Spotlight on Brussels, Belgium


            Brussels is Belgium’s capital and largest city, yet its town-like center contains a number of notable sights.  The premier attraction is, without doubt, the Grand Place, Brussels’ main square.  It is arguably the most elegant square in all of Europe.  The Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) is positively magnificent with its 70 meter (215 foot) tall tower and its numerous statues, spires, and gargoyles.  Because Brussels was the headquarters for many of the medieval Guilds, preludes to modern Unions, their administrative buildings were showplaces, displaying their wealth and power for all to see.  There was also some obvious rivalry which contributed to the elaborate and decorative structures.  Stop in at the tourist office for a map of the square and descriptions of the various buildings.

            Near the Grand Place is the iconic statue of Manneken Pis, a symbol of Brussels since the 15th century.  It is a statue of a small boy who is relieving himself, and one wonders what all the attention is about, but people flock to see his steady stream.  He is dressed, from time to time (on holidays), in various costumes and his costumes are on display in the Musee de la Ville, on the main square.

            Further a field, but still within walking distance and worthy of a visit is the Royal Palace, the Notre Dame du Sablon church, and nearby, the Place du Petit-Sablon, an adorable little square of greenery surrounded by a wrought iron fence topped with numerous statues.


            Gary’s Gem:

                        1.  Make sure you have a Belgian waffle, not in a restaurant, but from a street vendor or stand.

                        2. A regal treat can be had by stopping in at Mary Chocolatier, in the Upper Town, somewhat near the Royal Palace, for some chocolates to die for.

                        3. A bit further away are the Atomium, a huge model of an Iron crystal, a remnant of the 1958 World’s Fair, and Mini-Europe, which has miniature scale models of many of Europe’s great structures.  Both these sights are great for kids.

                        4.  The center of the Grand Place is covered with a carpet of multicolored begonias every other year during the third week of August.  Quite a spectacle!
                        5. My walking tour of Brussels, dated 9-9-08, incorporates most of the major city center sights.


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