Things to Do in Brussels - page 2
The Royal Saint Hubert Galleries are a series of shops and restaurants in Brussels that are covered by panes of glass. They were designed by the architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer in 1847 and are often referred to as the umbrella of Brussels. The galleries are divided into three different sections: the Galerie de la Reine, the Galerie du Roi and the Galerie des Princes. The glass roof helps protect visitors from rain or cold weather. In the past, visitors had to pay 25 cents on Thursdays and Sundays and 10 cents on other days just to access the galleries. Of course today it is free to visit, and over 6 million people visit each year.
The galleries have something for everyone. There are boutiques selling the latest fashions as well as more classic clothing. Accessories shops sell gloves, hats, umbrellas and more. Several jewelry stores are located here along with book stores, chocolate shops, and other specialty shops.
A large public park, the Cinquantenaire Park (or "Parc du Cinquantenaire" as it is known in French) is dominated by buildings built for the 1880 National Exhibition which also celebrated fifty years of Belgian independence. The centerpiece of the park is a triumphal arch finished in 1905.
To the north of the arch is the Royal Military Museum. To the south are the Royal Museums for Art and History (these hold artifacts gathered from around the world), and AutoWorld, a vintage car museum with over 350 classic cars, one of the largest collections in Europe.
If you’re looking for an impressive place to lie under a tree the Cinquantenaire Park is especially lovely in the summer when it’s filled with locals making the most of the sunshine. Also in summer the area surrounding the arch is turned into a drive-in cinema. There’s discounted tickets for people driving vintage cars and a lawn reserved for people on bicycle or foot.
Sablon is a smart little quartier and one of the most charming in Brussels; it is an intricate maze of cobbled streets set around two delightful squares, and was once home to the aristocrats of Brussels. The whole area is packed with stylish restaurants, slick galleries and hip cafés; the bar terraces of the lovely Place du Grand Sablon in particular provide the perfect spot in which to enjoy a glass of Belgian beer after a day’s sightseeing.
This arcaded square is one of the most exclusive in Brussels and is lined with 15th- and 16th-century townhouses showcasing high-end antiques stores, organic delis and expensive restaurants. It’s hard to imagine that a weekly horse market was once held in Place du Grand Sablon and these days it’s better known for the weekend book and antique markets held under cheery red-and-green striped awnings.
Brussels has several top-class museums and the Royal Fine Arts Museum is foremost among them. The four main galleries are adjacent to each other in the place Royale; these comprise the Musée Old Masters, Musée Modern and the Musée Fin-de-Siècle, connected underground to the Musée Magritte.
The revamped, spacious galleries show off Belgian art from the 14th-century Flemish Primitives to the 20th-century Surrealists. Star turns in the Old Masters include Hans Memling, Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Brueghel the Elder and Lucas Cranach. Next door, the modern art galleries are currently being re-organized, so a tiny percentage of collection’s treasures – such as Van Gogh or Delvaux – are on revolving display. Musée Magritte opened in 2009 and holds the world’s biggest collection of more than 200 works by the Belgian surrealist master René Magritte, including his seminal The Dominion of Light as well as sculptures, sketches, photos and musical scores.
King Leopold II wanted famous structures from around the world represented on his royal estate at Laeken, and architect Alexandre Marcel undertook the project with these two towers representing Japan and China. It is said that King Leopold was inspired by his visit to the 1900 Exhibition in Paris. The towers were completed in 1904, built entirely of wood, and connected by tunnel. The woodwork was completed by specialists from Shanghai and Yokohama, and on display are both Chinese and Japanese arts and artifacts dating back to the 17th century.
The area around both structures is surrounded by a lush garden, fit for picnics. The distinct cultural styles of both the Chinese pavilion and the Japanese pagoda makes them stand out amongst the rest of the city’s architecture. Standing tall in red and with adjacent wooden pavilions, the towers are unique parts of Brussels that are not to be missed.
The Horta Museum in Brussels, Belgium was once the home of the architect Victor Horta. Horta is considered the father of the Art Nouveau style of architecture, and his house is a fantastic example of this style. He built the house for his own use and lived there from 1901 to 1919. The interior designs are original, including the mosaics, stained glass windows, furniture, and wall paintings. The museum also has a collection of furniture designed by Victor Horta as well as old photographs, scale models of some of his other buildings, casts and plans explaining his work.
The museum consists of two buildings, Horta's house and his studio. He favored warm woods and wrought iron, and a tour through his home will reveal many interesting characteristics. Look for the shapes inspired by nature and art from Celtic and Asian cultures. Pay attention to the chairs, tables, lamps, door handles, banisters, and candelabras.
Blending the classic atmosphere of an American diner with the devil–may–care edge of rock ‘n’ roll, the Hard Rock Café is much more than just a café – it’s an international institution, and it was only a matter of time before the legendary restaurant made its way on to Belgian soil. Opening its doors in 2012, the Hard Rock Café Brussels has been enticing locals to swap their French fries and Belgian waffles for some all-American soul food ever since and there are few more atmospheric spots to tuck into a burger. Taking over a restored 16th-century building in the heart of the capital, fans of the Hard Rock Café will find all their favorites on the Brussels’ menu, from Bar-B-Que Ribs to Wildberry Smoothies, but of course, the Hard Rock Café has always been about more than just the food.
Walking down the tree-lined Avenue Louise is the best way to experience the city’s best in luxury and fashion. Belgian and international designer labels line the elegant thoroughfare, which runs adjacent to the Boulevard de Waterloo. Here you’ll find upscale clothing shops for both women and men, with smaller, more affordable boutiques interspersed.
The avenue was commissioned by King Leopold II in 1847 to provide more direct access to the city’s Bois de la Cambre area. Named for his daughter Princess Louise, it now serves as a main street in the heart of Brussels. Keep your eyes peeled for art deco townhouses, extravagant hotels, and small, manicured parks and gardens. The avenue is also home to some of the city’s tallest office buildings. Or go for a leisurely stroll along the avenue’s 2.7 kilometers and be content with window shopping and people watching.
More Things to Do in Brussels
Famous Brussels architect and leader of the Art Nouveau movement Victor Horta built this town house along Avenue Louise in 1894. Horta designed the house in great detail and with precious material from floor to ceiling. From the carpets and walls to the furniture and the light fixtures, Hotel Solvay is a display of luxury and design. The iron and marble staircase was built in collaboration with Belgian pointillist painter Théo van Rysselberghe.
Along with three of Horta’s other Brussels town houses, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site for its contribution to the development of Art Nouveau in architecture. Chemical magnate Arthur Solvay commissioned the house with unrestricted budget and creative freedom, so Horta was able to realize all of his design ambitions for the space. Hotel Solvay is the best preserved of the four houses, having undergone several renovations and keeping original art and functionality in place.
This Brussels town house is widely considered to be the first structure built in Art Nouveau style. Designed by architect Victor Horta in 1894, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site along with three of Horta’s other iconic hotels. Horta was a pioneer of the Art Nouveau transition away from the classical tradition to modern architectural design.
The town house’s floor plan, materials, and decorations, including custom built furniture, were highly innovative at the time of their construction. The two main parts are connected by a steel structure with a glass roof that brings in much of the rooms’ natural light. With mosaics and stained glass throughout, much of the house’s beauty is due to the small lavish details Horta urged. The use of stone alongside a modern use of metal materials was groundbreaking in the 19th century. The open floor plan and curved lines of decoration blend seamlessly with the square structure of the rooms, another progressive architectural move.
At the Brussels Gueuze Museum you will see the working brewery almost unchanged from 1900. You can view all the steps of lambic’s mysterious journey and perhaps even catch the brewer mixing or bottling the beer.
Beer is one of the best things about Belgium and that’s showing no disrespect to Belgium because the beers are out of this world! A style of beer particular to Brussels is lambic beer which is allowed to spontaneously ferment using wild yeast from the atmosphere; it has a distinctive sour taste.
The Cantillon Brewery is the last brewery left out of the 70-odd that once brewed lambic in Brussels. Its specialties include gueuze (a blend of one-and two-year-old lambics), kriek (lambic with cherries added) and framboise (lambic with raspberries).
The Ciamberlani House is a townhouse in Brussels that was built by Paul Hankar for the Italian artist Albert Ciamberlani in 1897. Hankar and Ciamberlani collaborated on the design and details of the house, and it is one of the major Art Nouveau buildings in Belgium. Architect Adrien Blomme renovated the house in 1927 resulting in aspects of both Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the interior. One of the most remarkable details about this building is the spectacular sgraffito on its facade. The facade combines elements of ironwork, bricks, and natural stones. Two large, semi-circular windows on the first floor allow sunlight to flood the rooms located in this section of the house.
A row of six windows, which are separated by cast iron posts and flanked by small columns, illuminates the second floor. On the top level there is another sgraffito designed by Adolphe Crespin with a frieze of sunflowers and seven medallions themed around the Labors of Hercules.
One of the city’s most striking landmarks, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart was built to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Belgian independence. King Leopold II laid the first stone of the Roman Catholic basilica and parish in 1905. World War I delayed construction and it took nearly 60 years to complete. Today the Art Deco style monument with its red brick and distinctive green dome holds two museums and is one of the five largest churches in the world.
Visitors can marvel at the size and design of the basilica from the outside or climb the interior for some of the best views of Brussels and the Flemish Brabant countryside. Walking out onto the platform near the top of the basilica dome grants panoramic views almost 80 meters up from the ground. There are also eight bright stained glass windows depicting the life of Jesus that were designed by Belgian painter Anto Carte.
The Cinquantenaire District in Brussels is the area of the city surrounding the Cinquantenaire Park. The park itself was built to commemorate 50 years of Belgium's independence. Dominating the park is the Triumphal Arch and three museums. The museums located here are Autoworld, which showcases the evolution of the automobile throughout history; the Royal Museum of Art and History, which contains a wide range of art and artifacts from pre-history forward; and the Belgian Army Museum and Museum of Military History, which examines the development of military technology throughout history along with the major campaigns fought on Belgian soil. In the summer, the park hosts concerts, festivals, drive-in movies, and it is the starting point of the Brussels marathon. This district, also known as the European District, is the heart of the European Union. The buildings that house the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council of Ministers can be found in this area.
Just a short drive outside of Brussels, this village offers some of the area’s best luxury shopping with access to 95 designer shops. The area’s traditional Limburg style of architecture is reflected in the form of the buildings, and the location in the quiet countryside carries over into the village. Conceived as a historical mining village, it is now filled with high-end boutiques containing both local Belgian brands such as Essentiel, Olivier Strelli, and Sarah Pacini, and internationally known labels such as Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana. Prices are often significantly lower than similar nearby shops.
Of course it is important to refuel after a long day of shopping, and the village has both traditional Belgian treats such as waffles and moules frites in addition to Italian cuisine at the center’s outdoor Gastronomia Cellini. Just be sure to bring enough strength to carry multiple shopping bags.
One of Belgium’s most famous beers and exported all around the world, Stella Artois has been brewed in the Belgian town of Leuven since 1926, when it was originally launched as a Christmas beer.
Today, touring the Stella Artois Brewery in Leuven has become a popular pastime for beer lovers and visitors can go behind-the-scenes, learning how the careful blend of malted barley, hops and water is achieved and watching the high-speed bottling process, before sampling a pint of Stella Artois and shopping for souvenirs at the Stella gift shop. The brewery has a history dating back six centuries, with its namesake Sebastian Artois taking over as master brewer in 1708, and is now run by the world’s biggest brewing company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, producing not only Stella Artois, but other iconic brands like Leffe and Hoegaarden.
Belgium has produced more comic-strip creators than any other country, and one of the world’s favorite comic characters flowed from the pen of Georges Remi, who breathed life into Tintin and his trusty terrier Snowy in 1927 under the name Hergé.
Tintin’s outlandish adventures are published in over 70 languages, and more than 200 million copies of all 24 titles have been sold around the world. Hergé is now commemorated at his own museum just outside Brussels.
The building itself was designed by French architect Christian de Portzamparc and the architecture is all part of the attraction -- a sparkling white, minimalist and box-like contemporary affair. One exterior wall of the building comprises a massive image of Tintin, while another bears Hergé’s distinctive signature.
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