Getting to know the European Institutions in Brussels

May 11, 2019

Brussels is so much more than Grand Place and Manneken Pis statue. As more and more tourists from all over the world visiting Brussels wants to understand how European Institutions are functioning, visitors centres are better equipped, and with helpful staff always ready to help. Start your visit to the European Parliament in Brussels at Station Europe, on the lively Place du Luxembourg.

Whether you’re just curious or know exactly what you want to see, Station Europe has all the information you need to make the most of your visit. Housed in the original building of the Brussels-Luxembourg train station, Station Europe perfectly bridges the area’s past as the Leopold Quarter and its modern role as the home of European democracy, and has something to offer for all ages. See the European Parliament come alive with an augmented reality model of the campus. Or delve into the history of the European Parliament at touchscreen tables and see which of your favorite inspiring figures you’re following in the footsteps of. You can even peer into the past with peephole dioramas and see the European Parliament from different angles, at different times in its life. Station Europe is also your gateway to Brussels with on hand to give you a taste of everything else there is to do in the Belgian capital.

Brussels hosts the main offices of the Members of the European Parliament.
A visit to the Hemicycle is a great way to soak up the exciting atmosphere of the world’s largest transnational parliament and find out about its powers and role. The Hemicycle can seat all 751 Members of the European Parliament. During plenary sessions it is used for the European Parliament’s largest and most important debates, providing the setting for many historic votes.

Visits are free of charge. Advance booking is required for groups, but no reservation is needed for individuals. A valid identity document (ID card or passport) is required to access European Parliament buildings. Individual visitors can visit the Hemicycle with a multimedia guide, join a briefing or follow plenary sessions. Visits are available for individuals, families and small groups of up to 10 people. Children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult. Please make sure to be at the visitors’ entrance 15 minutes before the start of the visit.

The European Council is the EU institution that defines the general direction and priorities
of the European Union. It consists of the heads of state or government of the EU member states,
the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.
The European Council represents the highest level of political cooperation between the member states and meets at least once every 2-3 months in Brussels.

The European Council is not one of the EU’s legislative institutions, and therefore does not negotiate or adopt EU laws. Instead, it sets the EU’s policy agenda, generally by adopting ‘conclusions’ during European Council meetings. These identify issues of concern and actions to take. It is the Council of the EU, together with the European Parliament, that exercise the legislative functions of the EU, in most cases based on a proposal from the European Commission.Most of the European Council’s work is planned. However, some of its work is unscheduled crisis management that requires a discussion between the EU’s heads of state or government. Discussions may cover such areas as the banking crisis, the migration crisis, Brexit and fight against terrorism.

The Commission is steered by a group of 28 Commissioners, known as ‘the college’. Together they take decisions on the Commission’s political and strategic direction. A new college of Commissioners is appointed every 5 years. The Commission is organised into policy departments, known as Directorates-General (DGs), which are responsible for different policy areas. DGs develop, implement and manage EU policy, law, and funding programmes. In addition, service departments deal with particular administrative issues. Executive agencies manage programmes set up by the Commission.

The Commission has offices throughout the world. Inside the EU, representation offices act as the Commission’s voice in their host country. Here you can find information about EU activities, and order brochures, leaflets and other materials. Offices outside the EU, known as delegations, are managed by the European External Action Service. They help promote EU interests and policies as well as undertake a variety of outreach programmes. Visitor centre of European Commission provides the public with an understanding of how the European Commission works and, its policies and priorities.
Group visits are available Monday through Friday. The Visitors’ Centre is closed on weekends and Belgian public holidays, plus certain holidays for the EU institutions.

Experience European politics as never before at Europe’s largest parliamentary visitor centre and see why 2 million people have already visited the Parlamentarium! Handheld multimedia guides accompany visitors to the heart of the European Parliament, explaining the path towards European integration, how the European Parliament works and what its Members are doing to meet the challenges of today.

The Parlamentarium is dynamic and interactive by design and can be experienced in any of the European Union’s 24 official languages, making it the perfect place for visitors of all ages to discover European politics. The Parlamentarium is open seven days a week and entrance is free of charge. A visit normally takes around 90 minutes, but shorter tours are available for families and school groups. Advance booking is possible for all, but strongly recommended for groups.

From myths and discoveries to the chaos and cohesion of the 20th century, the House of European History takes visitors on a journey along the path of Europe’s history and challenges them to contemplate its future. Entrance is free and visits take around 90 minutes. Its exhibits are available in all 24 official European Union languages. Tailored resources and experiences for schools, families and groups are also available. Individual visitors and groups of less than 10 people do not need prior booking to visit the museum.

Visitors can enjoy the exhibition at their own pace, with the multimedia guides available in all 24 languages of the European Union. Guided tours in English take place every Tuesday, from 12:15 to 13:00 without prior reservation. Groups of more than 10 people need to book their visit online minimum 2 weeks in advance, if requesting a multimedia guide, or 4 weeks, if requesting a tour with a guide. Multimedia guides are available in all 24 languages of the European Union and guided visits are offered in English, Dutch, French and German.

The Esplanade Solidarność 1980 – with the Agora Simone Veil at its centre – defines the European Parliament site in Brussels, connecting its buildings with the Place du Luxembourg, the Brussels-Luxembourg train station and Parc Léopold. It’s the ideal place to grab a sandwich,
read a book, or even just soak up the atmosphere of the European Parliament. The Esplanade Solidarność 1980 hosts more than 40 public events every year, run by the European Union institutions
and other organisations.