Royal Sightseeing Walking Tour (Self Guided), Brussels

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.
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Royal Sightseeing Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Royal Sightseeing Walking Tour
Guide Location: Belgium » Brussels (See other walking tours in Brussels)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 km
Author: audrey
1
Royal Theater

1) Royal Theater

The Royal Theater building is located on the edge of Brussels Park, facing the Parliament building. Constructed in 1782 by two brothers, the theater has had an interesting history. It was originally founded as a drama school and performance space for young actors and served as an annex to the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie. Actors could gain their skills at this theater before performing at the highly-regarded Monnaie. Interestingly, the theater was dark from the period of 1807 to 1814 due to Napoleon’s decree on theaters, which essentially limited theater performances to a set number of venues. Other incarnations included vaudeville, comedies, opera, operetta, and classic theater productions put on by Parisian or Dutch actors. During World War I, the theater served as the entertainment hub for the German troops that were occupying the country. It was not until after World War I that the theater gained a strong Belgian identity. The theater has experienced several remodels through time, including an extensive renovation in 2000. Fortunately, these renovations have maintained the fine architectural characteristics of the building.
2
Royal Park

2) 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
3
Royal Palace

3) 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
4
Godfrey of Bouillon Statue

4) Godfrey of Bouillon Statue

This imposing statue was erected in the Royal Square in 1843. It depicts Godfrey of Bouillon on a horse and was designed by Eugène Simonis. Known for being one of the leaders of the First Crusade, Bouillon was a Frankish knight born in the Brabant region of France (which is now part of Belgium). The First Crusade was called by Pope Urban II in 1096 and was meant to liberate Jerusalem and aid the Byzantine Empire. Both of these places were under attack from Muslim forces. Godfrey felt compelled to participate in the Crusade and wanted to pull together a group of knights to fight in the Holy Land. By taking out loans or selling his land outright, he was able to gather thousands of knights. He died in Jerusalem in 1100. There are differing reports of the cause of his death, from getting shot with an arrow, to contracting an illness, to getting poisoned. Godfrey of Bouillon’s legacy continues on through his appearance in classic written texts. For example he was named the hero on Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata. In The Divine Comedy the spirit of Godfrey is seen by Dante in the Heavens of Mars. Mark Twain gives a mention of Godfrey’s sword in “Innocents Abroad.”
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Church of Saint-Jacob

5) Church of Saint-Jacob

Historically, this site supported a medieval abbey church. However, the original church was destroyed in the mid 1700s in favor of a new church that would be more consistent with the overall urban planning efforts that were underway by Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine. The new church location was proposed so it would be in line with rue Montage de la Cour. The current church was constructed over a 14-year period, from 1776 to 1780, with the addition of the nave, transept, choir and sacristy constructed in the years 1785 and 1786. Following its consecration, it was used as both an abbey and parish church. During the French Revolution, the abbey was suspended and the church became a Temple of Reason and later a Temple of Law. Temple of Reason was a temple for a new belief system created to replace Christianity during the French Revolution. The church was put back into Catholic control in 1802. The building features neoclassical architecture, though some of the neoclassical appearance was diminished with the addition of a 19th-century bell tower and placement of colored frescoes on the pediment by artist Jean Portaeles. The building is topped with three sculptures depicting Saint Andrew, Saint James, and Saint John. The interior of the church is rather simple compared to that of other churches built at this time; however, it does have some notable features including large paintings located on each side of the transept. These were painted by Portaeles and are called The Crucifix and the Spear Blow, on the left, and the Cross of Salvation, on the right. The vault of the cupola is decorated with octagonal caissons full of roses.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Royal Museums of Fine Arts

6) 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
7
Royal Belgian Film Archive

7) Royal Belgian Film Archive

The Royal Belgian Film Archive maintains one of the richest collections of cinema in the world. This is a must see for the cinophile. The Archive is dedicated to showing, preserving and restoring movies. The Royal Film Archive had its beginnings in the 1930s. Henri Strock, André Thirifay, and Piet Vermeylen started a Brussels-based film club in 1931, called the Club de l’Ecran. In 1937, they expanded their efforts and established the bilingual (French and Dutch) Cinémathèque de Belgique. This organization went on to become the present-day Royal Film Archive. The Archive houses an astounding number of materials, with over 280 million meters of film and 44,000 titles. In addition, the library has 37,000 books, 2,400 journals and over 70,000 files of press clippings dating back one hundred years. For each movie that comes out, the Archive gets four copies. One is held, along with the negatives in the archive, and the remaining three are used or lent out for noncommercial viewing. The collection grows by approximately 2,000 films per year. Up to five different films are shown daily, three with sound and two with an accompanying piano player. The biggest challenge facing the museum is securing ongoing funding and support to maintain the film archive.
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
Royal Library

8) Royal Library

The Royal Library of Belgium is a key cultural institution in Belgium with a long history. The library’s history dates back to the Dukes of Burgundy in the 800s, though it has occupied different areas through time. Its current location in the Mont des Arts area puts in adjacent to many of the important cultural institutions in Brussels. The library’s collection is eclectic. For example, the library maintains historically-important collections, including the Fétis archives. Fétis was an influential figure in Belgian music and was a computer, music teacher and critic. The library also serves as a depository for any book published in Belgium or a book published abroad by a Belgian author. In addition the library has over 200,000 maps, atlases and globes. Old books, printed as early as the 15th century, are housed in the library, as well as 35,000 manuscripts, including codices from the Middle Ages. A special Medal section is dedicated to the preservation and study of coins. The Center for American Studies is also housed in the library. The Institute is affiliated with four universities (University of Antwerp, Free University of Brussels, University of Ghent, and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) and students can earn a Masters degree in American Studies.
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert

9) 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
10
Royal Monnaie Theater

10) Royal Monnaie Theater

The Royal Monnaie Theater is the primary opera house of Belgium and has the reputation of being one of the finest opera houses in Europe due to the leadership of the past and current music directors. As it stands today, the Monnaie Theater is actually the third theater to grace this site. The first theater in this location was the Theater of Gio-Paolo Bombarda, which was built by Venetian architects between 1695 and 1700. Prior to having a theater, the site was home to the mint. La Monnaie actually translates to “the mint”, a place where money is made. The Gio-Paolo Bombarda stood for over 100 years. In 1818, it was replaced by the theater of Louis Damesme. That theater was active for over 30 years, before it burned to the ground in 1855. Following the fire, the building was reconstructed within 14 months. The interior of the theater and the foyer were decorated in a mix of Neo-Baroque and Neo-Renaissance styles, which emphasized heavy decor like gilded decorations, red velvet, brocade and dramatic chandeliers. Since that time, additional renovations and additions have occurred to bring the theater to its current state. Today, the theater seats 1,700 people.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Brussels, Belgium

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Grand Place Walking Tour

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City Center Gift Shops

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It would be a pity to leave Brussels without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Brussels, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit. All shops are located within a pleasant walking distance, in Central Brussels.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 km
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Known as the cultural capital of Belgium, Brussels has a large number of museums located in the heart of the city. Brussels is famous for such museums as the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, the Magritte Museum, the Museum of Brussels, the Museum of Musical Instruments, etc. This

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Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 km
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Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 km

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