Brussels

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Top Sights and Attractions in Brussels

Apart from Belgium's world-famously delicious chocolate, Brussels offers also a number of other tourist attractions. When visiting the Belgian capital, one should see the one-of-the-kind Atomium – a steel and aluminium structure which has become an internationally recognised symbol of the city and the whole country. The view from the top is really impressive. Another symbol of Brussels is the sculpture of a young boy called Manneken Pis. It's equally popular, although much smaller at its humble 30 centimetres than the 102-metre-tall Atomium. The central square (Grand Place) features many old buildings, among them and the City Hall (Hôtel de Ville), one of the most popular landmarks in the city.


Manneken Pis
Manneken Pis, by Tonie van Ringelestijn
Manneken Pis
Address: Rue de L'Etuve
 

What the Eiffel Tower is to Paris and the Statue of Liberty is to New York, the figure of Manneken Pis is to Brussels. Although the tiny figure of a peeing boy is unparalleled to the two massive landmarks as far as size and spectacular effect, the Manneken Pis is just as dear to the hearts of residents of its home city. It hasn’t always been like this. The original version of the statue, cast in bronze by Jerome Duquesnoy, was installed on the site in 1619 and quickly became the favourite object of vandals. Destroyed a number of times, it has always been restored. On one occasion, the figure was shattered to pieces. The remains were used to create the mold from which the contemporary version of the statue was cast.
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Abbaye de la Cambre
Abbaye de la Cambre, by Mathias Möller
Abbaye de la Cambre
Address: Avenue E Duray, Avenue de Mot
 

The village of Ixelles originated with the foundation of Abbaye de la Cambre (Dutch: Abdij of Ter Kameren), which was established by the Sisters of the Cistercian Order in the Middle Ages. The abbey was initially situated close to the springs of the Maelbeek River in the Sonian Forest, whose remaining part, known as Bois de la Cambre (Dutch: Ter Kamerenbos), today adjoins the city of Brussels. Not long after its foundation, the abbey was consecrated by the Bishop of Cambrai. Following centuries of mostly undisturbed existence, the convent was closed in the course of the French Revolution (1797) and the buildings, the majority of them dating from the 18th Century, were left abandoned. In 1921 it was taken over by the Ligue des Amis de la Cambre and thoroughly restored. These days, the majestic edifices of the former abbey are not accessible for the public, being home to the headquarters of the Belgian National Geographic Institute and Ecole de La Cambre, an esteemed visual arts school that takes its name from the abbey.
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Anderlecht Beguinage
Anderlecht Beguinage , by Benoit Vrins
Anderlecht Béguinage
Address: Rue du Chapître 8
  Phone: +32 02 521 13 83
 

The beguinages (or begijnhofs as they are called in Dutch) were small communities of women that emerged as early as the 13th Century in countries like Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands. These ladies, known as Beguines, were Catholic lay sisters and mostly widows of Crusaders who pursued a godly life in a quiet seclusion, without taking religious vows. Their homes, also called beguinages, could be described as a cross between a convent and an almshouse complex. They were often walled enclosures, sort of little isolated towns containing houses, churches, public buildings, gardens etc. In Belgium alone, remnants of the beguinages can be seen in 20 cities, of which 13 have been inscribed on UNESCO’S World Heritage List. The Anderlecht Beguinage in Brussels is one of them and, although perhaps not as attractive as the one located in Brugge, it still deserves a visit.
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Eglise du-Beguinage
Eglise du-Beguinage , by Benjamin Weaver
Eglise du Béguinage
Address: Place du Béguinage
  Phone: +32 2 217 87 42
 

The Église du-Béguinage (Beguinage Church) is a well known landmark to visitors, highly recommended as an outstanding example of the Italian-influenced Flemish Baroque style in Belgium. It is a fine church from the 17th Century, located on the small, circular Place de Beguinage in a peaceful area of Brussels. Together with the edifices encircling the square, it forms a harmonious architectural ensemble. One of the most noteworthy and majestic shrines in Brussels, it has a commanding presence, particularly after dark and when seen at a distance, from a fish market in Rue du Peuplier (Populierstraat). The church owes its unique charm to the fusion of different architectural styles. Its design is attributed to the architect Luc Fayd’herbe, a student of Rubens.
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St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral
St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral , by Eric
St Michael and Gudula Cathedral
Address: Parvis Ste-Gudule
  Phone: +32 02 217 83 45
  e-mail: fernand.collier@skynet.be  
Website: http://www.cathedralestmichel.be/  

The St Michael and Gudula Cathedral is located on the border of lower and upper Brussels, atop the Treurenberg Hill. French speakers refer to it as Cathédrale Saints-Michel-et-Gudule, while in Dutch it is called Sint-Michiels-en-Sint-Goedelekathedraal, often abbreviated to Sint-Goedele. This is a site of the the Primate of Belgium. Owing to its location in the country’s capital, the church has over the years been used as the venue for Catholic ceremonies of national significance, such as royal weddings, christenings and state funerals. Restoration works that were carried out in the cathedral throughout the entire 20th Century were not completed until December 1999. On December 4, 1999 the wedding between the Belgian Crown Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilda was held within the newly restored interior. Apart from those momentous ceremonies, the cathedral is also where concerts and other artistic events take place.
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La Monnaie
Address: Place de la Monnaie
 
Price: 6 - 100 EUR  
Website: http://www.lamonnaie.be/  

This opera house, with an impressive Neo-Classical facade, rests upon a more ancient structure and provides Brussels with a centre for cultural life. The original building was erected in 1695 because Gio Paolo Bombarda, a banker affiliated with Maximilian II Emmanuel of Bavaria, opted for the construction of a building which would hold ballets, operas and theatrical performances. In 1700, its construction had already begun, yet it was continued by architects Paolo and Pietro Bezzi and the French architect Louis Damesme, who eventually finished the construction. The Louis Damesme-designed facade, completed in 1819, owes its final look to Eugène Simonis who sculpted the allegorical bas relief in 1854. The overall Neo-Classical atmosphere of the structure doesn’t clash with the modern top two floors, which were entirely refurbished during the major renovation of 1985-86.
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Cantillon Brewery
Address: Rue Gheude 56
  Phone: +32 2 521 49 28
  e-mail: info@cantillon.be  
Website: http://www.cantillon.be/br/Cantillon.php?lang=3&page=1  

One of Brussels’ most authentic traditional family breweries, the Cantillon Brewery, first opened its doors to customers as early as 1900. Originally founded by the Cantillon clan, it’s been run by the Van Roys after the last surviving member of the founding family passed the business on to his son-in-law, Jean-Pierre Van Roy. For the sake of tradition, the original name of the brewery has remained unchanged.
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Justus Lipsius Building
Address: Rue de la Loi / Westraat
 

The Justus Lipsius Building is one of the imposing steel-and-glass giants glistening in the sun in the heart of the European District. The ultra-modern office complex faces the Berlaymont, and it matches its neighbour in prominence. Since 1995, it’s been the home to the Council of the European Union. The Council’s headquarters were relocated here from an old building named after Charlemagne, which in the early 1980s was already much too small for the ever-expanding offices of the organisation. The foundation stone of the new structure was laid in 1989 on a plot of land presented by the state authorities.
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