Orientation in Brussels
The city of Brussels is composed of 19 independent municipalities with very different personalities. This, however, should not lead you to think that Brussels is a sprawling collection of towns. These municipalities are rather like boroughs or districts of the city, which remains compact and dense, if a bit confusing and not very easily navigated (the lack of adequate public transportation does not help much in this sense).
There are sights of interest for the tourists scattered in almost all of the municipalities, but the bulk of the attractions is concentrated in the proper municipality of Brussels (locally referred to as Bruxelles ville), which includes the historic core of the city, known as the Pentagon for the shape given by the former city walls – today replaced by busy and mostly uninteresting boulevards.
From this historic area, the municipality of Brussels has grown tentacularly at the expenses of its neighbours. It also includes today the Quartier Léopold, where most of the European Institutions have their head quarters; the Laeken and Heyzel areas, where the Atomium and the infamous stadium are located; and the Avenue Louise, stretching as far as the Wood of Lacambre, one of the city's green lungs. The rest of the municipalities in the Brussels region differ in size and character, from working-class Anderlecht to BoBo Ixelles or posh Uccle, and they are generally a good place to take a jaunt off the traditional tourist path and to interact with the locals.
The city is built on several hills - some people they are seven, like any city who prizes itself to be built on hills, but I honestly have never cared to count them. This makes walking to some areas quite tiresome, but provides for panoramic views of the historic area of the city from several vantage points.
The so-called House of the...
The so-called House of the Dukes of Brabant in the Grand Place - actually a group of 7 houses, each with a different name. The ensemble is called 'The Dukes of Brabant' because on the first floor, under the windows, the statues of the dukes can be seen. No duke or king actually lived here. The names of the houses are: The FAME - The HERMIT - The FORTUNE - The WINDMILL - The TIN POT - The HILL - The BEURS
The cathedral is located on Treurenberg Hill, it is not far from the center and close to the central railway station. The first church was built in 1046 to saint Gudula (the name of the cathedral St Michael and St Gudula Church). In XIII century the church was renovated in the gothic style. Some reconstruction and renovated works took place in the long history of the cathedral and the last one was finished in 1999.
View from the Atomium
The exhibition of 1958
The only major monument of 1958 that has remained at the Heysel is also the most spectacular: the Atomium (see below). This was the first world exhibition to take place after World War II. The entire economic outlook was much better than in the 1930's (the creation of the European Economic Community in 1957) and the world was vibrating with enthusiasm for the new technologies (nuclear power, the first satellite launch by the soviets, etc.). Over 35 million people visited the Expo 58 and 46 countries from six continents were represented. Most pavilions were built in a very modern futuristic architectural style which became the symbol of that era.
Nowadays the Heysel park is still visited by many. Next to the football stadium is KINEPOLIS, a major movie complex with 28 cinema rooms and a giant IMAX screen. Another main attraction is the beautiful MINI-EUROPE park, which contains miniature models (scale 1:25) of major monuments from the member states of the European Union.
GO TO THE MARKETS !
GO TO THE MARKETS !
The Midi Market is the big market of Belgium, located near Gare du Midi, exotic market, with fresh products, every sunday morning !
Other markets :
- Grand Place : birds and flowers markets every morning.
- Place du Jeu de Balle : flea market, every day from 7:00 to 14:00