Starting around 10am in Bruges, I hopped on the hourly train to Brussels for 9 euros, arriving at around 11am. Then I took Tram 82 for 2.10 euros to get to my hostel at Meininger Hotel & Hostel, dropped off my stuff (since check-in wasn’t until 3pm), and headed out to explore Brussels for the day.
After about 15 minutes of strolling through the northwest neighborhoods, I first hit Bourse.
Right by it is the first ever Le Pain Quotidien.
Don’t miss the comic-strip designs on some of the buildings.
Brussels’ symbol, Mannekin Pis, is a few minutes walk from Bourse; it’s a 60cm high statue of a kid literally taking a piss in a fountain and has been adopted as the city’s symbol since the 1400s.
Various theories of his origin exist: One is that he was the son of a Brussels nobleman who got lost and then was found doing the twinkle. Another was that he was exercising his patriotic duty by urinating on a Spanish sentry guard from his window. The most heroic of these was that he extinguished a bomb’s fuse with the first thing he could think of (while happening to be wandering around naked of course), thus saving the Brussels Town Hall.
On holidays you can find him dressed up in over 800+ costumes that are now on display in the Musée de la Ville.
I then headed to Grand-Place, the main plaza surrounded by beautifully gilded buildings, museums, and the Town Hall. This whole square was demolished by the French in 1695, the Town Hall being the only original building still standing, but was rebuilt by the Belgians on a even grander scale within 4 years.
Close by Grand-Place is the beautiful line of shops of Koninklijke Sint-Hubertusgalerijen (Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert).
Among the winding streets immediately north of Grand-Place is a small alleyway leading to 2 more notable Belgian treasures.
One of them is Delirium Café/Bar which won the Guinness Book Of World Records for serving the most number (2000+) of different beers in one location.
The other, facing Delirium Bar, is Jeanneke-Pis. It’s a similarly small statue of that was built in 1987 as the female counterpart to Mannekin-Pis.
Afterwards I headed north to 18th century Place Des Martyrs, where 500 martyrs of Belgium’s 1830 War of Independence lie in state.
East of Place des Martyrs is the only museum I bothered to check out: the Belgian Center for Comic-Strip Art, which explains the history and social/cultural impact of the comic book strip.
Except for an exhibit on Tin-Tin, The Smurfs, and the history of the comic-strip dating back as far as caveman-art, all the rest of the exhibits might only appeal to the local Belgian (none of the comics are in English).
I then walked southeast to Cathedrale des Sts-Michel-Et-Gudule of 1226, a Roman Catholic Church that’s been known as the “purest flowering of the Gothic Style.”
Afterwards I walked by Palais de la Nation…
…through Parc de Bruxelles…
…landing at the Palais Royal on the southern end of the park.
From there I took a metro train to Schuman Station, the heart of the European Union (FYI Brussels is the capital of the EU) and where 25,000 people now work in a 1.2 million square meter space to run the entire EU. The European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council of Ministers are all here.
On top of Schuman Station is the X-shaped Palais de Berlaymont, the former headquarters of the European commission.
Across the street is the Council of Ministers:
Then with a stroll through nearby Leopold Park, you’ll end up at the humongous post-modern structure that is the European Parliament.
In the middle you can find the official statue of Europa:
More of the European Parliament:
I then headed back to the Brussels city center, swinging by the Eglise St-Jacques-sur-Coudenberg.
Flanking the church are 2 squares, the cafe-lined Place Du Grand Sablon:
…and on the other side, the recently renovated Place Du Petit Sablon:
At the very south of the city center is the Palais de Justice. It’s the highest point in Brussels, and where you can catch a great sunset over the city.
The Palais de Justice itself is an architectural marvel. I ignored the front scaffolding and headed inside.
It’s worth a look:
After that, you’ve pretty much seen all of Brussels has to offer in one day, save for the 75+ museums I decided to save for another trip.
Time to end this 4 day weekend and head home.
– At time of posting in Brussels, Belgium, it was 33.8 °F – Humidity: 88% | Wind Speed: 14km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear