Brussels


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Brussels famous Grand Place, named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998, is one of the most magnificent city squares in Europe. A 15th-century spired town hall rises on one side, while ornate 17th-century guild halls and other centuries-old buildings form the other three sides. The square is all but invisible until you walk through one of the entry lanes, making the scene even more striking. The capitol of Belgium also is known for its many other beautiful historic buildings and churches, wide array of pubs and restaurants, and for being the de facto capitol of the European Union.

From Antwerp’s spectacular train station, we took a 50-minute train ride to Brussels and spent the day exploring some of city’s many attractions, including the Grand Place, the famous Manneken Pis fountain, the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, the Royal quarter, and the EU Parliament.

Below are trip highlights from March 4th, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.

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University of Antwerp
Walking through the quadrangle at the University of Antwerp’s Stadscampus on our way to Antwerp train station. The institution was founded in 1852.
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Opera Antwerpen
The first public opera performances in Antwerp date to the 17th century. Their current home was completed in 1907.
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Window Panes
Installing windows on a modern all glass-faced building. The crane is equipped with a suction cup attachment that allows the operator to quickly pick up a 10-ft glass panel, swing it around and install it several floors up. The suction cup suction is controlled by the crane operator, so a single person can do all the glass movements.
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Antwerpen-Centraal
Completed in 1905, Antwerpen-Centraal was recently named the most beautiful train station in the world. It’s hard to capture the grandeur of the station in just a single picture—the building really is spectacular.
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Train
On the train at Antwerp station for a 50-minute train ride to Brussels.
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Galeries St-Hubert
The light-filled Galeries St-Hubert were the first shopping arcade in Europe when opened in 1847.
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Second Breakfast
Enjoying a Hobbit’s “second breakfast” of chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) and a croissant at the Galeries St-Hubert.
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Balkan Trafik
The mural Balkan Trafik by Sarajevo artist Rikardo Druskic. Balkan Trafik is the name of a festival held annually in Brussels that showcases the contemporary and traditional creativity of the Balkans.
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Grand Place
Brussels famous Grand Place is one of the most magnificent city squares in Europe. Ornate 17th-century guild halls are flanked by the 15th-century spired town hall (left) and the King’s House, completed in 1873. Jennifer had visited here in the 1980s on a work trip with IBM and was keen to bring James to see it. After standing for centuries, a couple of decades hasn’t aged it a bit. :)
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Guild Halls
A closer look at the impressive 17th-century guild halls along the north end of the Grand Place.
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Tintin
Tintin mural on Rue de l’Etuve near the Grand Place. Cartoon strips are considered a major art form in Belgium, similar to manga in Japan, with Tintin being Belgium’s best-known fictional character.
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Waffles
Mmmmm …. waffles.
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Manneken Pis
A replica of Belgium’s famous Manneken Pis (Dutch for “little pissing man”) dates from the 17th century (the original is kept in the Brussels City Museum). Most of the time the statue wears a costume, often relating to a particular country, trade or local event.
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Jacques Brel
Statue by Brussels artist Tom Frantzen of famous Belgian composer and performer Jacques Brel, who sold over 25 million records worldwide.
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Tour Anneessens
Tour Anneessens (Anneessens Tower), a vestige of the 13th-century of the first fortifications built around Brussels.
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L’Estrille du Vieux Bruxelles
L’Estrille du Vieux Bruxelles is housed in a building that dates from 1587.
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Painter
Another Tom Frantzen sculpture, this one of 16th-century painter Pieter Bruegel, one of the most significant of the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance artists.
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Eglise Notre-Dame de la Chapelle
The majestic interior of 13th-century Eglise Notre-Dame de la Chapelle, Brussels oldest surviving church.
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Train Tracks
Crossing over the train tracks through Brussels.
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Froed & Stroef
The mural Froed & Stroef by Farm Prod., Jannin Liberski on Philippe de Champagnestraat in Brussels.
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Notre-Dame de Bon Secours
The spectacular high alter inside the Eglise Notre-Dame de Bon Secours (Church of Our Lady of Good Help).
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le DNA
The distinctive leopard-print facade of le DNA, a Brussels live-music nightclub that was established in the 1980s.
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Broussaille and his Friend Catherine
Comic mural Broussaille and his Friend Catherine by artist Frank Pe.
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Out in the Street Project
Collection of murals along Rue de la Chauferette created by Greek artist Fotini Tikkou as part of Pridefestival Brussels 2014.
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Moving
A novel way of moving from upper-story apartments: a truck with an extension ladder is brought up to the window and a special platform is raised up and down to transfer items between the apartment and the truck. This is how belongings are moved in and out of apartments in Amsterdam too.
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Stock Exchange
The Brussels Stock Exchange was founded in 1801 on the decree of Napoleon. The building is located on the Place de la Bourse/Beursplein, the second most important square in Brussels after the Grand Place. The famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin was an assistant to one of the artists tasked with creating the building’s abundant ornamentation.
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Dirona
While we were in Brussels, blog reader Theo Le Duc stopped by Willemdok and sent us a few photos of Dirona on the dock. Theo spends summers touring northern Europe in his Krogen Express 49 Ritser, currently moored across the river at Jachthaven Antwerpen Linkeroever.
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Jeanneke Pis
The statue Jeanneke Pis, of a young girl squatting and peeing, was erected in 1987 as a counterpart to Brussels’ famous Manneken Pis statue.
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Fanny Thai
An excellent lunch at Fanny Thai in what appeared to be Brussels’ Thai district. At least six Thai restaurants were packed into one block on the same street.
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Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
The 300-year construction of Brussels’ twin-towered Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula began in 1226.
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Organ
The fabulous organ in Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula appears to almost float above the nave.
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Stained Glass
Some of the many spectacular stained glass windows in Brussels’ St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral.
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Chamber of the Nation
Looking north across the Parc de Bruxelles to the Chamber of the Nation building. This is the lower of the two houses of the Federal Parliament of Belgium.
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Royal Palace
The Royal Palace, facing the southern end of Parc de Bruxelles, is the official palace of the King and Queen of Belgium. This building, completed in 1904, is more of an office for the royal family—their official residence is in another palace on the edge of the city.
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Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg
The neoclassical Catholic church Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg on the Place Royal. The square was built in the late 1700s along with Parc de Bruxelles that we just walked through. The church opened in 1849.
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Mont des Arts
We hadn’t realized how much altitude we’d gained as we walked, but we turned a corner and arrived at the public garden in Mont des Arts with its great view towards the city center. The statue at the end of the park is of King Albert I of Belgium, who reigned between 1909 and 1934. The steeple in the distance is city hall in the Grand Place.
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Royal Museums of Fine Arts
The main building of the six-museum Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium was completed in 1887. One of the institutions housed in this building is the Oldmasters Museum, founded in 1801 on the order of Napoleon. If we had a little more time in Brussels, we would definitely have stopped in for a visit.
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European Parliament
At the European Parliament buildings on the outskirts of Brussels. On busy days, as many as 10,000 people can be on site in the 17-building complex.
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Parlamenterium
At Parlamenterium, the European Parliament visitor’s center. This display shows information about the three places of work for the parliament, here in Brussels, at Strasbourg, France (that we saw on our Rhine River trip) and in Luxembourg City.

This is the first time we’d encountered COVID-19 restrictions, albeit minor: to enter Parlamenterium, we each had to sign a form indicating we had no symptoms of the virus and hadn’t been to a high-occurence area.

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Hemicycle
A 360-degree video simulation of the European Parliament hemicycle, where parliamentary members are arranged by political group. The hemicycle design is a melding of the different parliamentary seating systems of member countries such as Britain, France and Germany.
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Cafe Luxembourg
At Cafe Luxembourg less than a block from the European Parliament in Brussels. Unsurprisingly, its clientele were all wearing suits and talking about politics rather than shooting pictures and talking about museums. :)
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.

 
 


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