“But Brussels should ask to be delivered from its friends. It is not a miniature anything, but a very solid and extensive old city, with a physiognomy and character quite its own. It is very much less elegant than the Paris of the last twenty years; but it is decidedly more picturesque.”
— from “Transatlantic Sketches” 1875 by Henry James (1843-1916)
In 1880, the year of the 50th anniversary of Belgium’s independence, Leopold II, King of the Belgians, wanted to hold a world exhibition organized in Brussels. At this exhibition, the king could show off the prosperous nation of Belgium; and illustrate that the country was ready to take its place among the nations of Europe. Part of the plan for the fair was Cinquantenaire Park.
Cinquantenaire Park’s most eye-catching monument is the Triumphal Arch (Arc De Triomphe). Built as a new gate to the city center for those entering from the eastern side of Brussels, arch served as a monument to Brussels’s past.
Planned for the World Exhibition of 1880, the Arch could not be completed in time. By 1880 only the base of the columns had been finished. While the Exhibition was in process, wooden panels were used as a temporary solution to complete the Arch. In the following years, King Léopold and his government argued heatedly about the Arch’s completion. The government did not want to spend the amount of money necessary to fulfill the king’s vision. Privately, His Majesty provided the money; and the arch was finally finished by 1905, in time for the 75th anniversary of Belgian independence.
The monument that crowns the Arch is a quadriga, which represents the province of Brabant. Belgium’s other eight provinces are represented by allegoric figures at the foot of the columns.
Very closed to the Cinquantenaire Park, rue Demot (see 10. in Map), you can enter Passage du Pré ("Meadow passage"), to discover a small place you would not expect in the "centre of Europe". Unfortunately, there is no place to sit and parked cars recall us where we are.
It is possible to visit the top of the arches of Jubelpark / 50aire. We did it during the Brussels meeting on Nov.30.
This grants you with a nice view on the center of Brussels and the South. From far, you would see most of Brussels landmarks too. Plus, it is free. Entry is in Army and Military history museum. Enter the museum and it's at your left. You will have to pass the little passage in front of the information stand at your right though. Then take the lift till the top. You will be able to see both parts of the arches. Pay attention to deadline: last time to stay on top of the arches is 11.45 am (but you'd be ousted at 11.40am :). So be sure to arrive there at 11.30 am at latest.
It is nice to see what the urban planners of the past had in mind. The arches were built to celebrate Belgian 50th Independance anniversary. The park in itself was built to liaise the center of the city to the South.
Click here to know more of it. And here to have the view from top of the arches.
Wanna know more about Etterbeek? Click here Metro M stations: Mérode & Schumann (if you don't mind walking a bit)
this half-statue is found in the Parc du Cinquantenaire...climb up and complete the statue...like my friend!