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.
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is the location for Belgium's royal weddings and funerals. It started its construction in the 13th Century and it was completed two centuries later. Various chapels were added during the 16th and 17th centuries. A striking figure of precision and symmetry, the cathedral serves as a monumental example of Brabant-Gothic architecture. Outside, two awe-inspiring towers attract attention and it is hard not to admire the intricate stained-glass windows. The remnants of the 10th-century Romanesque church, on top of which the cathedral was built, evoke considerable awe as well. Concerts featuring religious or classical music are also regularly held here.
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.
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.
Visit all of Europe's highlights in miniature form. No need for the Chunnel when Big Ben is just a few paces from the Eiffel Tower. Added to the fun is the fact that you don't just admire Mini Europe's sights, you can also participate. Want to erupt Vesuvius? Just press the button. The miniature trees and plants in the park make everything appear realistic in scale. On weekends during the high season you can also visit at night and watch the musical firework display. Mini-Europe is fun for all ages.
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.
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.
Petit Sablon Square, also called Place du Petit Sablon, is a beautiful square and garden that was built in the late 1800s. The square is surrounded by 48 statues symbolizing medieval guilds, giving you an insight into how people used to live. This lovely landscaped garden also features a fountain with the figures of the Count of Egmont and Count of Horn.
The five-floor Magritte Museum pays homage to world-renowned surrealist artist René Magritte. A trip through the museum provides deep insight into the Belgian artist's life. Along with 200 of his most famous paintings and sculptures, on display are Magritte's quirky creations such as vintage photographs, musical scores and surrealist film productions. During his brief stint in advertising, he designed a number of posters, which later fed into his artistic works. These are also displayed along with films that inspired him. The museum is part of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and houses a center for conducting research on Magritte's life and works.