Brussels – More Than Just the EU
Brussels has an unfair reputation as being rather dull. It is the headquarters of the European Union and the European Parliament, where over 20,000 office workers from all over the world live and work making rules which routinely affect the lives of millions of Europeans. The city’s population is suitably diverse; you will hear both Dutch and Flemish widely spoken, and there are well-established areas of Chinese and Middle Eastern immigrants, along with ethnic shops and restaurants.
Priceline Coupons Fell Into Our Lap: What Are We To Do?
So due to a weird series of events, we found ourselves in possession of a last-minute flight voucher that I could use on Priceline.com. We decided to try an unconventional city: a city that most tourists wouldn’t normally think of as a tourist hot-spot, but nonetheless is a major city with culture, dining and all the great things that make up a great trip.
To solidify the city’s image as a symbol of a unified Europe, there is even a European market held in the city two weeks before Christmas, where each country in the EU offers its own representative gifts and foods, along with singing and dancing. The city’s so-called European quarter boasts several beautiful older squares and buildings, excellent museums and more Michelin-rated restaurants than Paris. Brussels is also famous for its Art Nouveau building and is one of the best places in Europe to see the distinctive stained glass windows and decorative stonework from the 19th century.
The Grand Place
Any visit to Brussels should begin in the Grand Place, the geographical center of the city and one of the finest squares in Europe. Most of the beautiful buildings surrounding the square date from the 1600s and have wonderful decorative facades. The Grand Place has a daily colorful flower market, and there are usually performances by street entertainers. Two museums are located here, the museum of the city of Brussels and a small but fascinating brewing museum, where you can sample the merchandise. The nearby Rue des Bouchers is a tiny street lined with bars and restaurants spilling out onto the street, many specializing in the Belgian delicacy of mussels.
The Mannekin Pis
A couple of blocks away from the Grand Place is the modest symbol of the city, the mannekin pis. This is a small statue of a small boy in the act of urinating, and legend has it that the boy was responsible for putting out a fire at the town hall in this manner. The Museum of Brussels has a collection of over 500 colorful costumes for the little boy, including a miniature Elvis outfit, which have been ceremoniously presented to the city by France. If you are visiting on a public holiday, the statue is dressed in one of the costumes.
Brussels is a great place for shopping. Belgium is well known for its fine chocolate and its lace, and there are plenty of shops in the city specializing in those two luxuries. Belgium takes its chocolate so seriously that in 2002 the Ministry of Economic Affairs created a measure of quality assurance to ensure the continued excellence of the product. One of Europe’s oldest shopping malls, the Galeries Royales St. Hubert, was opened in 1847 and has fine shops on several levels as well as street musicians playing classical music. At the other end of the shopping scale is the huge flea market held daily on the place Jeu-de-Balle.
There are over 75 museums in and around the city. One of Belgium’s exports to the world was the famous comic book character Tintin, who in 2014 celebrated his 85th anniversary. The cartoon museum includes rare drawings by Tintin’s creator, Herge, as well as more recent and innovative cartoon art. The best museum in the city is the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, which contains works mostly by Belgian artists, dating from the 14th century to the present day. Perhaps the most unusual and striking building in Brussels is the Atomium. The structure represents a model of an iron molecule enlarged 165 billion times and was originally built for the World’s Fair in 1958.
Just 12 miles from Brussels is the battlefield of Waterloo, the site of a battle that changed the path of European history. You can get an overview of the battlefield from the top of a stone commemorative pyramid called the Butte de Lion, although it’s difficult to imagine the rolling farmland as a bloody battlefield. For a more close-up look, visit the Hougoumont farmhouse, which still has visible battle scars, and where the farm keeper will usually let visitors wander around. The visitor’s center offers an unusual and moving film of the battle as seen through the eyes of children.
It’s well worth looking past the city’s rather stuffy image to see what else this truly international city has to offer.