Brussels is an enchanting city. Its old town is fascinating mix of beautiful architecture and playfulness. It is not as compact as some other "old towns" but there is much to see and the friendliness of the people make everything seem pleasant. Here are my choices for the best of Brussels, to be followed soon by a photo album.
1. Grand Place – This elegant and stately square is one of the grandest in all of Europe. It is anchored by the Gothic Hotel De Ville (Town Hall) and accented by numerous gold-enhanced guild buildings, testimonies to the wealth and dignity of Medieval professions. Every other year the square is transformed into a "garden" with a floral display of begonias which carpet a large section of the square.
2. Manneken Pis – This sculpture has become a symbol of Brussels despite its small size and unremarkable workmanship. It displays a small boy urinating, with a stream of water shooting out. The irreverence seems to have captured the hearts and minds of locals and tourists alike since the statue is always surrounded by onlookers with cameras clicking.
3. Royal Palace – This impressive mansion sits at a high point in the city and overlooks a large city park. The grounds are well-landscaped. It is still used for state functions.
4. Excursion to Bruges – Bruges is one of the most completely preserved Medieval cities in all of Europe. It was once an important commercial and trade center, but was abandoned when the sea receded leaving it high and dry. Rediscovered and restored, it is a charming day trip or excursion from Brussels or a destination in and of itself. Its Venice-like canals give it a special ambience.
5. Have Some Belgian Chocolate – Splurge a little and make a stop at Mary Chocolatier, in the upper part of the Old Town, not far from the Royal Palace. The white-gloved handlers will be happy to describe and pick out your indulgences.
6. Check Out the Atomium – This huge model of an iron atom, a remnant of the 1958 World’s Fair, is located on the outskirts of the city.
7. Stroll or Rest Awhile in the Place du Petit-Sablon – This charming little square has numerous statues and places to sit and admire the landscaping.
8. Wander Through Mini-Europe – This scale model of Europe’s iconic sights and attractions is just the right size for kids (and adults) to appreciate. It is located near the Atomium (see above).
9. Enjoy the Original "French Fries" – What the world calls French Fries originated in Belgium and are known as pom frittes. They are available at numerous locations throughout the Old Town.
10. Take an Excursion to Ghent or Antwerp – These two cities, although not as charming as Bruges (see above) are about equidistant from Brussels and provide optional excursions for those who want to escape the bustle of the capital. Both have their appeal and their must-see attractions.
Other sights considered:
Cathedral of Sts Michael and Gudula
Royal Museum of Fine Arts