thurn & Taxis family. The
Thurn & Taxis are a princely family who played a huge role in the postal
service in the XVI century.
keep walking, we will pass by the Great Synagogue of Brussels of 1878,
considered since the Conference of European Rabbis of 2008, the main synagogue
thus arrive at “Place Poelaert”, in honor of the architect of this magnificent
building that stands out in the square: the Palace of Justice. Our walk would
end in this square, which also has a magnificent view of the entire lower area
of Brussels. From here we will be able to admire the city at our feet.
“Place du Petit Sablon”, “Rue de la Regence” and “Place Poelaert”.
THE BELGIAN HIGH SOCIETY.
as tourists we end up exhausted and a great place to stop along the way and
take a well-deserved rest is the “Place du Grand Sablon”, a beautiful square
with all the charm of medieval Brussels architecture.
“Place du Grand Sablon” owes its name to an area that in the past was covered
in sand; a large terrace of sand and earth that, with time, turned into the
square that will give us those minutes of peace that we need so much when
square is full of cafes and terraces where we can sit and watch life go by
while admiring the beauty of the “Église Notre-Dame du Sablon”. This flamboyant
Gothic jewel of the XV century looks
like a small reliquary due to the delicacy of its structure. This small church
was built in the Middle Ages as an order of the archers´ guild. He was someone
with an important purchasing power, since, despite being small, the church is
beautifully enriched with ornaments and sculptures.
from several chocolate shops of the best and most popular brands, we will also
find in this square a pastry shop that is renowned throughout the country as
the royal household sweet provider. This is the famous Wittamer patisserie,
where, if you want to feel like royalty or hang out with the local bourgeoisie,
sit in and enjoy its delicacies. Of course, given the delicious cakes and the
fine clientele, the bill is never low…
weekends, in this “Grand Sablon” little Square, a small and very good quality
antiques market is organized, so it is easy and untiresome to walk around. The
market is located around the Church.
course, major international brands are also present at the “Sablon”.
“Place du Grand Sablon”.
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