BRUSSELS: things to see

Grand Place, Gastronomy, Manneken Pis, St Michaels cathedral,
Royal Palaces, Cinquantenaire, Atomium

the Grand Place

Brussels was founded in 580 by St Géry, the bishop of Cambrai. He built a modest chapel on a small island in the river "the Senne", and one hundred years later, this small island became a town called Bruocsela !

Around 1000, the village developed into a city. Around 1220, on the island in the Senne, called the Nedermerckt (lower market), the first houses were built, such as the Bread House, the Linen House, and the Meat House. The city developed greatly under the Dukes of Burgundy, and in 1450 Philip the Fair made his residence there. In 1449, the Brussels City Hall was built.

Between 1504 and 1536, the Duke's house was built opposite the town hall, where formerly the Bread House and the Linen House had stood, and in 1516, it was called "Des Conincx Huys" (the King's House). Around 1600, the guilds built their extraordinarily beautiful houses on the Grand Place, but in 1695, the city was almost completely destroyed by French troops during the War of the Spanish Succession. In 1874, the dilapidated King's House was torn down, and it was rebuilt in Gothic style, which now houses the Brussels Museum.

Every two years, the Brussels Grand Place is completely covered with a flower carpet, entirely made of begonias ! Visit this interesting website :

Brussels : Grand Place 1 Brussels Grand Place 2
Brussels Grand Place 3 Brussels Grand Place 4

Belgian gastronomy and Puppet Theater

Next to the Grand Place you'll discover countless restaurants in the Vleeshouwersstraat (Butcher's street - rue des Bouchers), including the renowned "Les Armes de Bruxelles" (Brussels' Arms).

In the adjacent Small Butchers street, at the end you'll discover the Brussels Puppet Theater Toone. As early as in 1366, the Small Butchers street was listed as "Cleyn Vleeshouversstraete".

Les Armes de Bruxelles Belgian gastronomy 2

Little Man Peepee - Manneken Pis

In 1388, on the corner of the Stove street and the Oak street stood a fountain, with a stone statue that was called "Julianekensborre" (small Julian). This statue has not survived the many wars, but nevertheless, from 1452 on, the name Manneken Pis (Little Man Peepee) appears in the archives. The current bronze statue was created in 1619, as an embellishment of a public fountain.

The Brussels legend has it that a little man became a legendary hero, by accidentally peeing on the wick of Spanish explosives, thereby saving the city of Brussels from destruction ! On special occasions, the statue is dressed up in an appropriate suit, and by now it owns more than 700 suits...

What even few locals know, is that in a corridor of the Butchers street, there is a female colleague, called "Jeanneke Pis" (Jeanne Peepee) ! This must undoubtedly have been one of the first achievements of our local Women's Liberation movement...

Brussels : Manneken Pis 1
Brussels : Manneken Pis 2
Manneken Pis
Manneken Pis costumes

Cathedral of St Michael and Ste Gudula

Brussels : St Michael cathedral

The Cathedral of St Michael and Ste Gudula is the most important church in the old center of Brussels. Already in the 9th century, there existed a chapel that was dedicated to St Michael.

Around 1047 it was replaced by a Roman church, and after the transfer of Ste Gudula's relics, it received the complicated name of "Collegiate Church of St Michael and Ste Gudula".

In 1226, the construction of a cathedral started under the leadership of Henry I, Duke of Brabant. The current Michael's Cathedral was built around 1760.

Royal Castle of Laeken - Royal Palace of Brussels

The Royal Castle of Laeken dates from 1782, and it was built for the Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria. The estate was then called the Castle of Schoonenberg. In 1804, it was bought by Napoleon Bonaparte, who completely renovated it and took up residence. Until the Belgian Revolution it was occupied by the Dutch King William I, and afterwards the Belgian Royal family took up residence. It is possible to visit the exceptional greenhouses of Laeken, which were built in 1873, and where a remarkable collection of plants and flowers can be admired.

The Royal Palace of Brussels is the working palace of the Belgian king. In it he holds audiences and conducts affairs of state. It was built between 1820 and 1829 by King William I of the Netherlands, who unfortunately could only enjoy it for one year, because in 1830, the Belgian Revolution broke out...

Royal Castle of Laeken Royal Palace of Brussels

The Palace of the Cinquantenaire - the Atomium

In 1880, the Palace of the Cinquantenaire (fifty years) was built on the occasion of a World Fair, and also to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Belgian independence. With three arches of 45 meters high, this is one of the largest triumphal arches in Europe. The Brussels inhabitants simply call it "Le Cinquantenaire" !

The Atomium was the main icon of the Brussels World Fair of 1958. It was designed as a symbol for the peaceful use of atomic energy, and depicts an iron atom, 165 billion times magnified ! The construction is 102 meters high, and it has nine spheres, which are interconnected.

Initially, it was not intended that this creation would live on after the Fair, but its great popularity with the public quickly made it an important milestone for Brussels. In 2006, the Atomium was fully restored.

Palace of the Cinquantenaire Brussels : the Atomium
** Continue reading with a look at Antwerp **
** or go back to Overview **