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.
This location is home to many upscale antiques stores, along with Emporio Armani, the world-renowned pastry boutique Wittamer, and much more. The square is distinguished by a statue of Minerva, given to the city as a gift in 1751. Here you'll also find Our Lady Church and the Sablon Church. On Saturday from 9a-6p and on Sunday from 9a-2p an antique market is in full swing. Just across the square you'll find Place du Petit Sablon, a quaint garden filled with statues.
This whimsical fountain takes the form of a nonchalant, unclothed boy relieving himself into a basin, a symbol indicative of the city of Brussels' eccentric spirit. A drinking-water fountain that dates back to the 15th Century, the original Manneken Pis was replaced by a bronze cast in 1619 by Jerome Duquesnoy. Although the cheerful little lad survived the bombardment of Brussels in 1695, the statue was repeatedly stolen and retrieved making for a rather colorful history that is heartily embellished with folklore and legends. Following its abduction in 1965, the original was once more rescued, this time from the depths of the Charleroi Canal, restored and placed under the care of the Museum of the City of Brussels, and replaced with a copy. The spirit of this cheeky icon has not diminished, however, but instead has come to be world-renown. With a wardrobe composed of over 900 outfits, the Manneken Pis is dressed in different garb at varying points throughout the year, an event that attracts visitors from near and far. From the 19th Century onward, the Manneken Pis no longer dispenses drinking water but instead is an ornamental fountain. A rather small and undeniably odd image for a cultural icon, the Manneken Pis, or "peeing boy," nonetheless remains a treasured symbol of Brussels' irreverent wit.
Spanning a sizable area in the valley of Woluwe, the emerald expanses of the Woluwe Park offer a wealth of natural beauty. The velveteen green spaces of the park have stood the test of time since they first arose at the behest of King Leopold II. During the Universal Exposition of 1897, the king wished to build a massive park that would draw the eye of the bourgeois, at the same time linking the Cinquantenaire and the domain of Tervuren with one another. The park evokes instant awe and wonder, with its quiet leafy alcoves, sparkling ponds, and nearly 300 billowing trees that feature across its broad expanse. It is also home to ducks, swans, gulls, and Egyptian geese, who are seen frolicking merrily along the park's tranquil ponds.
The Royal Military Museum strives to illustrate the evolution of warfare technology from the Middle Ages onward. Walk through the displays and marvel at historical weapons, armor, medals and pennants from around the world. Make sure you visit the Napoleon collection for a particularly fascinating look about the Battle of Waterloo. There is also an onsite shop and cafeteria.
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.
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.
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!
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.