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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.
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.
Belgium's iconic Grand Place stands as a testament to the city's glorious cultural and economic legacy. Recognized as one of the most splendid market squares in Europe, its arcade is completely enclosed by tall, gabled Flemish Renaissance buildings decorated with intricate ornamentation and carved statues. Of the buildings that surround the square, the Town Hall with its Brabantine Gothic tower and the Neo-Gothic Brussels City Museum are especially remarkable. Impressive as it is by day, the square is even more stunning at night under the golden glow of street lights. During spring and summer evenings there is a light show that brings to life the city's musical and cultural heritage.
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 Palace of Congress (now housing the Square – Brussels Convention Centre) and the Royal Library of Belgium, 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.
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.
The Royal Museums of Art and History, often simply called Royal Museums, is made up of various smaller museums including Cinquantenaire Museum, Musical Instruments Museum, and Museums of the Far East. This collection of museums makes Brussels a must-visit for art lovers, history buffs, music enthusiasts, and curious people of all types.
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.
The carefully planned complex of Grand Hornu was once an industrial mining center and is situated just outside the city of Mons. The complex was designed by Henri De Gorge in a Neoclassical style which is revered for the classic setup of industrial and housing estates. The center comprises of Castle Gorge, more than 400 housing estates and several industrial plants. These have been refurbished over the time and are used to host exhibitions related to the history of the complex. Call or visit their website for tour information.
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.
The Halle Gate is the last remaining piece of the old wall that encircled the city until the 19th century, when the wall was taken down to make way for a much-needed road. The remnant of the ancient wall, which was built in the 14th century, now houses a museum of the city's history and traditions.