Brussels 0

Brussels – 50 years learning to love it

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Visiting Brussels

After the disappointing first visit, and the more convincing second one, Brussels became a recurrent destination, increasing the interest for the city, and the passion for Grand Place.

Grand’ Place

Brussels
Brussels

Hotel de Ville

Brussels
Brussels

Maison du Roi

Brussels
Brussels

Le pigeon

Brussels
Brussels

Le Roi d’Espagne, la Brouette and le Sac

Brussels
Brussels

Maisons Renard, Cornet, Louve

Brussels
Brussels

Tabor, Rose, Arbre d’Or, Cygne and Étoile

Notre Dame de Laeken

Brussels
Brussels

Started in 1854, it was finished in 1908, with recent renovation. It was planned by the same architect who created the Place of Justice, Joseph Poelaert.

​Located close to the kings residential area, it is the burial place for the royal family. 

Behind the church is referenced a very interesting cemetery that we couldn’t visit.

​Beguinage church

Brussels
Brussels

Attributed to the architect L. Fayd’herbe, a pupil of Rubens, this church shows the Italian-influenced Flemish Baroque style of the 17th century, with a facade that is considered one of the most beautiful in Belgium.

The church originally served as the center for the “beguines” (lay sisters) who lived in houses around it.
​​After a fire in 2001 it has been restored to the actual look.

​Boulevard Anspach

Brussels
Brussels

One of the main commercial avenues, it mixes some classical construction with modern and large buildings.

Our attention was caught by a detail -a large hen atop one of the beautiful buildings.​

Brussels
Brussels

​Anspach monument

Brussels
Brussels

Facing St Katherine church (at a distance) there’s an obelisk created by Paul de Vigne dedicated to Anspach.

​He died before ending the work that was completed by some other authors, from the architect Janlet to Georges Houtsfont (created the mask) or de Vreese, (conceived the animals surrounding the fountain). 

By the time of our visit the fountain was empty and dry, for a longtime, it seemed, so I don’t know if that is its normal situation

​St Katherine Church

Brussels
Brussels

In the 19th century the old church from the 1 4th century was replaced by this one, only leaving from the original the Baroque bell tower that standing apart from the church, confused me with the black tower.

The church, inspired by the Parisian St. Eustache, was being cleaned and we didn’t enter.

In front of the church, the old docks filled by sanitary reasons are now a long avenue.

​Notre Dame de Bon Secours

Brussels
Brussels
Brussels
Brussels

​One of the most gracious churches of the Flemish Baroque period, but it is also the most untypical of the Flemish style not showing the Latin cross, but a hexagonal form. 

The facade is nice and well proportioned. Inside there are some remarkable pieces of art.

Address: Rue du Marché au Carbon

​Notre Dame de la Chapelle

Brussels
Brussels

The oldest church in Brussels, its construction began in 1210 and was completed by the end of the 13th century.

​It reflects the transition between Romanesque and Gothic styles.

A Baroque bell tower was added after the French artillery bombardment of 1695, and several campaigns of restoration were undertaken in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Its remarkable the pulpit, intricately carved hunk featuring part of the Old Testament.

​Albertine square

Brussels
Brussels

Albertina is a common female name in Portugal and it seemed strange to see it in Brussels, until I remembered “Albert” as a king’s name.

Albertine is the popular name to the royal library, the square and the garden. It’s a nice wide space, that we saw superficially, but the curiosity led me to Norali’s travelogue, with precious details of the garden.

​Greetings to Norali.

​Opera La Monnaie

Brussels
Brussels

The Brussels opera house is officially called Le Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, because the place of its construction was related to a coin. 

It has challenged Paris as one of the most popular theatres in Europe. During its life it has undergone two reconstructions since its first conception in 1700. The second design, by Louise Damesme was built in 1818 and survived until 1855. 

After only 40 years, the theater was changed once again. Its original designer was Joseph Poelaert, the same designer for the Palais de Justice, using a mix of Neo-Baroque, Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Rococo. 

In 1985, it was reconstructed, but the design was kept, and the interior of the concert hall remains unchanged. 

With an audience of 1,700, it still hosts plays, operas, and all kinds of concerts.

 

​The cathedral ​

Brussels
Brussels

Covering 12 centuries of history, this large cathedral was finished in 1047, but it was renovated in the 13th century. The actual facade comes from the 15th century. 

The most interesting details are the stained glass windows, and some vestiges of the initial construction.

Just one question:
What’s the purpose of the ugly structure used to “hide” it during our visit?
Address: Parvis de Sainte Gudule

Manneken Pis

Brussels
Brussels

The ex-libris 
Why millions of people merge each day before this 61 cm high bronze statue of a child, pissing water to a small basin?
Well… because everybody goes.

No surprise that the ridiculous “monument” became the theme of many legends, traditions, and… business.
“I was there” or “I saw it” are two versions of the same common objective, between two bites in the mandatory chocolate.
Serve yourself!
Address: Corner of Rue de l’ Etuve and Rue du Chêne

​Chinese Pavilion

Brussels
Brussels
Brussels
Brussels

I’ve been in Brussels many times: the first one in 1971 for a good stay, but I didn’t like the city, with exception to Grand Place and Atomium.
Too dark for my expectations – I didn’t know much outside the white and clear Portugal, when I crossed the Pyrenees for the first time, in those 70s…

The second one was for a short visit with the boys, and without time for more than a quick stop in Grand Place (and to lunch in Alfama, a good Portuguese restaurant close to it, with great memories from the first stay).
We stopped also in Heysel park to visit the Chinese pavilion and Japanese tower.

Well, they are Belgian buildings with oriental style, built in the beginning of the 20th century, with decorative details coming from Shanghai and Yokohama.
The visit is easy and quick as we needed, if you don’t use much time to see the temporary exhibit that you may find there, generally of oriental arts.

The entrance costs 3€ (closed on Mondays) and it is free in the first Wednesday of each month.
Third visit (last time in Heizel)… better photos… still nice!

Address: Blvd. du Centenaire, BruPark

Directions: Metro: Heizel/Heysel

​Japanese Tower

Brussels
Brussels

CLOSED


Facing the Chinese pavilion, this Japanese complex, was built to show two different structures – a high red tower and an adjacent wooden pavilion.

Housing temporary collections of Japan (Closed, now?), it is surrounded by a garden with many Japanese plants.


The Chinese and Japanese pavilions were built in the beginning of the 20th century, as a result of the passion of king Leopold II for eastern culture.

Address: 44, Avenue van Praet
Directions: Corner of the Royal P

​Park of the Fiftieth Anniversary

Brussels
Brussels

The “Parc du Cinquantenaire” is a large forested public garden close to Europe area.

It was the place of the national exhibition commemorating 50 years of independence, in 1880.

ts most remarkable structure is the Triumphal arch, built in 1905, but the complex houses also three museums and a mosque.

Place du Grand Sablon

Brussels
Brussels

By the end of the day we ended by incident in a very beautiful area that made me feel sorry for having not enough time to explore it as it deserved – the Sablon.

Wonderful old houses, a promising church already closed, many appealing bars and restaurants led me to a conclusion – next time in Brussels I will reserve time to… Sablon.

I did.

​Just one more visit, by day, to confirm that there are two Sablons, the big one, with the cafes and… the other

​Royal Palace

Brussels
Brussels

​In my previous visit, we didn’t approach the royal palace – I didn’t inform the king of my visit to Brussels, and I always knew that it is impolite to appear without announcement.

In the recent visit we had a closer look, but again without an invitation, we didn’t enter. Only back home I read in the official site that it may be visited and:

“The Palace is where His Majesty the King exercises his prerogatives as Head of State, grants audiences and deals with affairs of state. 

Apart from the offices of the King and the Queen, the Royal Palace houses the services of the Grand Marshal of the Court, the King’s Head of Cabinet, the Head of the King’s Military Household and the Intendant of the King’s Civil List. The Palace also includes the State Rooms where large receptions are held, as well as the apartments provided for foreign Heads of State during official visits.”

​St Josse

Brussels
Brussels

This may be, I think, one of the least touristy areas in Brussels – a pot of cultures and nationalities, composing one of the poorest areas in town. We had there a cheap meal, and saw not much, due to the late hour. 

Maybe my impression is wrong, maybe the closed church that came from a chapel in 1361 to the actual Neo-Baroque look in 1979, will be interesting, but I must confess that it is out of my preferences for next time in Brussels.

​​D. Quixote and Sancho Pança

Brussels
Brussels

…And suddenly, we found ourselves in Spain.

​The statue of D. Quixote and Sancho Pança that I knew in Madrid, was in front of us.

Well, it is not Spain, but Spain square, wisely ornamented with a replica of the original creation of Lorenzo Valera.

Somewhat hidden, but very nice.

​​La Gaité

Brussels
Brussels

Located in rue Fossé, 18, La Gaîté was a legendary club in the centre of Brussels until closing in 1982.

​In 1991 it has transformed in a shop, but the facade was kept. (The only saved thing in it, I think!)

Angle tower 

Brussels
Brussels

Anneessens tower, also called angle tower, is one of the few remains of the old city walls, built in the 12th century.

Address: 1000 Boulevard de l’Empereur,

Directions: Near Rue de Rollebeek

The Bourse

Brussels
Brussels

Built by the end of the 19th century as part of a plan to embellish the city, this palace in Neo-Renaissance style mixed with Second Empire, it has many decorative motifs from several artists.

Located in Boulevard Anspach, it is today a “dead” building, since the trading start to be done by computer.

Black Tower

Brussels

Escaping from demolition of the old walls in the 16th century, because it was a good storage place, this isolated tower, close to St Katherine church, is one of the few remains of those walls.

Be careful – the tower is small, and somewhat hidden. I was looking for it and was mislead by St Katherine’s bell tower, that stands apart from the church, so… I didn’t really see it.

Well, this was in the first time, but not in the second one… as the photo proofs.

Palace of Justice

Brussels

Notre Dâme du Sablon

Brussels
Brussels

Saint Hubert

Brussels
Brussels

Place des martirs

Brussels
Brussels

Royal Museum

Brussels
Brussels

Passage nord

Brussels
Brussels

Place de Brouckere

Brussels
Brussels

Chapelle de Notre-Dâme

Brussels
Brussels

Brueghel fountain

Brussels
Brussels

Rue des Bouchers

Brussels
Brussels

Goude Huyve

Brussels
Brussels

Saint Nicolas

Brussels
Brussels

Cour des comptes

Brussels
Brussels

Place du Sablon

Brussels
Brussels

Ixelles

Brussels
Brussels

Saint Croix

Brussels
Brussels

ULB

Brussels
Brussels

Abbaye de la Cambre

Brussels

Beaulieu

Brussels
Brussels

To see The first visit

Brussels 0
Brussels 0

European Commission Complex

Returning from my first visit, in 1971, I wrote by the turning of the century:

Yes, I know that, as an European citizen, I’m ruled from Brussels
Yes, I know that it is important, but… I don’t like it.
I’ve been in Brussels twice, tried two different approaches, and… still don’t like it.

Maybe if I’d get one of those jobs paid by millions I would start to enjoy the city, but, meanwhile, I love my Portugal (and many of the other places I had the chance to visit).

And then, unexpectedly, I visited Brussels again in 1989 and… caught a different impression. Good! Brussels is much more interesting that it looked in my previous visit.

Let’s try to remember that first impressions.

Grand’ Place

Brussels
Brussels

Wonderful place

I use to say that this square is the most beautiful that I know. Great proportions well balanced and harmonized buildings, precious details. The only sad thing was its dark look.

I spent a week close to Grand Place, and that made me identify Brussels with this beautiful square, with the other images vanishing in my mind. 
​When many years later I took my sons to Brussels, Grand Place and Atomium were, again, almost the exclusive attractions that we saw.

In August there’s a festivity where the square is covered with flowers. Terrific job, but its beauty reaches the top ten.

Everard ‘t Serclaes Monument

Brussels
Brussels

Luck

Tradition says that rubbing his elbow brings good fortune, and everybody does it. Why not us, of course?

In my recent visit the statue was removed to maintenance, I don’t know until when, but it seems that a copy was placed in location.

Memories are good – that small kid in the picture, took in 1989, in his first visit of Brussels (my second), is now almost 2 meters high, working in… Brussels! 

Reason to be already planning my next visits.

Address: 4 Rue Charles Buls, 1000 Ville de Bruxelles

Directions: Underneath the arcades of the Maison de l’etoile at the Brussels Grand Place

Atomium 

Brussels
Brussels

A strange giant 

Built for the international exhibition of 1958, this imaginative construction is a museum, with displays in five of its nine spheres. 

As Eiffel tower in Paris, it became one of the symbols of the city, and the main attraction in a park with several other interesting elements.

Address: Blvd. du Centenaire, BruPark

Directions: Metro: Heizel/Heysel

Website: Atomium

​Japanese Tower

Brussels
Brussels

Facing the Chinese pavilion, this Japanese complex, was built to show two different structures – a high red tower and an adjacent wooden pavilion.

Housing temporary collections of Japan, it is surrounded by a garden with many Japanese plants.
The Chinese and Japanese pavilions were built in the beginning of the 20th century, as a result of the passion of king Leopold II for eastern culture.

Address: 44, Avenue van Praet
Directions: Corner of the Royal

Eating
Eating

Rest2 Mykonos restaurant

Brussels
Mykonos restaurant

Cheap Greece

Close to Grand Place there are many restaurants, matching all level of prices. 

Wishing a cheap light lunch we choose this Greek restaurant, that didn’t disappoint us.

​Greek food, reasonable presentation, lively ambiance and a decent price.

Price Comparison: about average

Rest2 Bol enchanté  restaurant

Brussels
Eating in Brussels

We enjoyed it 

It was our son’s birthday, and we let him choose the restaurant. Taking care of his father’s wallet (I think), he choose this restaurant, close to his apartment.

It was not a remarkable dinner, but is was very good, with a careful presentation and a tasty food.

Being in a oriental restaurant I was expecting a terrible wine, but that was also a very good surprise, one of the best in Brussels and at a very decent price.

It was a good bet, but In Ixelles it is a little bit “out of the beaten path”. Not for us, at least while, for familiar reasons, Ixelles remains our “capital of Brussels”, nor for the students of the free university, nearby.
​Favorite Dish: Boeuf Sauté Aux Trois Champignons 
                        Canard Laqué Pékinois

Rest2 Sogno d’Italia

Brussels
Eating in Brussels
Brussels
Eating in Brussels

Good place 
It was handy because it was near the residence of our son, and that was the first reason to try it. The experience was so good, that we decided to repeat, and it was even better.

The first time we ate a common but good pizza, but in the second visit we risked the dishes of the day, even without knowing what they should be. I only remember “Vitello tonato” as entrance, and a good main dish whose name I never caught.

It was one of our best bets in restaurants in Brussels, but I know that Ixelles is a little bit “out of the beaten path”, however, if you visit Cambres abbey, for instance, it will be only a few minutes walk from there.

Rest2 ​Le Trappiste 

Brussels
Trapiste

Cheap and good
Arriving late, we needed a light meal, and got it in this brasserie in Porte de Namur. Both my pasta and the toast to Fernanda were delicious, well served, and, for local prices, very affordable.
We decided to repeat the visit, to try something more elaborated, but the program didn’t allow it. However, the excellent impression put it in our white list for futures visits to town.

Address: Avenue de la Toison d’Or, 3

Price Comparison: less expensive than average

​​It's there La Canebière

Brussels
La Canebiere

Non 
Choosing a restaurant among the thousands side-by-side near Grand Place, we were attracted by the poster announcing an attractive menu by 16 €.
The waiter was nice, using his Spanish to try to match our Portuguese, with the inevitable failure. But in Spanish, french and english, we had no problem ordering the promoted menu, fish for Fernanda,meat for me.
The food was not bad, but everything besides the menu was a real scam – for two menus (32€) plus a drink and coffee to each one, we payed 57€.
(Yes, my drink was wine of the house, the worst and, by far, the most expensive in Belgium).

Rest3 Polat

Polat
Polat

Too “African” 

Looking for a cheap restaurant close to Europe area, we entered this snack, because it seemed to have small portions of individual snacks, and that was exactly what one of us wanted.

Well, they had it, we had our cheapest meal in Belgium, but… The smells were too magrebino for our tastes.

Not their fault – we could imagine it from outside, but… we risked.

Address: 42, Rue Willems 1210 Sint-Joost-ten-Node

I recommend Hotel du Berger

Brussels
Hotel du Berger

Good option


I was afraid when I booked it, exactly because the lower price, in comparison with the similar places, should have a reason. I couldn’t find it.
It was the easiest to find, for Fernanda, in the world: hop off the bus facing H&M, walk a few metres to Zara, and turn right. Just in the middle of a good commercial area, close to the transport hub of Porte de Namur.
The hotel was old, but it was recently refurbished, with a modern look and good taste. The bed was extremely comfortable, and everything worked fine in the bathroom.

Breakfast, not included, was pricey – the buffet had the essential, but 14€ was too much for it, and that was the biggest of the negative impressions, the other being the size of the elevator and stairs.
Now they announce 10€ for breakfast if booked online. That’s new, and that’s fair.
I will have no doubt to stay there again, if needed. 

Hotel7 L’Estrille du vieux Bruxelles

L'Estrille du Vieux Bruxelles
L’Estrille du Vieux Bruxelles

For next time 

“Probably the oldest inn of Brussels“, as indicates in its opening dated 1587,” L’Estrille du vieux Bruxelles ” is in keeping with the heart of a street deeply related to the past of the legendary Sablon and its vestiges of the first medieval urban surrounding wall.”

* Yes, that’s what we may read in the page of this restaurant where we didn’t enter, but whose facade attracted all of us instantaneously. 

​I had to read about it, and the temptation is set: next time, dinner here and coffee at the “Entrée des Artistes” nearby, for a first class night.

Address: Rollebeek street

Chocolate

Chocolate
Chocolate

Belgian chocolate is famous, and remarkably linked to Tourism.

​I think that it in Brussels it is impossible to approach Manneken Pis without being compelled to enter one of the many shops that rival to make the most attractive presentation.

I didn’t make any kind of inquiry, and I don’t know the percentage of Belgians in the greedy clients, but… having such a delight by the door, who could resist?

​Aarschotstraat

Brussels
Red light

Red Light area

Driving to Heysel park, we passed by Gare du Nord, and, by accident, found ourselves in the middle of “red light area”.

Suddenly, I remembered that I had been there in 1971, when I was a student and the travelling curiosities were… different.

Though not entering anywhere, the organized commercial structure of sex was astonishing to a youngster coming from the close and conservative dictatorship of Portugal.

​This time, the surprise was to see them working in daylight, and to change the initial idea – I had in mind that the display showed mainly consumed and degraded women, and this time we were shocked by the youth of some of them, and the dominating elegance.

A curious place, but the evident vigilance of their… friends, recommends discretion and caution.

Rue Neuve

Brussels
Rue Neuve

Bar2 Entrée des Artistes

Brussels
L’Entrée des Artistes

Café Delta
After dinner, and when our visit was reaching the end, we pound ourselves in a nice square, where we could see a familiar advertising – Café Delta.
That means Portuguese coffee, something special that we use forget as soon as we leave Portugal (unless we travel to Italy, where things are not so different).

We all tasted the coffee, and it was, of course, the best that we had in Belgium. A perfect end to this visit to Brussels.

We didn’t taste the food, but the restaurant is bookmarked for my next visit to Brussels.

Address: Place du Sablon

Bar2 Fontainas Bar

Brussels
Fontainas

Coffee and butterflies

After lunch we were trying to find a restaurant or bar with something like Portuguese or Italian coffee, and entered this bar. It was easy to see that it was a gay, straight friendly bar, but the sensation was new for some of us.

Served by travesties, the coffee, though as different as we expected from what we were looking for, was not too bad, but the best, to Fernanda, were the butterflies.

Address: Rue du Marché au Charbon

Personal memories Memories of Brussels

IXelles
Ixelles

Ixelles

In my previous visits to Brussels, Ixelles was something so out of the beaten path, that, I never approached it.

Suddenly, Ixelles became “the centre” of Brussels , for a single reason – that’s the quarter where my son Horácio is going to live for, at least, six months.

Do you mind that, with his help, I dedicate to it a special attention now?

​And then they shrunk the Portuguese…

Brussels
Funny decoration

I remembered our visit to the studio of “Honey I shrunk the kids”, in USA, when arriving to Brussels.​


Easy to understand why, when we see the decoration of Europe square. Imaginative, indeed!

​​Living” statues

Brussels
Statues

Comic


A common image in most cities, is the presence of someone painted in white, trying to imitate a known statue or figure. It’s a job, like many other, with variable quality, inviting people to deposit a coin in front of it.

We saw, in Brussels, a very uncommon statue, trying to represent Van Gogh, but in a so unbalanced position that no one could ever stay put for more than half a second. But he did.

It was great the admiration of the public, trying to discover the inevitable rigid structure under the coat to support it. No one could find anything, and he really didn’t even blink. And the coins kept falling!

I had a comment to my friends – “It’s a doll, and by nightfall the owner will pick it and the money”. Everybody smiled at the idea, and we kept moving.

Statues
Statues

Coming back from lunch, the surprise, and the confirmation that I was right:

​The real living statue was already there, side-by-side with the dummy, and not too quiet – his hand didn’t stop, with the international gesture calling for money.

Alfama

Alfama
Alfama

Distraction

Brussels
Accident

Flamand architecture

Brussels
Architecture

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