Brussels Town Hall is an intricate Gothic marvel that forms the focal point of Brussels' iconic Grand Place and is easily one of the city's most lavish civic buildings. The Town Hall was chiefly designed by two architects: the left wing by Jacques van Thienen in 1402, and the right wing by Jean van Ruysbroeck in 1445-1450. The two rear wings were added much later in 1712 but were designed in harmony with the architectural style of the original, L-shaped building. The exterior walls of the Town Hall feature numerous statues that depict saints, nobles, and other figures, each a vivid image of the people they represent. Uniting these efforts is the striking and exquisite Gothic tower at the center topped by a statue of St. Michael, the patron saint of Brussels. Inside, the elegant rooms are decorated with tapestries and paintings from the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries. Brussels Town Hall is an arresting sight, especially when lit up at night.
Built in 1929 in an art deco style for the Dutch banker and art collector David Van Buuren, this beautiful mansion was turned into a museum in 1973 featuring fine tapestries, blown glass and paintings by modern and classic masters. The most famous are Breughel's The Fall of Icarus and works by Ensor and Van Gogh. Contemporary sculpture exhibitions are organized in the garden.
The old Mont-des-Arts (Arts Hill) was a series of stairs bordered by statues and trees, connecting uptown (Place Royale) and downtown (Grand Place). In 1958, it was reshaped and two enormous buildings arrived - the Congress Centre and the Royal Library Albert 1, better known as Albertina, where nearly 4 million books are housed. The Belgian state has also endowed the site with scientific, economic and cultural institutions, such as the Rijksarchief (National Archive) and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts. From the French terrace garden you have a beautiful view of the city center. Under the archway there is a large clock with moving statuettes. The chimes in the clock play by turns - following Belgian tradition - a Flemish and a French song.
With its stately facade, opulent interiors and lush, formal gardens, the Royal Palace is a fitting abode for the offices of the King and Queen of Belgium. The individual rooms are lavishly adorned with crystal chandeliers, gilded details, antique furniture, exquisite artwork, and detailed carvings. Of special note is the artwork that adorns the ceiling of the Mirror Room, composed of over a million beetle carapaces inlaid to form intricate designs. Each summer, the palace is opened to the public; a time-honored tradition that grants access to this symbol of Belgium's thriving monarchy.
For the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence in 1880, King Leopold II commissioned the creation of Cinquantenaire Park, also called Jubelpark, and its grandiose triumphal arch. Today, you can visit the museums located here or you can rest on the plush lawn and admire the solemn manor houses. The Great Mosque and the Temple of Human Passions can also be found here. Every year on July 21st, on the National Holiday, there is an evening fireworks display. Jubelpark is an ideal spot for everyone.
Art Nouveau was practically born in Brussels. Victor Horta (1861-1947), considered to be Brussels' master of the arts, designed this house and made it his residence until 1919. It was restored in 1991 and is now a museum. Horta is known for his design of buildings using industrial materials such as metal and iron, manipulated to look organic and natural. The city features many similar buildings.
This cyclist's association was founded in 1992. It not only offers bikes for hire, but the group has built up a great reputation with their guided city biking tours. There are 11 different circuits ranging from Treasures of the Art Nouveau and Brussels, greenest of cities to Brussels by Night, each generally lasting three to four hours. Tours can be arranged for groups. Information on prices can be obtained from their website. They also give Bikes on rent for all those who wish to explore the place on their own.
Antoine Wiertzmuseum is a division of the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts (The Royal Museums of Art and History) and is dedicated to the works of Antoine Wiertz (1806-1865). This painter was born in Dinant, studied in Antwerp and in Rome, and only moved to Brussels in the latter part of his life. In Brussels this museum had a gigantic workshop which is now housing this museum. Wiertz really needed a workshop of this size because he saw things big, some of Wiertz's works are 16 meters (52 feet) tall!
From dinosaur fossils to live tarantulas to rare gems, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences Museum explores the natural wonders of our fascinating planet. The permanent galleries are unique and interesting, including a Gallery of Evolution, Insects Hall, and Minerals Hall. In addition to the permanent displays, the museum features several temporary exhibitions throughout the year, including interactive exhibits. This museum also serves as a research facility.
BELvue Museum is in the House of Bellevue, which used to be an 18th-century hotel for wealthy travelers. Situated next to the Royal Palace, this grand building displays a rich collection of memorabilia collected from the Belgian Royal Dynasty. Located throughout two floors, its rooms are still in the original styles of Louis XV, Empire and Napoléon III, with furniture dating from the 18th century. Recently the courtyard was transformed into a delightful winter garden. Audio-visual tours can be organized for groups.
In this magnificent Old England building, one of architect Paul Saintenoy's creations, the Museum of Musical Instruments houses one of the world's largest collections of musical instruments: over 7000 strong. The exhibition displays an array of these, and visitors receive headphones so that they can hear the serenading tunes of these magnificent instruments. There is a museum shop and a library open by appointment. The restaurant on the sixth floor offers a breathtaking view of Brussels.