Brussels is the capital of Belgium and of the European Union. It has the largest urban area in Belgium, comprising 19 municipalities including the municipality of the City of Brussels. It is also the seat of Belgium’s French and Flemish Community, with both languages having official status. Brussels began as a 10th century fortress town founded by a descendant of Charlemagne, which has since then boomed into a metropolis that over a million people call home. Since the Second World War, Brussels has turned into the main center for international politics, and hosts a number of international organizations, particularly the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Brussels is also the third in the number of international press conference it hosts and is becoming one of the world’s largest convention centers.
Much of the old town was destroyed to make way for new structures when Brussels became the capital city in the 19th century. New ministries, palaces, schools, army barracks and office blocks were built from 1880-1980, and only a small historic center remained and was preserved. The resulting changes have made Brussels into a fascinating town, where the old intermingle with the new; from its stunning architecture, to its diverse art and culture scene, and its cozy cafes.
If you’re planning a trip to Brussels sometime soon, here are some things worth doing and seeing:
- Get a Brussels Card- the Brussels Card would come in handy, especially if you’re a first time visitor. It provides a free guestbook and free entrance to a lot of museums, as well as free use of public transit and discounts at various shops, restaurants and attractions. The card can be bought online in advance, or at the tourist offices and some museums.
- Visit the Grand Place - Grote Markt- The Grand Place, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988 is Brussel’s central square, surrounded by guildhalls, the city’s Town Hall, and the Breadhouse. The Grand Place is one of the most important and memorable tourist destinations in Brussels.
- Visit the Manneken Pis - the Mannekin Pis is a small bronze fountain statue of a naked boy urinating into the fountain’s basin. The sculpture lies within a short distance from the Grand Place-Grote and is thought to symbolize Brussels’ irreverent spirit. The statue is fitted with a costume a few times each week according to a published schedule, and his wardrobe, which consists of several hundred different costumes, may be viewed in a permanent exhibition inside the City Museum within the Grand Place, immediately opposite the Town Hall.
- Visit the Atomium - the Atomium is a monument made of nine steel spheres connected by tubes and is meant to resemble a unit cell of an iron crystal when magnified 165 billion times. The Atomium was designed by Andre Waterkeyn. The tubes of the Atomium connect the spheres which contain the exhibit halls and other public spaces. Its top view provides a panoramic view of Brussels.