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.
Created by Engineer André Waterkeyn, and architects André and Jean Polak, for the 1958 World Exhibition, the Atomium is a landmark building inspired by the structure of an atom. To be more precise, the design is based upon the cuboid form of a unit cell of iron crystals, amplified 65 billion times to achieve a total height of 102 meters (335 feet). The nine gleaming spheres are held together by tubes, each sphere representative of one of the nine Belgian provinces. The final effect is that of a mammoth, geometric atom composed entirely of metal. The spheres are encased in stainless steel, and harbor exhibition rooms and other public spaces, while the top-most sphere hosts a restaurant with panoramic views of the city. The connecting tubes accommodate escalators, elevators, and stairways that link the individual spheres to one another.
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-renowned. 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.
During the 1958 World Exhibition, one hit exhibition was Vrolijk België (Merry Belgium). This amalgamation of 'antique' bars was meant to illustrate Belgium's high quality of life. After the exhibition, everything, apart from the Atomium, was torn down, but Merry Belgium is back. Now called Brupark, it houses a giant Kinepolis cinema, the swimmer's paradise Oceadium, the popular Mini-Europe, as well as the world-renowned Atomium. Brupark's village can be visited all year round. The bars and restaurants have lovely terraces; there is a playground, a Cyber Café and a beautiful Venetian carousel.
This museum is a fairy tale come true, not just for grown-up boys, but for anyone who ever dreamed of being behind the wheel at the start of a Formula 1 Grand Prix. You'll find modern sports cars as well as vintage antique cars, including Belgian Rolls-Royce of the 1930s and even a limousine owned by John F. Kennedy. More tranquil minds can dream away in the D'Ieteren Hall, that shows a fine collection of carriages and other equestrian items.
Housed in the artistic setting of the Waucquez Warehouses, two of Belgium's specialties go hand-in-hand: Art Nouveau and comics. Belgian Comic Strip Center, built in 1906 by Victor Horta, is home to a fascinating permanent exhibition featuring comics from more than 650 artists. The exhibit indeed traces the rise of comic books in Belgium after World War II, which have become the country's so-called "Ninth Art." The Center also features regular, temporary and interactive exhibitions. If you aren't fully satiated, the museum also boasts a great reading room, a delightful comic strip shop, a wonderful café and the largest library of comic strips in the world!
One of Brussels' most popular attractions, The Théatre Royal De Toone has been entertaining audiences with marionette puppets since 1830. Not just for kids, the Toone puts on shows by Shakespeare, Faust, and other famous playwrights, all adapted to include some of the theater's trademark humor. Located close to the Grand Palace, the Toone offers shows in Dutch, Spanish, English, German, and Italian upon request. If you're planning a visit, reservations are recommended, as the Toone's shows tend to be very busy.
In a country where the average inhabitant consumes about 8.3 kilograms of chocolate a year, you will probably not be surprised to find a chocolate museum. Located on Rue de l'étuve, this is the place to indulge your curiosities about the history of cocoa and chocolate. On certain days of the week, there are demonstrations by a chocolate master as well as an opportunity for you to taste a variety of chocolates. Even better, you can buy some more to take back home. The museum can be rented out for parties and there are regular exhibitions held at this venue.
The Temple of Human Passions, also called the Pavillon Horta-Lambeaux, was made by Victor Horta in 1896 in Cinquantenaire Park. The structure has a neoclassical design with a hint Horta's famous Art Nouveau style. The building was created to hold the "Human Passions" relief by Jef Lambeaux, but due to an argument between the artist and the architect the building remained mostly closed. Currently the building is only open for a short period of time a few days a week during summer. Lambeaux's large relief is based on human sins and pleasures and so you may not want to bring young children to see the artwork.
In 1985, Denis Adrien Debouvrie was commissioned to create a female counterpart to the world-famous Manneken Pis. Now, in a small alley, which can be reached through the tangle of passages of the Rue des Bouchers, you will discover this statue of a mischievous female doing just the same thing as Manneken Pis. The fountain was built in honor of Loyalty. If you throw a coin into the bowl of the fountain, it's rumored that your deepest wish will be granted.