City Center Orientation Walk (Self Guided), Brussels

Brussels is a major European capital with a remarkable history and cultural heritage. It features a large number of architectural sites, museums and world -famous specialty shops. Take a walk and discover the main landmarks of Brussels such as the world-renowned Grand Place and the Royal Palace.
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City Center Orientation Walk Map

Guide Name: City Center Orientation Walk
Guide Location: Belgium » Brussels (See other walking tours in Brussels)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 15
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 Km or 2.7 Miles
Author: audrey
1
Manneken Pis

1) Manneken Pis (must see)

The Manneken Pis or “Little Man Peeing” is probably one of the more popular statues in Brussels, both for its humor and the various legends that circulate about its origin. Cast from bronze, this small statue depicts a naked boy urinating into the basin of the fountain. The statue is the work of Hieronymus Duquesnoy, a Brussels sculptor, who completed the work in 1619. Through time, the statue has been stolen, so the one you see here is a copy that was cast in 1965. The original is housed in the Maison du Roi.

There are quite a few legends at the origins of the original design. One story says it commemorates a young boy who urinated on a burning fuse that kept an explosive charge from detonating and destroying the city’s fortification walls. Another story tells of a rich merchant whose son disappeared. After an extensive search of the city, the lost boy was found happily urinating in a garden. The statue was a token of appreciation from the boy’s father to the townspeople for their willingness to help find his son. Another story tells of a young boy who woke to a fire. He urinated on the fire, which put it out and spared the king’s castle from burning down. Today, visitors enjoy seeing the rotating costumes that adorn the little man. There are over 500 costumes in all, and his outfit is changed a few times a week.

Why You Should Visit:
To see the most overrated tourist attraction in the world – blink and you'll miss it.

Tip:
To complete the trifecta you should also visit Jeanneke Pis (pissing girl) and Zinneke Pis (pissing dog). Jeanneke Pis is about 550 meters away from Manneken Pis (or about 300 meters from Grand Place) and the pissing dog is also about 550 meters away in a different direction.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Brussels Parliament Building

2) Brussels Parliament Building (must see)

The Regional Parliament Building, also known as the Brussels Parliament Building, is interesting from an architectural perspective. The majority of the building dates back to the early 20th century, but some wings date back to the 17th century. The building boasts a neoclassical architectural style, with a very modern hemicycle (horse-shoe shaped debating chamber) on the top floor of the building.

Historically, the site of the Regional Parliament Building was where the Maes family mansion was located. It was destroyed in 1695 during the Brussels bombardment. What remained of the mansion was bought by Count Charles van den Berghe. He constructed a new mansion on the site with an enclosed courtyard and garden. The mansion was acquired by the government in 1823 to house the Brabant government and to also serve as the home of the governor. Eventually, the mansion fell into disrepair and needed renovations and modifications. In 1995 Brussels split off from Brabant and created its own regional government. The Federal government gave the building to Brussels to serve as their parliament building. However, the building was unsuitable for that use so subsequent renovations were made. In additions to these recent renovations, the local government commissioned eleven artists to create works for different areas of the building.

Tip:
Individual visitors can freely visit the parliamentary chambers during business hours anytime, without the need for an online reservation. During the summer months, you can start your visit any time, while for the rest of the year visits are timed at certain hourly intervals (see here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/visiting/en/brussels/briefing-hemicycle-visits#individuals). There are also docent-led tours at certain times, and if you're really into the workings of the parliament, you can observe a live session on a first-come, first-served basis.

Opening Hours:
Mon: 1-6pm; Tue-Fri: 9am-6pm; Sat, Sun: 10am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Museum of Costume and Lace

3) Museum of Costume and Lace

The Museum of Costume and Lace is located near the Grand Place and focuses on the textile history of Belgium, specifically lace and fabric. The clothing and manufacturing industry is one of the reasons that Brussels and the surrounding area was so prosperous during the Middle Ages. If you love fashion, fabric, or lace, this museum will be a “must see” on your list. The museum has a mix of permanent and rotating exhibits. Some of the costumes in the museum date back to the 1800s. In addition there are accessories, lace samples and other related items. The museum is housed in two 18th century houses that had their interiors redesigned so the flow would work for a museum space. The collection covers three floors. The first and second floors display handmade costumes from many eras. The third floor shows fine delicate lace on display. Visitors to the museum will be provided a printed guidebook during their visit. English language booklets are available, though the film on fashion that is screened in the museum is only in French.

Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday: 10.00-17.00;
Closed: Monday & 1/1, 1/5, 1/11 and 11/11, 25/12
4
Boutique Tintin

4) Boutique Tintin (must see)

Tintin comics are a part of Belgian heritage like Victor Horta's masterpieces or Rene Magritte’s famous paintings. Those who are fond of comics must definitely visit the Tintin boutique on Grand Place. Here you can find the comics translated into 50 languages, various prints, bags, clothes, rugs and watches and other Tintin merchandise. Also, you can choose from a huge collection of toys themed on the cartoon that will make every child happy.

Tip:
You can find a new Galerie Tintin in the Place du Grand Sablon 35 – well worth the visit also.

Opening Hours:
Mon: 12-6pm; Tue-Sat: 10am-6pm; Sun: 11am-5pm
5
Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert

5) Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert (must see)

The Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert are an excellent example of a covered shopping gallery that dates back to 19th century. Seven of these shopping galleries were built in Brussels in between the 1820s and 1830s. The St. Hubert Gallery is one of three that still survive today. The architect for the gallery was Jean-Pierre Cluysenaar and it officially opened in 1847. The two primary sections of the gallery are called the King’s Gallery and the Queen’s Gallery. They measure 8 meters (26 feet) wide and 213 meters (699 feet) long. A smaller section was dubbed the Prince’s Gallery.

The concept of a gallery, such as St. Hubert, dates back to Paris in the 1780s. King Louis XIV, who was having financial problems, rented portions of his garden to shopkeepers. They constructed little shops to sell their wares. These little shops attracted many people and they became a de facto meeting place. Later, this concept of a shopping/gathering place evolved into the covered galleries, which were intended for richer classes. Today the St. Hubert Gallery has luxurious boutiques and shops as well as cafes and restaurants that offer dining in the gallery corridors. One particular standout is the Neuhaus confectioners shop, which opened in 1857.

Why You Should Visit:
Only a small gallery but grand architecture; lots of shops that look expensive but are pretty well priced.
High-end chocolate does cost but if you want to indulge this is the place to find a good selection.

Tip:
Go to the top floor of "Le Pain Quotidien" for a view from the upper side.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Stock Exchange Building

6) Stock Exchange Building (must see)

The building that houses the Brussels Stock Exchange was constructed over a five-year period from 1868 to 1873. The building sprang from a health and beautification project that was undertaken in the city center in the late 1800s. The building blends Neo-Renaissance and Second Empire architectural styles. Neo-Renaissance, sometimes known as Renaissance Revival, is a broad architectural term that applies many 19th-century architectural revival styles that are neither Greek nor Gothic. Second Empire was a style popular in between 1865 and 1880 and reflects French elements that were in high fashion during the Second French Empire.

The Stock Exchange Building features detailed ornamentation and several sculptures that were created by famous artists, including the Jacquet brothers, de Groot, Carrier-Belleuse and Rodin. The pediment is supported by six columns and features a relief of a female, which is meant to represent the City of Brussels. On either side of her are figures which symbolize industry and trade. Two winged statues representing good and evil are located beneath the pediment. This building is closed to the public, but the exterior can be enjoyed and sitting on the stairs leading up the building can provide a resting spot for people watching or reading.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautiful building that has always been a focal point of this part of town and nowadays is used for exhibitions and the like, but it's the square outside that constantly draws attention, as there are always activities going on and even street shows on the weekends. Coffee at the square is a good idea.
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Saint-Nicolas Church

7) Saint-Nicolas Church

The charming Saint Nicolas Church is located amid old houses behind the Bourse and is one of the oldest churches in Brussels. The church dates back over 1,000 years, but very little remains of the original building. The 14th century Gothic style façade covers the lines of the original 11th century Romanesque façade. In the Middle Ages, the church has a tall belfry that served as the city watch tower. However, it collapsed unexpectedly in 1714. The records note that the collapse killed one man and one pig. In 1695 the church was burned completely during the French bombing of Brussels. A remnant of this remains in the form of a cannonball lodged in one of the chapel pillars. The inside of the church holds The Virgin and Child painting by Rubens, as well as a Vladmir Icon dating back from Constantinople in 1131. Additionally, relics of the Martyrs of Gorkum can be observed. The martyrs depicted are Catholic priests that were executed during tumultuous religious times in the late 1500s. Through the years, there were movements to tear down the church to make way for vehicular traffic. However, the new traffic plan was not developed and the Saint Nicolas Church was spared. Equally remarkable is that the old houses surrounding the church have been preserved as well.
8
Rue Neuve

8) Rue Neuve

Rue Neuve, otherwise known as Nieuwstraat in Dutch (English: New Street), is a pedestrian street in central Brussels, the #2 shopping destination of all Belgium after Meir in Antwerp. The street runs between Place de la Monnaie in the south and Place Charles Rogier in the north. It is also often referred to as Rue Notre-Dame/Onze-Lieve-Vrouwstraat, after the Church of Our Lady of Finistere, which now stands in the middle of the busy retail district. The latter has been there since the late 19th century, and became a luxury shopping venue in the early 20th. In 1975 it was pedestrianized. Rue Neuve has the second highest rent price in Belgium, €1,600/square meter/year, yet still being criticized as architecturally "boring", "uniformly 'mass market’" and lacking in independent retailers. To mend the situation, the city of Brussels now plans to bring more residents into the area and thus make it more "attractive."
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Jeanneke Pis

9) Jeanneke Pis

The Jeanneke Pis or “Little Girl Peeing” is a modern statue and fountain that was designed to serve as a counter to the famous Manneken Pis (Little Man Peeing). While Manneken Pis dates back to 1619, it took several hundred years for the female version to appear. The statue measure approximately a half-meter high and was made out of blue-grey limestone by artist Denis-Adrien Debouvrie. The piece was started in 1985 and erected in this location in 1987. The Jeanneke Pis carries the same face of contentment as the Manneken Pis. The Jeanneke Pis has not been embraced as warmly as her male counterpart and some say her presence is tolerated, rather than embraced like the Manneken Pis. It is believed that throwing your coin in the fountain will ensure your deepest wish is granted.
Sight description based on wikipedia
10
St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral

10) St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral (must see)

The dramatic St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral is located at Treurenberg Hill. The presence of a church at this location dates back to the beginning of the 11th century. In 1047, Lambert II, the Duke of Brabant, had the relics of St. Gudula transferred to this site. The original St. Gudula church was constructed in a Romanesque style; however, a renovation in the 13th century resulted in a Gothic style appearance. Glimpses of the 11th-century church can be seen through glass viewing areas set into the floor. The western facade of the cathedral was completed in the late 1400s. The large staircase leads to three gates by which visitors can enter. The interior is dominated by twelve pillars and detailed stained-glass windows accentuating the Gothic style. The window at the bottom of the nave, The Last Judgment, is illuminated from within in the evening. A dramatic baroque pulpit depicts Adam and Eve being chased out of paradise. It was created by Verbruggen in 1699 and has ornate detail. Ongoing renovations occurred throughout much of the 20th century. The renovations were completed in December 1999, just in time for the marriage of the Belgian Crown Price, Philippe, to his bride, Princess Mathilda. The south tower includes a carillon composed of 49 bells, which are often played during Sunday concerts.

Why You Should Visit:
Some monumental architecture but also stands out for the stained glass windows and the relatively new organ perched above everyone's heads to maximize the acoustics.

Tip:
When you first walk in, take a leaflet which provides info about the cathedral's origin and details. This way, you'll have more appreciation for what you're looking at.
There's no admission fee to the cathedral but there is a tiny fee if you want to see the archaeological site beneath the existing floors inside the church.
Sight description based on wikipedia
11
Royal Park

11) Royal Park (must see)

The Royal Park, also known as Brussels Park, is the largest public park in the City. It is surrounded by key buildings, including the Royal Palace of Brussels and the Belgian parliament building. The park serves as a cultural hub of the city and free parties, concerts and events are organized in the park in the summer. In 1830, the Royal Park was the site of a significant event that led to Belgian independence. The revolutionary army clashed with the Dutch army in the park to send the message that the Belgians wanted to break their union with Holland and the Dutch king. The revolutionists succeeded and on September 27, 1830, the new state of Belgium was created.

The Royal Park sits where the medieval court of Brabant was located. The palace dated back to the 11th century. Different park spaces have since occurred in this location. During Austrian rule, the park resembled a little forest in the city with hills and valley. Later the Austrian empress Maria-Theresia changed it into a classical style park to be enjoyed by the rich citizens of the city. Later, the park was leveled and reconstructed following very geometric plans developed by Guimard and Zinner. Classical statues were added and later important cultural buildings were constructed, including the Waux-hall music venue.

Why You Should Visit:
Biggest park in the center of Brussels (besides Cinquantenaire) with lots of architectural landmarks to feast your eyes on in every direction.
The national parade route is along the park and over the summer, there's also a big annual music festival that takes places right by it.
There is a good playground for kids in the middle and cute little cafes serving small bites and local craft beer.
Sight description based on wikipedia
12
Royal Palace

12) Royal Palace (must see)

The official palace of the King of the Belgians is the Royal Palace of Brussels. It is in this location that the King exercises his duties as Head of State. It serves as the location where he grants audiences and deals with national affairs. However, the Royal Palace is not the residence of the royal family; rather, they live on the outskirts of Brussels in the Royal Castle of Laeken. The palace is situated in front of Brussels Park and is separated from the park by a long square called the Place des Palais. The present-day appearance of the palace dates back to around 1900; however, the palace grounds were once part of a very old palatial complex from the Middle Ages, called Coudenberg Palace.

One of the most famous pieces of the palace is located in the Mirror Room. The room features a unique ceiling and central chandelier that are adorned with wing cases from millions of Thai jewel scarab beetles. Called Heaven of Delight, the fresco took artist Jan Fabre and his team of 29 young artists over three months to complete. The fresco includes various shapes that glow in a changing greenish-blue color depending on how light hits the surface.

Why You Should Visit:
During the time (short window from late July to early September) the Royal Palace is open to the public, entry is free and you are allowed to take pictures.
From the salon room through the passageway, the back halls to the prestige ballrooms, attention to details is rewarded – and that's from the floor up to the ceiling.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10:30am-3:45pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
13
Royal Museums of Fine Arts

13) Royal Museums of Fine Arts (must see)

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium are situated in the capital Brussels in the downtown area on the Coudenberg. There are four museums connected with the Royal Museum, and two of them (the Museum of Ancient Art and the Museum of Modern Art, Brussels), are in the main building. The other two (the Museum Constantin Meunier and the Antoine Wiertz Museum) are dedicated to specific Belgian artists, are much smaller, and are located at different points in the city.

The Royal Museum contains over 20,000 drawings, sculptures, and paintings, which date from the early 15th century to the present. The museum has an extensive collection of Flemish paintings, among them paintings by Bruegel and Rogier van der Weyden, Robert Campin, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens. The museum is also proud of its "Rubens Room", which houses more than 20 paintings by the artist.

Why You Should Visit:
An easy choice for an afternoon in Brussels, the combination of The Old Masters Museum, Modern Museum, and Magritte Museum is a veritable steal for the cost of admission and although at times clustered, the variety and expanse of the collection is something that needs to be seen. Not free, but inexpensive and the extra charge for the audio guide is worth it. You can buy entry to all the collections or just one.

Opening Hours:
MUSEE OLD MASTERS MUSEUM, MUSEE MODERN MUSEUM, MUSEE FIN-DE-SIECLE MUSEUM, MUSEE MAGRITTE MUSEUM:
Tue-Fri: 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun: 11am-6pm;

MUSEE WIERTZ MUSEUM, MUSEE MEUNIER MUSEUM:
Tue-Fri: 10am-12pm, 12:45-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
14
Magritte Museum

14) Magritte Museum (must see)

The Magritte Museum is dedicated to showing the works of the famous Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte. Centered in Paris, the surrealist movement began in the 1920s and incorporated an element of surprise and unexpected connections. Known for his humorous and witty images, Magritte challenged the viewer’s perception of reality. He is known for saying, “If the dream is a translation of waking life, waking life is also a translation of the dream.” His artwork featured common objects in uncommon circumstances, such as umbrellas, pipes, stones, apples and men in bowler hats.

The museum opened in 2009 and has over 25,000 square feet of exhibit space and five exhibition levels. With over 200 original paintings, sculptures and drawings, the museum is the largest collection of his works in the world. Work on display includes The Empire of Light, Scheherazade, and The Return. In addition to serving as a repository for Magritte’s works, the museum is also the hub of research and information related to the artist. The museum is arranged chronologically and provides an overview of the artist’s life and the progression of his artwork. The Magritte museum is housed in the lovely Altenloh Hotel, a restored neo-classical landmark which is part of the Museum of Modern art complex on Brussels’ Place Royale.

Why You Should Visit:
Very well laid out over three floors – a nice escape into a different world for a few hours.
Interesting to see the genesis of Magritte's major themes and also what happens when one becomes a retired surrealist.
The gift shop has a lot of prints of the art on various objects for good prices.

Tip:
Make time for the Magritte film on the same level as the gift shop.
For the best experience get an audio guide – however, beware the ordering can get a bit awry in places.
Consider buying an 'all museums' ticket, as it is inexpensive and allows access to two additional beautiful museums, which are interconnected, so you don't have to go outside.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun: 11am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
15
Arts Mountain

15) Arts Mountain

The Kunstberg or Mont des Arts, meaning "hill/mountain of the arts", is a historic site in the center of Brussels. The showcase square was created for the Universal Exposition held in Brussels in 1910. It featured a park and a monumental staircase with cascading fountains descending the gentle slope from Place Royale down to Boulevard de l'Empereur/Keizerslaan. The original square was destroyed during the post-war construction frenzy known as Brusselization; between 1954 and 1965, the square and its surroundings gave way to massive, severely geometric postmodern structures such as the Royal Library of Belgium and the Congress Palace. The Mont des Arts offers one of Brussels’ finest views. From the vantage point on a hill, the famous tower of the Brussels Town Hall at the Grand Place is clearly visible. On a sunny day, the Koekelberg Basilica and even the Atomium can be seen.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Brussels, Belgium

Create Your Own Walk in Brussels

Create Your Own Walk in Brussels

Creating your own self-guided walk in Brussels is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Chocolate Shops Tour

Chocolate Shops Tour

Belgium is considered one of the best producers of chocolate. Its capital, Brussels, offers you the opportunity to taste more than 2000 different types of chocolate. There is a plethora of chocolate shops in Brussels which offer chocolates of all shapes, sizes and colors imaginable. Go ahead and take a look at Brussels most visited chocolate shops in this tour.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 Km or 2.9 Miles
Laken Park Walking Tour

Laken Park Walking Tour

Laken, also known as Laeken, is a park in a residential suburb of Brussels. Laken Park was formerly the official home to the Belgian Royal Family and is home to the Royal Castle, the Royal Greenhouses, the statue of Leopold I of Belgium, and more. Take this three-hour walk to visit the most famous attractions of Laken Park in Brussels.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 Km or 2.4 Miles
Royal Sightseeing Walking Tour

Royal Sightseeing Walking Tour

The main Royal site in Brussels is the statue of Godfrey of Bouillon, which actually represents the center of the Royal Square. Also known as the Royal Place, the Royal Square is surrounded by the Royal Palace, the Royal Museums and the Royal Library. All these served as the official residence to the King of Belgium. Enjoy this two hour tour to visit the Royal places in Brussels.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Artists' Studios and Museums Tour

Artists' Studios and Museums Tour

Brussels is the cultural capital of Belgium and also the former home of such well-known artists as Victor Horta, Camille Lemonnier and Paul Cauchie. There are a number of famous artists' houses and museums in Brussels, which exhibit numerous Belgian masterpieces. Don't miss the chance to visit some of the most famous artists' studios and house museums in Brussels.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.3 Km or 3.3 Miles
The Sablon Sights Walking Tour

The Sablon Sights Walking Tour

The Sablon is a hill and neighborhood in the historic upper town of Brussels. At the top of the hill we find the twin squares of Grand Sablon and Petit Sablon, divided by the Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon. The area is especially known for a great variety of antique dealers, chocolate shops and art galleries.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.6 Km or 0.4 Miles
Grand Place Walking Tour

Grand Place Walking Tour

Brussels is the capital of Belgium and also a top tourist destination in Europe. The city's main square is the Grand Place. The square is famous for its Baroque style buildings, such as the Town Hall, the King's House and other guildhalls, all of which make the Grand Place a busy tourist hotspot. Take this one-hour tour to visit the most popular tourist attractions situated in and around...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.3 Km or 0.2 Miles

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