Unexpected Brussels

October 14, 2019

Brussels is so much more than Grand Place and Manneken Pis. It is one of the most international Capitals in the world and beside the classic sight-seeings you should discover Brussels museums, architecture and art. I am presenting you my favorite places that deserves your attention:

Station Europe

Station Europe can be first on your list of unexpected sites in the city. It is the best starting point, as you will have information about the Brussels and European Union in general. The European Parliament’s welcome point is full of interactive tools and has something to pique the curiosity of all ages. Friendly staff are also on hand to show you everything there is to do at the European Parliament and in Brussels itself. 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.

European Parliament

Experience the exciting atmosphere of the world’s largest transnational parliament with a visit to the European Parliament hemicycle. You can even follow a live plenary session. An interactive guide in one of the EU’s 24 official languages or one of the team of guides, along with a Q&A session, will explain how this centre of European democracy functions, what its powers are, and which historic votes have taken place within its walls. For individual visitors or groups of no more than 10, booking is not required. Briefings for individual visitors take place at 11:00 and 15:00 (exept on Fridays during July and august: only at 11:00). Visiting times for individual visitors: Monday-Thursday: 9:00 to 16:00, Friday: 9:00 to 12:00

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

The collection of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium covers a period extending from the 15th to the 21st centuries. It provides a vast overview of western art, with remarkable ensembles of works of artists from Belgium or from the former Southern Netherlands. Composed mainly of paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, it also includes, in particular through donations or deposits, items of decorative arts and furniture along with a small number of non-European works.

Law Courts of Brussels – Symbol of Eclectic Architecture

Constructed from 1866 to 1883, this was the largest construction project of its time: a volume of 665,000 cubic metres was built on a surface area of 26,000m².This building is the chief work of the architect Joseph Poelaert. His ambition to encompass an eclectic synthesis of the history of humanity in the architecture of a single building cost him dear.

He died in a deranged state of mind four years before the end of the work. Unfairly, the law courts building, which literally crushed the working-class district of the Marolles, became the ultimate symbol of the town-planning lunacies of the 19th century and of their social cost in terms of expropriations and expulsions.

MIM – Musical Instruments Museum – discover Art Nouveau as its best

As soon as it opened at the end of the 19th century, the luxurious Old England department store earned an excellent reputation for its highly distinctive building. The entrance to the building is a jewel of the Art Nouveau style, while the rest is in perfect harmony with the neoclassical ensemble on the Place Royale, and just around the corner from the Grand-Place and Central Station, no less! With a wealth of some 9.000 instruments, some 1.200 of which are on permanent exhibit, the museum’s reputation is mainly built on its extraordinary collections. Once inside, you’ll embark on a true tour of the musical world. After your visit, the instruments and their history will no longer hold any secrets: from the viola da gamba from the Court of Brussels to the 20th century theremin, and even including the African kora! The mim is nothing other than a place to experience music. A visitor’s guidance system allows you to explore the thematic tours to the tune of the melodious sound of the instruments presented.

House of European History – my personal favorite

This free museum in the beautifully renovated Eastman building takes visitors on a journey along the path of Europe’s history and challenges them to contemplate its future. The permanent exhibition is based on fascinating objects from more than 300 museums and collections from across Europe and worldwide. An interactive tablet guides the visitor in each of the EU’s 24 official languages, from the early European myths and discoveries, to the chaos of the 20th century, followed by a growing feeling of unity and belonging. The House of European History provides visits perfectly tailored for schools, families and groups.

Museum of Natural Sciences largest Dinosaur Gallery in Europe

Discover nature at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels, where you can explore human nature, our evolution and biology, in the brand new Gallery of Humankind: from Sahelanthropus to Homo sapiens; from embryo to adult. But that’s not all! In the rest of the Museum you’ll find the largest Dinosaur Gallery in Europe, you’ll be able to study the 1000+ specimens in the Gallery of Evolution, to dive with gigantic sea lizards from the Cretateuous period in the Mosasaur Room, to embark on an urban safari in BiodiverCITY and to discover 250 years of the history of Natural Sciences through 14 iconic specimens. With rooms dedicated to subjects as diverse as minerals, insects (with the Vivarium where you can observe amongst others live tarantulas and stick insects) and shells, there’s always something to discover in the permanent collections.

Notre Dame du Sablon

This church is a precious example of the development of ogival art from Brabant.
It owes its beauty to the city’s crossbowmen, who built it in the 15th century.
Several member of the Thurn und Taxis family are buried there in sarcophagi placed under the chapel of Saint Ursula, which is their burial site. If you pass by this church, do not hesitate to enter and contemplate its architecture and numerous stained glass windows

Palais Royal

The Royal Palace was built on the site of the former Palace of the Dukes of Brabant which was destroyed by fire in 1731. Started in 1820 under the reign of King William, it was modified in 1904 under Leopold II, who had it rebuilt in Louis XVI style. The side wings date from the 18th century and at the end of each wing there is a pavilion. On the left that of the Civil List and on the right the Hotel Bellevue which is currently the Belvue Museum.

 Mont des Arts 

Situated on the North-South axis that connects the lower, working-class part of the city with the upper, aristocratic part, the Mont des Arts has had quite an eventful history. The park created by Jules Vacherot at the request of Leopold II in the run-up to the Expo of 1910, disappeared under the project of René Pechère as Expo 58 drew near. The project was to include underground parking facilities. This project has the advantage of reserving a fine view of plane trees and the spire of Brussels’ City Hall.