Tours & Walks, Brussels
Directly next door, at Avenue Palmerston, 2, an extension to Hôtel van Eetvelde (at Avenue Palmerston, 4) was designed by Victor Horta in 1898.
Known as Hôtel Delhaye, this building has a beautifully detailed sandstone façade. It was designed to house a garage, an office and a billiard room for van Eetvelde, as well as apartments, therefore it had a separate entrance. Until 1920, No. 2 could be reached internally from No. 4. In photo #1 the “parent house,” No. 4, can be seen.
In 1895, Victor Horta, undoubtedly the key European Art Nouveau architect, designed a townhouse for Edmond van Eetvelde, the administrator of Congo Free State.
Located at Avenue Palmerston, 4, near to the park at Place Ambiorix, this private residence, along with Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel Solvay and Horta’s own townhouse and studio, belongs to a group of ground-breaking urban homes that Horta designed before 1900.
Completed in 1897, Horta’s use of such industrial materials as steel and glass was novel for the private homes of prominent figures of the time. Hôtel van Eetvelde Horta used steel construction for the façade.
Gustave Strauven (1878-1919), a student of Victor Horta, designed Maison Saint-Cyr; it was built between 1901 and 1903. It was commissioned as the private residence of Georges de Saint-Cyr, a composer and musician.
At 13 feet wide it is the narrowest residence in Bruxelles. The façade, especially the balconies, over flows with vegetal-like wrought iron.
Facing south, over looking spacious Place Ambiorix, the most famous residential design of Strauven has been called Art Nouveau Baroque. It is still a private home; visits are not permited.
Belgium is a small country and that is great for travelers.
Centerally located, Brussels is the perfect place to stay while taking day trips anywhere in the country. In less than and hour--sometimes less, sometimes a bit more--much of the country can be conveniently reached by train. I traveled by car or train from Brussels to Mons, Tubize, Deist, Tienen, Lueven, Antwerpen, Brugges, Charleroi and even to Paris, France!
Tubize is just one of the wonderful examples of places I went to from Brussels. A small town southwest of Brussels, worth seeing if you want to get a glimpse of the real life in Belgium.
“Brussels is, upon the whole, a fine city. We are in the best part of it, the Place Royale. You have soon seen every thing in it, however, and then it becomes insipid.”
— Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781-1826, British diplomat)
The present church of St. Catherine was designed in 1854 by Joseph Poelaert, who also designed Brussels’ monumental Palais de Justice. Built between 1854 and 1874 and opening onto Place Sainte-Catherine, it replaced a church dating to the 15th century. The tower (see photo #2) from the original 17th century Église de Sainte-Catherine, which was actually part of the town's first fortified enclosure, still stands nearby.
Inspired by French churches of the 16th century, for example the church of Saint-Eustache near Les Halles in Paris, the church of St. Catherine has a hybrid architecture, with Gothic and Baroque elements.
Threatened with demolition in 1950 in favor of an open car park, the church was under renovation, meant to restore its original elegance, when we visited in 2011. There are plans to deconsecrate St. Catherine’s; a project to transform the building into a covered market is under consideration.
“A truth that disheartens because it is true is of more value than the most stimulating of falsehoods.”
— Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949, Belgian Nobel Prize winner for Literature)
TRUTH BE TOLD Église de Saint Jean Baptiste (the Church of St. John the Baptist) is a beautiful church tucked away on a quiet square in Brussels. Several architectural styles can bee seen inside.
Heads of winged angels (see photo #3) decorate the point where the arches come together, forming the side aisles. A ornate pulpit, as well as a collection of paintings by Van Loon, a 17th century Brussels painter, are among some of the Baroque interior highlights. The interior’s Gothic elements, such as the soaring vaults (see photo #1), have been preserved.
In 2001, a fire broke out in the church and caused damage; the church has been carefully restored. Mass is celebrated in both Dutch and French and is open Monday to Saturday, 10:00 to 17:00, for visitors.
“More than half a million people dwell within the limits of Brussels and its suburbs; one is apt to be struck, not by the size of the city, but by its apparent smallness.”
— from “Belgium and the Belgians” 1907 by Cyril Scudamore
The Église du Béguinage (Beguinage Church), dedicated to St. John the Baptist (Église de Saint-Jean Baptiste, the Church of St. John the Baptist), is styled in the elegant Flemish Baroque. Designed by Luc Fayd’herbe (1617-1697), who was a student of Peter Paul Rubens, shows off many Italian influences on its façade, considered one of the most beautiful in Belgium.
The church originally served as the center for the béguines (lay sisters) who lived in houses clustered around it. For hundreds of years, the Beguine convent stood near the church; it was demolished in the 19th century. During the Beguine’s most active years, it was home to up to 1,200 lay religous. Today, several streets meet at the small, circular square. With similar architectural styles, the surrounding buildings help create a harmonious architectural whole.
A meeting with a Brussels Greeter is a free of charge opportunity to get a unique and personal insight into the city. Your Greeter will take you to unusual and often hidden places that are off the tourist trail. Experience Brussels unique atmosphere through visiting your Greeter’s favourite streets, parks, bars and many more places.
Do you want to give it a try? Go to www.brussels.greeters.be. Fill in the form indicating your interests, availability and contact details while in Brussels. The Brussels Greeters Network will then match you with a local person who will get in contact so you can create your program together.
A Greeter is a resident volunteer who is passionate about his city, open to accommodate and willing to share his favourite spots (bars, parks, quarters...) with visitors. Together Brussels Greeters speak more than 11 languages, have a wide range of interests, age from 20 to 75 and most of all are enthusiastic to welcome tourists!
Greeters are not tour guides and do not give city or museum tours.
I recently discovered a series of small booklets called Nature Walks Near Brussels. They are really great! Pocket-sized, full colour and just the right amount of information for an afternoon's walk in some villages close by Brussels. I bought mine from Nicola's Bookshop, 106 rue de Stassart, 1050 Brussels, but the book says you can also buy them online from www.linxpublications.be
They give public transport directions from Brussels, the history of the region, and describe some interesting buildings and monuments. What's also great is that they recommend places to eat and drink. I tried the Chocola cafe in Tervuren and it was really great: loads of types of chocolate drinks that you make as strong as you want to as you add the cocoa beans to the hot milk. My kids loved it!
Another place I stumbled upon during my walk through the Marollen is the animal dispensary that is operating under the Prince Laurent Foundation.
Prince Laurent is the 2nd son of King Albert II.
His love for animals, and in particular dogs, is well known.
You can find more information about this foundation in the link provided with this tip.
From Ap. to Oct., a guided tour every Sunday afternoon. A tour in Dutch starts at 2pm, in French at 2.30pm. Tours in English, only for groups.
5 circuits of about 15 km, lasting 3 hours, designed to let you know about Brussels atmosphere, history & architecture.
On the menu:
*The heart of Brussels through the centuries: extraordinary history capital & visit its hidden areas.
*Treasures of Art Nouveau (Schaerbeek and the Squares). See works of architects Strauven, Horta & Jacobs.
*Treasures of Art Nouveau (Ixelles / Elsene and St Gilles). See works of architects Blérot, Horta, Hankar & Delune.
*Comic strips and cafés. Discover comic strip murals & typical cafés of central Brussels.
*Fountains and Sculptures. Jef Lambeaux & Constantin Meunier, Mannekenpis, old fountains, old quarters or modern Northern quarter, a tour full of contrasts.
4 circuits of about 25 km, lasting 4 hours, to discover Brussels, the Greenest of cities.
*The green mysteries of northern Brussels. Cycle through parks & reserves, as well as see the grotto of Notre Dame de Lourdes & the gardens of the Erasmus house.
*Castles and abbeys. The splendours of South-West Brussels – a journey back to when the abbeys were at their hey days.
*City and gardens. Visit garden-cities & villas of South-East Brussels.
*Brussels Art Déco and Modernism (1920-1940). A pleasant tour in quarters Molière & Coghen, at the Altitude Cent & through the ULB (Brussels University).
Do not worry about where to hire bicycles,
- let Provelo organize it for group hiring: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- or see:
*The cyclists' house
Rue de Londres 15 Londenstraat - 1050 Brussels (near Trône - Troon metro station & Leopold train station)
*The Bicycle Bus in le bois de la Cambre
Further info: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
and check given URL
My fave: cycling in the park just off my apartment (rather, my apartment was off the park)
Grey, gloomy ramshackle gables first attract tags and graffitti before harbouring illicit rubbish dumps. Paint them afresh with giant comis strip characters and they turn out to be lively sceneries full of colour and light.
Brussels is indeed the Capital of the Comics and, since 1991, 24 painted walls and some statues are there to prove it !
The Comic Strip Frescoes Road is bound to know further and consistent new developments. New frescoes are added each year to the Route on a regular basis.
A leaflet shows you exactly where the painted gables are located.
Visit also the Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art, rue des Sables 20 in 1000 Brussels
Opening hours From tuesday until sunday from 10 a.m until 6 p.m.
Central - De Brouckère - Rogier
29 - 63 - 71
Gare Centrale - Gare du Nord
As I told you before, all streets and squares in BRUSSELS have their names in 2 LANGUAGES in FLEMISH (= DUTCH) and in FRENCH....
Here you see the solution to keep it easy:
on top the word the two french words
and underneath the 3 Flemish words!
This streets has several surprising, fine shops for clothing and special gifts, food and toys....
Let this be the start of your MAROLLEN WALK!
A nice idea o discover Brussels on another way, is to follow the promenade leading to the cartoon facades.
Belgium is world famous for it's cartoon like Tintin, Lucky Luke, Gaston Lagaffe, Marispulami and others. Go the Visitor Info center
The first city wall of Brussels was built at the end of the 11th century or at the start of the 12th century. It had seven gates and some 50 guard towers around the perimeter. A second, much larger wall was built in the 1400s due to the rapid growth of the city. Some small sections of the first wall remain, but there are no remains of the second city wall.