Brussels: Introduction

The Smallest World-City

Brussels Introduction Brussels Introduction

The capital of Belgium, Brussels is also home of the EU and NATO and one of the most unforgettable medieval market squares in the world. A fascinating city full of diverse juxtaposition; Brussels is a city balancing its medieval past with its modern political/social centres. Today Brussels has a thriving art and culture scene, a buzzing European community, and a love affair with fine food. Brussels offers something for everyone. Regardless of the time of year, this smallest world-city hosts entertainment 365 days a year such as Ommegang in July and Winter Wonders in December.

The Grand Place is an attraction in itself, and is a World Heritage Site. Originally a medieval square for merchants selling bread, cheese and fish, the impressive buildings both private and public are mainly from the 17th century. The successful blending of architectural and artistic styles characterize Brussels as a mercantile/commercial city at its height of prosperity. The Grand Place attracts visitors with its daily flower markets and is still very much the heart of Brussels.

Visitors to the Grand Place will also see the guild houses such as the King's House (bread house) and brewery, as well as the Town Hall. The Town Hall was built in 1402 and is instantly recognized by its Gothic tower, at the top of which (97 meters) a statue of St. Michael slaying the devil overlooks the square. Opposite the Town Hall is the remarkable King's House a neo-Gothic triumph. Now home to the City Museum the dates of a building on this site go as far back as the 13th century when bakers used the ideal location to sell bread. In the 19th century the mayor of Brussels bought the House and opened its doors as a museum showcasing statues, paintings, wall tapestries, and artefacts depicting Brussels’s history.

Beyond the Grand Place travellers will enjoy the cheeky Manneken Pis statue, the unusual Atomium and the political heart of Europe at the EU and NATO headquarters. Art appreciators should head to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts/ Musee Royal des Beaux-Arts, Belgium's largest and one of the best art galleries in the world. Visitors to Brussels can also wander through the cobblestone streets, popping in to any one of many fine food shops or cosy cafes for some famous waffles with chocolate, or frittes on a day out site seeing.

Brussels’s great strength is that, although it’s the smallest world-city it never feels impersonal or faceless. It’s a multilingual city with local shops and markets, of galleries and local eateries, paying homage to its medieval past, and forging ahead as Europe's contemporary political centre; in short, a welcoming cosmopolitan city for all visitors.