Europe | Geographia
to Belgium | Brussels | History | Art
The Capital of Europe
is a cosmopolitan city, with a liveliness and an appeal that
are intimately related to its role as a crossroads for all
of Europe. Architectural styles range from Gothic cathedrals
and churches to the gracious classical facades of the Palais
des Nations, the Royal Palace and to the many art nouveau and
art deco houses in the comfortable neighborhoods where the
The heart of Brussels and the place to start getting to know
the city is the Grand'Place. This historic square, lined with
exuberantly ornate guild houses and focused on the Gothic heights
of the Hotel de Ville, is widely held to be one of Europe's
The Grand'Place is also, as it has been for centuries, the focal
point of the city's social and civic life. The people of Brussels
gather here for their most important ceremonies and festivals, for
the traditional bird market on Sunday mornings, and - perhaps most
importantly - for no task more pressing than to sit, have a beer,
and let the world pass.
Every neighborhood has its own market as Brussels is a city of markets:
the bird market, the flower market, the antique market, the flea
market, and the horse market. Vendors bring fresh produce from nearby
fields, cheeses made in farms and abbeys; hams cured in the Ardennes,
flowers and potted plants, chickens, rabbits and fresh caught fish,
shrimp and mussels from the North Sea.
At the corner of the Rue de l'Etuve and the Rue
du Chene, stands the fountain of Manneken-Pis. The statue has long been a beloved
figure in Brussels, having come to be regarded as an honored citizen
of the town. Kings, Presidents, and celebrities have given costumes
to the Manneken-Pis. He now has a wardrobe of more than 250 outfits
which are housed in the Musee Communal.
To the east of the Grand'Place, the ground rises toward the upper
town where the Royal Palace and the House
of Parliament sit. In between
these two is a formal park with fountains in the French style with
statues where Belgians fought the Dutch for their independence. Slightly
to the south is the Place du Grand Sablon, the center of exquisite
antique galleries and sumptuous restaurants.
Just to the north of the Grand Sablon is
the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, which comprises the museums of Ancient
Art and of Modern Art.
Both possess enormous collections featuring many outstanding works.
Among the rooms not to be missed is the collection of Flemish paintings
from the 15th and 16th centuries. All of the major artists are well
represented here including Robert Campin, Rogier van der Weyden,
Hugo van der Goes, Dirk Bouts, Hans Memling, and particularly, Peter
Breughel the Elder. There is an entire room devoted exclusively to
Breughel's work, including his Landscape with the "Fall of Icarus." The
national sons, Peter Paul Rubens and his disciple, Anthony Van Dyck
have an impressive presence.
There is no shortage of entertainment events in Brussels, and in
keeping with the city's cosmopolitan outlook, these are widely varied.
They range from the annual Queen Elizabeth Music Competition, which
draws aspiring classical musicians from all over the world, to the
annual Jazz Festival in Brussels which attracts legendary jazz stars
to the city. The Theatre Royal de la Monnaie consistently offers
first class opera and ballet. In the Palais des Beaux Arts, symphony
and chamber music concerts are programmed year-round. There are cinemas
with American films in their original version, nightclubs and discos
to satisfy even the most energetic. Don't forget the folklore and
pageantry integral to an understanding of Belgium, with the Ommegang
Festival, the first Thursday in July or the Parade of the Giants
Mussels in Brussels are a must! They are prepared in a variety
of ways and are a bargain in season. All Belgian food is of course
delicious. Proportions are huge, so try to save room for dessert.
Chocolates, waffles and cookies are everywhere. And after all, you
can always go on a diet in Paris.
Belgium | Brussels | History | Art
Europe | Geographia
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