Brussels Travel Guide

Culture

Architecture

The architecture in Brussels is diverse, and spans from the medieval constructions on the Grand Place to the postmodern buildings of the EU institutions.

Main attractions include the Grand Place, since 1988 a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the Gothic town hall in the old centre, the St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral and the Royal Palace of Laeken with its large greenhouses. Another famous landmark is the Royal Palace.

The Atomium is a symbolic tall structure that was built for the 1958 World's Fair. It consists of nine steel spheres connected by tubes, and forms a model of an iron crystal (specifically, a unit cell). The architect A. Waterkeyn devoted the building to science. Next to the Atomium is the Mini-Europe park with 1:25 scale maquettes of famous buildings from across Europe.

The Manneken Pis, a fountain containing a bronze sculpture of a urinating youth, is a tourist attraction and symbol of the city.

Other landmarks include the Cinquantenaire park with its triumphal arch and nearby museums, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Brussels Stock Exchange, the Palace of Justice and the buildings of EU institutions in the European Quarter.

Cultural facilities include the Brussels Theatre and the La Monnaie Theatre and opera house. There is a wide array of museums, from the Royal Museums of Fine Arts to the Museum of the Army and the Comic Museum. Brussels also has a lively music scene, with everything from opera houses and concert halls to music bars and techno clubs.

The city centre is notable for its Flemish town houses. Also particularly striking are the buildings in the Art Nouveau style by the Brussels architect Victor Horta. Some of Brussels' districts were developed during the heyday of Art Nouveau, and many buildings are in this style. Good examples include Schaerbeek, Etterbeek, Ixelles, and Saint-Gilles. Another example of Brussels Art Nouveau is the Stoclet Palace, by the Viennese architect Josef Hoffmann. The modern buildings of Espace Leopold complete the picture.

Arts

The city has had a renowned artist scene for many years. The famous Belgian surrealist René Magritte, for instance, studied in Brussels. The city was also home of Impressionist painters like Anna Boch from the Artist Group Les XX. The city is also a capital of the comic strip; some treasured Belgian characters are Lucky Luke, Tintin, Cubitus, Gaston Lagaffe and Marsupilami. Throughout the city, walls are painted with large motifs of comic book characters. The totality of all these mural paintings is known as the Brussels' Comic Book Route. Also, the interiors of some Metro stations are designed by artists. The Belgian Comics Museum combines two artistic leitmotifs of Brussels, being a museum devoted to Belgian comic strips, housed in the former Waucquez department store, designed by Victor Horta in the Art Nouveau style.

Brussels contains over 80 museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. The museum has an extensive collection of various painters, such as the Flemish painters like Bruegel, Rogier van der Weyden, Robert Campin, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens. The Magritte Museum houses the world's largest collection of the works of the surrealist René Magritte. The BELvue Museum is dedicated to the national history of Belgium.

Brussels is well known for its performing arts scene, with the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, the Kaaitheater and La Monnaie among the most notable institutions. The King Baudouin Stadium is a concert and competition facility with a 50,000 seat capacity, the largest in Belgium. The site was formerly occupied by the Heysel Stadium. Furthermore, the Bozar (Center for Fine Arts) is home to the National Orchestra of Belgium and the Flagey cultural centre hosts the Brussels Philharmonic.

Gastronomy

Brussels is known for its local waffle, its chocolate, its French fries and its numerous types of beers. The Brussels sprout has long been popular in Brussels, and may have originated there.

The gastronomic offer includes approximately 1,800 restaurants, and a number of high quality bars. Belgian cuisine is known among connoisseurs as one of the best in Europe. In addition to the traditional restaurants, there are a large number of cafés, bistros, and the usual range of international fast food chains. The cafés are similar to bars, and offer beer and light dishes; coffee houses are called the Salons de Thé. Also widespread are brasseries, which usually offer a large number of beers and typical national dishes.

Belgian cuisine is characterised by the combination of French cuisine with the more hearty Flemish fare. Notable specialities include Brussels waffles (gaufres) and mussels (usually as "moules frites", served with fries). The city is a stronghold of chocolate and pralines manufacturers with renowned companies like Neuhaus, Leonidas and Godiva. Numerous friteries are spread throughout the city, and in tourist areas, fresh, hot, waffles are also sold on the street.

In addition to the regular selection of Belgian beer, the famous lambic style of beer is predominately brewed in and around Brussels, and the yeasts have their origin in the Senne valley. In mild contrast to the other versions, Kriek (cherry beer) enjoys outstanding popularity, as it does in the rest of Belgium. Kriek is available in almost every bar or restaurant.

source: Wikipedia

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