In one of our trips to Paris we decided to catch a train at Gare du Nord and in 1h30m we arrived to Brussels, Belgium’s capital.
Seen by many as a grey city (I tend to agree), where life revolves around the European institutions that are headquartered there, this city revealed some surprises with an animated social and cultural life.

Brussels is the head office of the European Commission and Council, being responsible for 75% of the European Parliament work, which transforms it into the capital of the European Union, giving it a serious character! However, it deserves a visit, even if a short one like ours! It is a place with history that gathers Gothic constructions, baroque, neo-Gothic and classic ones, and at the same time it is a cosmopolitan town where we can find executives and students (we found, at the main square, a Portuguese academic tuna (student music group)!) or simply bohemians.

Portuguese Academic Tuna at Grand Place

It is the home of the biggest museums of miniatures and antique cars in Europe, the world capital of beer, chocolate (where I ate my favorite ones, Pierre Marcolini) and waffles.

I advise you to buy the Brussels Pass that allows free entrance in more than 30 museums, free public transportation (bus, train and STIB subway), restaurant and bars discounts and also discounts in some cultural/tourist attractions. You can buy it for 24, 48 or 72h for 24, 36 or 43€, respectively, and you can buy it at tourist information desks, for example, in the main square.

Grand Place

Speaking of it, Le Grand Place is considered one of the most beautiful in the world, as described by Victor Hugo. I have to admit that arriving in Brussels and at the start of the visit wasn’t especially interesting, like my other travels, the intense cold and the grey sky didn’t help (we went on February), however, when we arrived to this magical place everything vanished, creating a new universe around me.

Hôtel de Ville

This plaza was built in the space where in the XI century was the old market of bakers and carpenters, butchers and other crafts. The impressive monuments and buildings date back to the XV century, but only the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) of Brussels and some other facades survived the French bombings in 1695. Rebuilt years later, it now has a beautiful and eclectic architecture. Since 1998, the Grand Place is World Heritage of UNESCO.

With 96 meters of height, Hôtel de Ville is the most imposing building, where it is possible to have a guided tour and be astonished with the beautiful art collections.
Another monumental building is the Maison du Roi where the Brussels Museum resides with a mix of the town’s history.

Maison du Roi

The square is wonderful, the architecture is amazing with a mixture of Gothic, neo-Gothic, baroque and classic that you can see in the different Guilds, or former craft corporations that appeared in the Medieval Age, from the XII century on, to regulate the artisan production process. So, the square is constituted by symbolic buildings and historic statues, like the Le Renard, the Haberdashers’ Guild, represented by a fox statue; Le Cornet, Boatmen Guild; Le Cygne, that was the Butchers Guild, represented by a beautiful Swan statue; Maison des Boulangers, Bakers Guild, represented by an amazing building with decorative pictures of the elements of the bread making art.

Le Renard

If you have the opportunity of visiting Brussels in August, every two years, and for the length of a week, the center of the square is filled by a flowery carpet, full of colorful begonias, firstly created in 1971, keeping up to today, bringing thousands of tourists to the city.

But not only of this plaza lives the city.

In a relaxed walk we were able to discover all the energy, architecture, culture and enthusiasm that Brussels has to offer.

Rue des Bouchers and the usual hunting tourist restaurants. RUN AWAY! 

For that, the best is to walk around the city! It has around 10 km, you can easily walk it all around. You can also opt for the tourist bus, for 22€ a day, stopping in several important spots; or choose renting a bike (Villo system!) with inviting prices (free for the first 30min, 0,5€ for the first hour, 3€ for the one after and 2€ for each next one) and several pullout and delivery spots around the city; also relative to bikes, you can opt for the Brussels Bike Tours, that leaves from the Grand Place, lasts for 3h30 and costs 25€, you can go around the city on a bike with a guide that speaks English. Honestly I always prefer walking!

If we wander around the alleys that surround the Grand Place we discover a few places or simply some spots with special and even odd interest, like Manneken-Pis, a small bronze sculpture (61 cm) of a boy urinating.

The original statue was built in 1618 and is stored in Maison du Roi.


The origin of this piece of art is not consensual, and its meaning is not well known, but it’s funny, mainly when it’s dressed with themed clothes, which happens every week.

One of the first places we went to was La Bourse de Bruxelles (because it was near our hotel) it was founded by Napoleon in 1801, when Belgium was a French colony. Example of great neo-classic architecture, several sculptures decorate the exterior of the building and they represent the trade, the industry, the art, the science, the metallurgy, among others. Rodin was responsible for part of the work in this majestic building.

La Bourse de Bruxelles

While walking around town, we found the Palais Royale and the Place du Palais, the head office of the executive Belgium power, with a beautiful neo-Classic facade, built after 1900 under the initiative of the King Leopold II. The rooms and gardens of the palace are open every year for visiting between the end of July and the beginning of September.

Another masterpiece of this city is the Palais de la Justice, located on top of a hill and opened in 1883; it is known for being the biggest construction of the XIX century. The impressive dome of 116 meters of height can be seen from the entire city. A few steps away from the Palace is the bohemian region of Marolles, where tourists, curious and good negotiators seek for small treasures in its markets.

Palais Royale

One of the loveliest areas in town is the Mont des Arts, including L’Albertine, Musée des Instruments de Musique, Carillon du Mont des Arts. This is an historical region located in a slope filled with art museums and nice streets. From the garden of the mythical and flowery L’Albertine square (pity the garden wasn’t flowery when we went there) is possible to see the Grand Place, the historical center, the Koekelberg Basilica and even the Atomium. In this area we also found the Musée des Instruments de Musique that presents the biggest collection of musical pieces in the world. Finally, the Carillon du Mont des Arts which has 24 bells (12 in the front) and 12 historic and folk figures of the Belgium history.


For those who want to go shopping, you can choose to visit Lês Galeries dês Saint Hubbert, this was the first commercial gallery in Europe, opened in 1847 by King Leopold I. It is covered by an enormous glass dome, making it one of the most beautiful in the European continent. Inside there’s the most luxurious (and expensive) from jewelry, chocolates, clothes, besides restaurants, coffees, cinema and theater. The first Neuhaus chocolate store opened here in 1857.

In a different perspective, more actual and certainly financial, you can visit Le Quartier Européen: European Parliament (Parlement Européen), Luxembourg Square (Place du Luxembourg), European Commission (Comission Européen), Cinquantenaire Park (Parc du Cinquantenaire), basically the most impressive and modern buildings in town. In the Cinquantenaire Park, the locals enjoy the garden and the company of the Arch of Triumph to rest.

Those who read this blog easily notice my passion for sacred art, I’m not religious, just enough, but churches really catch my interest.
In Brussels we can find several of them. Three of them caught my attention.

Catedral St-Michel et Ste-Gudule

Notre Dame du Sablon Church and Petit Sablon – Gothic style, from the XV and XVI century, with colorful stained glass, Gothic arches, two baroque chapels. At the front there’s a monumental plaza surrounded by 48 Gothic columns with small bronze statues on top that represent old professions and also a fountain surrounded by 10 statues.

Cathedrale St-Michel et Ste-Gudule – One of the most beautiful European Cathedrals, located on top of Treurenberg mountain, was the first church of the country, dated from the XV century. The name refers to the patron saints of Belgium.

Finally, the Basílica de Koekelberg – Sacred Heart Basilica – the most impressive and important Church in Belgium.
Was built to celebrate the 75º birthday of Belgium’s independence, was started in 1905 but due to the lack of financial resources (the construction depended solely on donations of the faithful) it was only inaugurated in 1971.

The interior decoration is Art-Deco, using mostly marble. Besides the religious ceremonies, it also has a theater and two museums and offers one of the best views of Brussels from the platform on its dome.

Museum of Music Instruments 

The city is filled with curious and animated places, like the Mini-Europe Park, one of the main parks of miniatures in the world. Built in an area of more than 24 thousand square meters it has, nowadays, more than 300 attractions of 80 European cities. It’s funny to check places where we’ve been and see them in miniature, the details are incredible!

Another place that deserves a visit is the Atomium, a combination of nine metallic spheres built for the universal display of Brussels in 1958. Located in the Heysel Park, it has 103 meters of height and symbolizes an iron molecule expanded 165 billion times, representing the importance of Belgium in steel production and making an allusion to the nine Belgian provinces of the time.

It is a national icon; basically the Atomium is almost the same as the Eiffel Tower to Paris.

The comics near the Palais de la Justice

We all know that Brussels is a paradise to the comics’ lovers (it is the homeland of Tintin, Lucky Luke, and Smurfs) but what I didn’t know is that as a way to promote the characters and bring more color to the city, in 1991 a project was created with the purpose of making paintings of comics in public areas. What started as a small project, just to give life to some walls (before painted white), more than 20 year ago, is now a success, attracting tourists interested in knowing not only the historical center, museums, parks and the gastronomy, but also in feeling part of the stories represented in the panels and, why not, relieve the memories of childhood. Besides being able to enjoy them in every corner or street, you can visit the Centre Belge de Bande Dessinée, I loved to go through the comics, be part of the fantasy, be a child again!

Songoku is also part of the Centre Belge de Bande Dessinée

Another magnificent area that deserves a visit is the Laeken district, located in northwest region of Brussels, famous for being the official residence of the Belgian royal family, the Royal Castle of Laeken is the home of King Albert II and his family. Here you can find the Notre Dame Church of Laeken, the King Leopold I Monument, the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, the Japanese Tower and the Chinese Pavilion. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to see this region, but if you do, be sure to do it.

Go to the many traditional breweries and lose yourselves in the immense offer of the Belgian traditional beers.

I remember the initial feeling of thinking that Brussels wasn’t interesting, but in the end, I realized that much was left to do, that the city is an immense beauty-well and that even with that serious look of a financial and industrialized city, Brussels has a lot to offer.

I’ll go back for sure.

Well, now towards Bruges that is right next door!

Where to stay
Sofitel Hotels
Metropole Hotel
Where to eat
The unmissable chocolates of Pierre Marcolini.
For the classic dish of Mussels and fries, nothing like the Au Vieux Bruxelles.
For the most demanding and refined you can always choose the several Michelin restaurants like Comme Chez Moi (2*) or the modern WY of Bart De Pooter (1*).


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