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The Royal Palace of Laeken is the official residence of the Belgian royal family. although it is technically not the official Royal Palace of Brussels. This massive palace was built between 1782-1784 for the Hapsburgs of Austria. Once Belgium gained its independence, the palace became the residence of King Leopold I, and has remained as the residence since then. The palace is situated on the grounds of the large private Royal Domain of Laeken park. The palace itself is not open to the public, although it is still quite impressive to behold. Every spring the palace greenhouses are opened for three weeks, during which visitors can tour the grounds and marvel at the magnificent architecture.
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudulal 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.
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 for King Leopold in 1873, these sparkling glass and steel domes border the Royal Palace of Laeken. Greenhouses were an innovative construction of the time and these are particularly extraordinary because of their Art Nouveau style. These greenhouses have an enormous range of rare flowers and plants. While the attraction's exterior can be visited year-round, visitors can only enter the greenhouses' interior and view the plants for a short period in spring.
Egmont Palace was constructed in the 16th-century and completely renovated in the 18th-century by the wealthy Arenberg family. The Belgian government welcomes the international heads of government here and organizes high-level international meetings. For most of us, this building is well-known for its beautiful architecture. The Palace is not accessible to the public, only the gardens and the neighboring Egmont Parc can be visited.
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.
Lion's Mound, often called La Butte du Lion, is a large artificial hill created where William II of the Netherlands was injured during the Battle of Waterloo. At the top of this 40 meter (131 foot) tall hill is a statue of a lion on a stone pedestal which symbolizes the royal victory. You can climb the hill for a small fee to admire a panoramic view of the battlefield.
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.
Built at the behest of Leopold I and designed by the noted architect, Joseph Poelaert, the Palace of Justice is reputed to be one of the largest buildings constructed in the 19th Century. An ambitious project of monumental proportions, the Palace of Justice was completed in 1883, 17 years after construction first began. The architectural style is eclectic, blending neo-baroque elements with classical and ancient styles. Eight courtyards ensure ample supply of fresh air and natural light, while its fluted columns, high ceilings and grand stairways highlight the awe-inspiring proportions of its design. The Palace of Justice continues to serve as the city's main judicial center and is also known as the Law Courts of Brussels.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg is the fifth largest church in the world. Situated on the Koekelberg Hill, the church, dedicated to Sacred Heart, draws its inspiration from the one in Paris. The construction of the church started in 1905 under the reign of King Léopold II, but was put on hold during the two World Wars and was not completed until 1970. The huge structure (about 100 feet tall) is made of bricks and terracotta, with two towers on each side of the entrance, and an Art Deco edifice. A sight to behold, the magnificent church is a major religious as well as architectural landmark.
The Column of Congress was designed in 1850 by architect Joseph Poelaert, who later also built the Palais de Justice. The column is 47 meters (154 feet) high, and on top there is a 25 meter (82 feet) high statue of Léopold I, the country's first king. This column was erected in commemoration of the National Congress who established the Belgian constitution in 1831. At the foot of the column is the eternal flame, in remembrance of the victims of the two World Wars. In the column itself is the grave of the Unknown Soldier. Every November 11th (Remembrance Day) there is a ceremony here in the presence of the Royal Family.
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.