The capital of Belgium is a modern, thriving city and a center for the European Union. However, its medieval town center and its past have been carefully preserved and provide visitors with several significant attractions. Here are my favorites.
1. Wander Around the Grand Place — This elegant square is one of Europe’s finest. It is lined with opulent Guild Houses, who competed with one another in an exhibition of wealth and power. Every other year, part of the square is covered with a blanket of colorful begonias (see photo album).
2. Giggle at Manneken Pis — This diminutive statue, an endearing symbol of the city, depicts a small boy urinating into a pool of water. Tourists are always amazed at how small the statue is, yet they marvel at its charm.
3. Check out City Hall — The glorious, Gothic Hotel de Ville (City Hall) is the centerpiece of the Grand Place. Its tower rises high above the popular gathering place.
4. Look For Dignitaries at the Royal Palace — The large complex is located at the top of a hill, above the Old Town, and is connected to a huge park.
5. Indulge in Some Chocolate at Mary Chocolatier — Imagine a high-end candy store which services royalty! This is what awaits you at this small shop, near the Royal Palace. The chocolate treats are decadent!
6. Relax at the Place du Petit-Sablon — This small square is decorated with lovely shrubbery and numerous statues. It makes a great place to rest for a while, or to ponder the purpose of the many sculptures.
7. Rattle Around Inside a Huge Iron Atom — This large model of an atom of the element, iron, was built for the World’s Fair of 1958. Escalators link the spheres, which contain various exhibitions.
8. See the Highlights of Europe in a few Hours — Mini-Europe is a collection of miniaturized replicas of the continent’s most famous structures, including the Eiffel Tower, the Leaing Tower of Pisa, Big Ben and Parliament, etc.
9. See One of Europe’s Best Preserved Medieval Towns — The town of Bruges was once a powerful center of commerce. However, silt clogged its access to the sea and it was virtually abandoned for hundreds of years. Today it is a thriving tourist destination because its lovely ambience has been restored and preserved.
10. Visit Ghent — Another lovely city which has preserved much of past and present grandeur is the port city of Ghent. Its old city center is the largest pedestrian-only zone in Europe.