Brussels, Belgium

Brussels is the essence of charm. The capital of Belgium offers the gamut from a royal palace to flower-filled squares plus the best waffles and chocolates you have ever tasted.

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1 Flower Market and Guildhalls at Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium

These 17th century guildhalls are a few of the magnificent buildings encircling Grote Markt in Brussels. Grand Place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An array of fresh flowers is sold daily in the market. Every other August since 1971, this central square is adorned with a million fragrant flowers. The Tapis de Fleurs Association creates a 252 by 78 foot floral blanket with intricate designs resembling a tapestry. The biennial event is called Flower Carpet.

Grand Place 21, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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2 House of the Dukes of Brabant Pediment at Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium

Magnificent is one of many superlatives to describe the seven guildhalls called the House of the Dukes of Brabant along the Grand Place’s east side. This bas-relief pediment graces the center of the Baroque façade of Maison des Ducs de Brabant. Apparently it represents “Abundance” but some believe it means “Recovery of Trade and Industry.” Also notice the golden seals of the merchant trades that worked here centuries ago.

Grand Place 16, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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3 Guildhalls on Northeast of Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium

The square called Grand Place became the hub for Brussels’ merchants about ten centuries ago but was completely destroyed by the French in 1695. From the ashes, the local merchants (called guilds) each designed their adjoining buildings. In this photo (left to right), they are the King’s House annex (Chambrette de l’Amman), the Pigeon (painters), Golden Galleon or Sloop (tailors), and the Angel (Abby of Forest). On top in the middle is a statue of Bishop St. Boniface.

Grand Place 25, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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4 Maison du Roi or King’s House at Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium

If you are interested in history, you will want to walk through the Museum of the City of Brussels. It is housed in Maison du Roi. The building is also known as King’s House because it was built in 1536 by the Duke of Brabant. Another name is the Breadhouse because it was the bread market from the 13th through the early 16th centuries. Maison du Roi is located on the north side of Grand Place. This has been the city’s major square since the late 11th century when it was called the Lower Market.

Grand Place 29, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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5 Chubby Haberdasher Babies Relief on Fox Guildhall Façade in Brussels, Belgium

Like so many other guildhalls at the Grand Place, the one called Le Renard or The Fox has many interesting features on its façade like this relief of chubby babies performing haberdashery tasks. Off camera below is a statue of a fox. On top of the building is a sculpture of the guild’s patron saint, St. Nicholas.

Grand Place 7, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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6 Sculptures in Main Portal of Town Hall in Brussels, Belgium

Over the main portal of the Town Hall, also called Hôtel de Ville, is this tympanum. The sculpture second from the left is St. Christopher carrying the baby Jesus. In the center is St. Michael the archangel standing on Lucifer, the devil. He is also the patron saint of Brussels. To the right is St. George slaying a dragon. The originals sculptures are on display at the Maison du Roi museum across the Grand Place square. In the archivolt above are images of scholars and lawmakers.

Grote Markt 8, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
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7 Guildhalls on Southeast Side of Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium

Here are more gorgeous buildings on the southeast side of Grand Place in Brussels. The first two on the left were residences called Mt. Tabor and The Rose. In the middle is the Golden Tree hall used sequentially by tanners, upholsterers and brewers. The one with the Swan hints at its name, De Zwaan, a hall for butchers. Attorneys used the last one with the archway. All of these were restored in the late 19th century to their original splendor.

Grand Place 10, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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8 Tintin Comic Mural on Rue de l’Etuve in Brussels, Belgium

European comic book lovers instantly recognize these characters descending a fire escape in a mural on Rue de l’Etuve. They are Tintin, the boy reporter, his beloved fox terrier Snowy, and Captain Haddock. This is one of 30 murals you’ll see during the Brussel’s Comic Book Route walking tour, sponsored by the Belgium Center for Comics which opened in 1989. Japanese tourists especially love visiting the Tinton shop. It sells everything associated with the comic series which has sold over 200 million copies in 70 languages.

Rue de l'Etuve 37, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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9 Palais de Justice or Law Courts of Brussels Façade in Belgium

3000 homes were demolished for the construction of the 19th century’s largest building, the Palais de Justice. Measuring 525 by 482 feet, the enormous, grey façade of the Law Courts of Brussels has imposing Corinthian columns and a golden dome (off camera). When it was finished in 1883 it was 12.5 times over budget. Today, its huge stones look old, dirty and in need of restoration. It’s built on Galgenberg Hill, formally known as “gallows hill.”

Place Poelaert 1, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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10 Winged Lions Statues on Palais de Justice Façade in Brussels, Belgium

For some unexplainable reason, I like statues of winged, mythological creatures. So, I was eager to understand the winged lions on the Palais de Justice building. Apparently, there isn’t any other than the architect, Joseph Poelaert, also liked them. He spent ten years designing the 19th century’s largest building and nearly drove Brussels to bankruptcy during construction. Outraged citizens nearly destroyed it during a riot when it opened in 1883. Then he was cursed as skieven architek, which means crooked architect. The phrase is still used today as an insult.

Place Poelaert 1, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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11 Church of Our Lady Sablon and Petit Sablon Square in Brussels, Belgium

I almost didn’t take this photo of another church named Notre Dame (French for “Our Lady”). But its history is fascinating. It began as a chapel for crossbowmen in 1348 when Beatrice Soetkens, the wife of a poor cloth worker, had a vision from the Virgin Mary to row a boat to Antwerp and retrieve the Our Lady of the Branch statute from a cathedral. When a priest tried to stop her, he became motionless. The miracle gave birth to the Ommegang which is an annual pageant in Brussels. This Gothic church, called Church of Our Lady Sablon, was built in the 15th and 16th century. In the foreground is the lovely Place du Petit Sablon. Throughout its beautiful flower gardens are 48 columns with a bronze statue on top. Each one represents a profession or trade from the Middle Ages.

Rue de la Régence 3, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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12 Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula Façade in Brussels, Belgium

This exquisite Roman Catholic cathedral is named in honor of Brussels’ patron saints: Michael the Archangel and Saint Gudula. Relics of the martyr are entombed in this Brabantine Gothic church that was completed in 1519 after 300 years of construction. You may want to time your visit for Sunday when the 49 bells in the two towers provide of wonderful concert.

Place Sainte-Gudule, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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13 Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula Tympanum in Brussels, Belgium

The central portal of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is magnificent. In the tympanum are six statues of the Apostles. The addition six statues are on the sides (four showing). On the bottom column are the Biblical Three Magi (Wise Men) named Melchoir, Gaspard and Balthazar. Once inside, you’ll want to see the organ with its 4,300 pipes.

Place Sainte-Gudule, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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14 Street Vendor Brussels Waffle Sign in Brussels, Belgium

No, this is not a Belgium waffle. That name is strictly North American after being introduced in Seattle, Washington in 1962. This is a street vendor’s sign for Brussels waffles which use a yeast batter. They are sold warm and crispy with rectangular sides and deep pockets to contain layers of confectioner’s sugar, whipped cream, fruit and chocolate. Yes, they are gooey, sloppy, messy and so delicious. Other types eaten in Belgium are the Liège and Flemish waffles.

Rue au Beurre 34, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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15 Hot Chocolate Sticks Called Chocolars Chauds Maison in Brussels, Belgium

If you love chocolate, you will love Brussels. The main tourist streets are lined with confectioners who shamelessly display rows of tasty, tempting sweets. When you are lured into one of their shops, the wonderful aroma has enough calories to blow your diet for a week. Perhaps your best choice is the Belgian pralines. These delicacies are chocolate bonbons with endless types of liquid fillings. Or maybe you would like some speculoos cups or a baseball-sized meringue. The most innovative idea are these hot chocolate sticks in twelve flavors called Chocolars Chauds Maison. Just drop one in a cup of hot water, stir and enjoy.

Rue au Beurre 31, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
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16 De Goude Huyve Tavern in Brussels, Belgium

This delightful building called De Goude Huyve caught my eye because of its unique Baroque appearance with orange bricks and the curious ladder under the window. I later learned it is the first of a row of 900 year old taverns connected to the side of the St. Nicholas’s Church.

Petite Rue au Beurre 17, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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17 Bourse/Beurs or Brussels Stock Exchange Facade in Belgium

Two hundred years after the Brussels Stock Exchange was founded by Napoleon, it merged in 2000 with the French, Amsterdam and Portuguese exchanges to become the Euronext Brussels. This building along Boulevard Anspach called Bourse/Beurs was completed in the Neo-Renaissance style in 1873. In 2015, the Stock Exchange moved into the Marquis Building adjacent to the Central Station. Now this city landmark has become Belgian Beer World.

Place de la Bourse, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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18 Sculpture on Bourse/Beurs or Brussels Stock Exchange in Belgium

The exterior of the Bourse/Beurs or the Brussels Stock Exchange is adorned by numerous, beautiful statues that were created in the late 19th century by Brussels sculpture Joseph Jacquet and French artist Auguste Rodin. Each represents a different theme, such as commerce, industry, art, science, etc. This one is called Prudence and Vigilance by Albert-Ernst Carrier Belleise.

Place de la Bourse, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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19 Drug Opera Restaurant in Brussels, Belgium

If you own an English pub and a restaurant in a city like Brussels that is filled with cuisine choices – ranging from waffle nooks, to chocolate shops, to alley cafes, to meals designed by famous chefs – then how do you stand out? Paint your building bright yellow and name it the Drug Opera. Every passing tourist will at least take a picture. The curious name was chosen because the building used to be a drugstore and opera house. Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie (Royal Theatre of the Mint) is now located nearby at Place de la Monnaie.

Rue Grétry 51, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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20 Pro Patria Monument in Brussels, Belgium

Brussels has been ruled by France, Austria and the Netherlands before the Belgium Revolution of 1830 began after an opera performance. The 467 revolutionaries that died to form the Kingdom of Belgium are buried in Martyr’s Square beneath the Pro Patria Monument. The female figure carved from Carrara marble in 1838 by Guillaume Geefs represents motherland stepping on the chains of oppression.

Place des Martyrs, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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21 Chocolate Manneken Pis Statue in Brussels, Belgium

I’ll often ask in a tourist office for the city’s top landmarks. I was surprised to learn the most popular site in Brussels is a two foot, bronze statue of a naked boy urinating in a fountain called Manneken Pis. The 1619 version was created by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder. This attraction is on display at the Maison du Roi Museum. The 1965 replica on the corner of Rue de l’Etuve and Rue des Grands Carmes draws huge, snickering crowds. Frankly, I was more impressed by this giant, chocolate version in the store window of Leonidas, a famous Belgian chocolatier.

Boulevard Anspach 46, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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22 Historic Tramway Mural in Brussels, Belgium

In the last thirty years of the 19th century, Brussels introduced trams that were drawn by horse and then powered by steam, battery and finally electricity in 1894. Today, the city has an extensive public transportation system, including the metro, bus and subway. However, some of the old streetcars still operate, like these shown in a mural from the Bourse Premetro Station. A few also were sent to San Francisco and New York where they are still running.

Boulevard Anspach & Rue Henri Maus, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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23 Garden of Chinese Pavilion in Brussels, Belgium

In 1901, King Leopold II commissioned from Shanghai this Chinese Pavilion for placement in Laeken, which is a suburb of Brussels not far from the Royal Palace. In 1913, it became an upscale restaurant. Since 1946, it has been part of the Royal Museums of Art and History. Inside are exhibits of 19th and 20th century Chinese ceramics, tapestries and furniture.

Avenue Van Praet, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
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24 Royal Palace of Laeken Front Gate in Brussels, Belgium

There are two palaces in Brussels. Palais Royal is in city center and is used for government activities and functions. The other, Royal Palace of Laeken, is the residence of the monarchs. It is surrounded by a huge, long wall. The primary entrance on Avenue du Parc Royal is behind this elaborate gate. The lion statue represents Leo Belgicus, a dominate image on the country’s coat of arms.

Avenue du Parc Royal, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
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25 Royal Palace of Laeken in Brussels, Belgium

The Royal Palace of Laeken was built in 1784 by the Governors of the Habsurg Netherlands when Belgium was under Dutch rule. However, after the Belgian Revolution in 1830, which gave the country their independence, it became the residence of their first king, Leopold I. Ever since, it has been the official home of the King and Queen of the Belgians. The public does not have access to it or the huge park called Royal Domain of Laeken where it is located.

Avenue du Parc Royal, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
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26 Royal Greenhouses in Brussels, Belgium

In the late 19th century, King Leopold II of Belgium wanted to fill his Royal Palace with plants, flowers and trees from all over the world. He commissioned a series of enormous, glass greenhouses be built in the 345 acre Parc Royal surrounding the official residence. Hundreds of blooming flowers are housed under elaborate rotundas and domes. This spectacular garden in the “city of glass” is only open for public tour during three weeks in the spring.

Avenue du Parc Royal, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
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27 Atomium Building in Brussels, Belgium

The 335 foot tall Atomium building represents an iron crystal magnified over 165 billion times. The stainless steel spheres were designed by André Waterkeyn for the 1958 World’s Fair. An elevator to the top provides a wonderful view of Brussels. It also houses a restaurant and exhibition halls. Due to stringent copyright laws, this photo is considered private, is not published for a commercial purpose and cannot be purchased.

Square de l'Atomium, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
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28 Model of Church of Notre Dame in Dinant at Mini-Europe in Brussels, Belgium

This appears to be a photo of the Gothic Collegiate Church of Notre Dame. It has been built, destroyed and rebuilt twice since the 13th century and is locate in Dinant, Belgium, about 55 miles from Brussels. However, it is one of 350 model buildings from 80 cities that are built to scale at Mini-Europe. This outdoor park was opened in 1989 after an investment of €10 million and is a delightful way to see most of Europe’s finest architecture in miniature.

Eeuwfeestlaan / Boulevard de Centenaire, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
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