The Sablon Sights Walking Tour, Brussels (Self Guided)

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.
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The Sablon Sights Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: The Sablon Sights Walking Tour
Guide Location: Belgium » Brussels (See other walking tours in Brussels)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.6 km
Author: alexei
Egmont Palace

1) Egmont Palace

The Egmont Palace is home to the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The building is primarily used for Ministry meetings and receptions. The large mansion was built in the mid 1500s by Lamoral, Count of Egmont and his mother, Francoise of Luxembourg. It was originally constructed in a Flemish-Gothic style and then in a Renaissance style. In the 18th century the building was renovated to a Classical style by the Arenbergs, a prominent Belgian aristocratic family. Following World War I, the German owners sold the building to the city of Brussels. During the 1920 Summer Olympics, fencing events were hosted in the garden. In 1964, the building was transferred from the Brussels government to the Belgian government. In 1977, the Egmont Pact was signed at the palace. The pact focused on the reform of Belgium and the relations between the various linguistic communities in the country. Due to subsequent resignation of the government, the pact was not carried out; however, key elements of the pact were later used in a state reform. Visitors are not able to access the interior of the palace; only the garden area and adjacent secluded Egmont Park. The latter features a Gothic well which was historically used to supply water and extinguish fires. It also includes several statues, including one of childhood favorite Peter Pan.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Jardin du Petit Sablon

2) Jardin du Petit Sablon (must see)

The Petit Sablon is a delightful little resting spot where you can enjoy a serene setting in an otherwise bustling city. This small park is in the exclusive Sablon area of Brussels, which boasts numerous art galleries, boutiques and antique shops. The name “sablon” comes from a yellow sandy earth layer that is seen in the area. The Petit Sablon was established in 1890 through the planning of architect Beyaert. Prior to that, this location served as a horse market. Visitors enjoy the gardens, fountains and the decorative wrought iron fencing adorned with small bronze statuettes. The 48 statues, designed by Paul Hankar, represent different trade and craft guilds. A special emphasis is given to the builder, sculptor, stone cutter and slate quarry worker, which are crowned. One end of the garden features a raised monument with ten large statues representing the celebrated Belgian scholars and humanists, including Mercator, Van Bodeghem, and Ortelius. In the center of the park stands an elevated monument to the Counts of Egmont and Hoorn. Their coats of arms decorate the base of the statute. These Counts are commemorated because they stood up against the tyranny of the Spanish invasion. Unfortunately, they met their death through decapitation for their position.

Why You Should Visit:
To be entranced by its quietness in the middle of the city.
The fountain is soothing, the landscaping is well done and the ring of statues is interesting.

Go around the park and try to figure out which guild each of the 48 bronze statues represents (it's sometimes hard to tell because they describe lost professions, but worth a try nonetheless!).
Sight description based on wikipedia
Église Notre Dame du Sablon

3) Église Notre Dame du Sablon (must see)

The Église Notre Dame du Sablon (Church of Our Lady of the Sablon) is a late-Gothic style church in the upscale Sablon area. The original chapel on the site dates back to 1304 and was funded by the Guild of Crossbowmen. Upon completion of the chapel, the guilds-men used it as their place of worship. Later, the church was used by the monarchs; including Emperor Charles V. Up until the late 1700s the church was a burial ground for the rich community members, who would construct their own funeral chapels. The church was expanded through the years and was renovated in a neo-Gothic style between 1864 and 1934. The real beauty of the church is in the interior, with impressive and colorful stained-glass windows. These windows provide a contrast to the churches generally gray and white features. They are lit from behind and visible from the exterior of the church at night. The statue of St. Hubert is notable due to its interesting history. It was stolen from Brussels and spirited away to Antwerp where it stayed for a year. Eventually, it was returned to the church and in 1348, and it has remained ever since. The church is open daily.

Why You Should Visit:
To be struck by the sense of how grand the structure is, yet at the same time by its intimacy as compared to a more typical cathedral.
Well lighted by MANY beautiful stained glass windows – amongst the most memorable you will see!

Make sure to go early on a Sunday so you can also go to the antique market outside the church!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-6:30pm; Sat-Sun: 9am-7pm; Free entry
Sight description based on wikipedia
Place du Grand Sablon

4) Place du Grand Sablon (must see)

The Sablon (French) or Zavel (Dutch) is a neighborhood and hill in the historic upper town of Brussels. At its heart are the twin squares of the larger Grand Sablon (French for Large Sablon) or Grote Zavel square in the northwest and the smaller Petit Sablon (French for Small Sablon) or Kleine Zavel square and garden in the southeast, divided by the Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon. The Grand Sablon square lies to the northwest of the church. It is in the shape of a long triangle, around 50m wide in the southeast, terminating in a point around 130m to the northwest. When Brussels residents refer to the 'Sablon' without qualification, they are usually referring to the Grand Sablon.

The Grand Sablon is nowadays a genuine neighborhood with residents and small businesses, while at the same time being a popular place to stroll and a tourist attraction. Surrounding the square are numerous antique stores, fashionable boutiques, hotels, restaurants, an auction house, and numerous pastry shops and well-known Belgian chocolatiers, including Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini and Godiva. The Grand Sablon Place has the most famous antique markets in Brussels situated on it. On Saturdays and Sundays, the Grand Sablon hosts the Sablon Antiques and Books Market. As is the case with many other public squares in Brussels, the Grand Sablon has been partially transformed into a parking lot.

Why You Should Visit:
Between antique fairs (every Sunday), art galleries, small cafés and fabulous chocolatiers, this place has a charm!

Don't miss the very nice Petit Sablon garden just south of the church.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Marché des Antiquaires et du Livre du Sablon

5) Marché des Antiquaires et du Livre du Sablon

Marché des Antiquaires et du Livre du Sablon is an antique market in Brussels which is open each weekend. It was founded in October 1959, at the initiative of Georges Van de Weghe. The market is located at Place du Grand Sablon, right beside the Notre-Dame du Sablon, and provides lovers of antiques, art and vintage an excellent opportunity for a bargain hunt. With a vast array of old books and maps on offer, supplemented by plethora of antiques and vintage merchandise, the Marché has it all - from jewellery to prints to clothing to hats to clocks to dolls to oil paintings to sculptures and much much more, - dating back as far as the 18th century.

Operation Hours Saturday: 9 am - 5 pm; Sunday: 9 am - 1 pm
Cento Anni

6) Cento Anni

Established in 1982 by Maria Isabel Romero and Rodrigo Diaz, Cento Anni is a tiny shop located in the neighbourhood of Place du Grand Sablon, Brussels. The place carries a large inventory of antiques, including French-made glasswork with floral decorations, ornamented vases, silver cutlery, bronze sculptures, vintage furniture, lightings, lamps and other items from Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods.
Sablon Antiques Center

7) Sablon Antiques Center

Sablon Antiques Center, established in 1984, is located at 39 Place du Grand Sablon, in the neighbourhood of Grand Place. The 600m2 space is jam packed with a multitude of vintage goods: oil paintings, drawings, ceramic and bronze sculptures, porcelain sets, fine furniture (wooden chests, classic chairs, elegant dining tables) and various home accessories (clocks, silver works, chandeliers, lamps and candelabras). The collection spans the 15th century through the 20th. Owner of Sablon, Mr. Patrick Van der Stichelen, maintains contacts with more than 200 international antique dealers, and accommodates over 180 vendors within the centre.

Operation Hours Monday - Sunday: 10 am - 6 pm
Pierre Marcolini

8) Pierre Marcolini

What to buy here: Belgian chocolate. Bringing back chocolate from Belgium is a bit of an obvious choice, so if you’re going to pick up a box, you’ll want something they’re not at all expecting. Chocolatier Pierre Marcolini treats his sweets as modern design, and doesn’t stop at the chocolate itself. His store in the heart of the artsy Sablon-district looks a bit like a decadent ice cream parlor where the chocolates are displayed as if they were luxury cars in a show room.

His top-of-the line product is the macaron, two brightly colored biscuits separated from each other by a cream paste. If you’re looking for the royal treatment, pick up The Complete Collection (30 euros), a red luxury box with 25 macarons in every imaginable bright color. Of course, it is always possible to assemble a handpicked selection, or buy one of the less expensive gift packages .Other than macarons, you’ll find plenty of pralines, truffles and chocolates that have all been treated to the Marcolini touch.

Open : Mon - Thu, Sun (10:00-19:00), Fri-Sat (10:00-20:00)

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.
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
Marolles and Matonge Nightlife

Marolles and Matonge Nightlife

Brussels' nightlife is represented by the variety of its clubs, among which are not only out and out discotheques, but also clubs that host world-famous DJs and live music. Brussels is home to some of the most fashionable night clubs in Belgium. Take this walking tour to visit the most famous venues located in the Marolles and Matonge districts of Brussels.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 km
A Walking Tour in Heysel Park

A Walking Tour in Heysel Park

Situated in north Brussels, Heysel Park was home to the 1935 Brussels International Exposition. Today, Heysel Park is a great place to take your family and kids, it is home to such entertainment venues as the Planetarium, Carousel and Oceade water park. Heysel Park also includes a number of significant tourist spots, such as the Atomium, the Palace of Exhibitions, Bruparck, and other Art Deco...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 km
City Center Gift Shops

City Center Gift Shops

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
City Center Museums

City Center Museums

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

tour includes the most popular museums in Brussels City Center, all within a pleasant walking distance.

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

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Belgian Beer Tour of Brussels

Belgian Beer Tour of Brussels

Belgium is world-renowned for its beers and Brussels is the best city to sample the huge variety of flavors. We'll show you the best places to buy them and to drink them. We'll even show you a family brewery where the liquid gold is produced right in front of your eyes! This tour is meant...
What to Buy in Brussels: 15 Ideas for Travelers

What to Buy in Brussels: 15 Ideas for Travelers

It's no secret that Brussels is not all about JCVD muscles and EU headquarters. Small country as such, Belgium abounds in signature items, such as beer, chocolates and... the peeing boy. All of these have made prime Belgian souvenirs for years. Now you can explore the Brussels gift scene in...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Brussels for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Brussels has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money getting around Brussels and visiting the city's multiple highlights, you may want to resort to the Brussels City Card.

Among other conveniences, this card allows its bearer to explore Brussels's top attractions, tours, restaurants, bars and clubs, and selected shops either completely free of charge (41 museums) or with great (up to 50%) discounts. The card provides 24-, 48-, or 72-hour passes to these locations, plus free ride on the hop-on hop-off bus and public transportation (optional) thus putting Brussels at your fingertips! Reduced rates for children and students also apply at participating venues.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Brussels hotels that are conveniently located, but at the same time, also not so ridiculously expensive: NH Brussels Carrefour de L’Europe, Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo, Hotel Novotel Brussels Off Grand Place.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Brussels, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close, with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, as a guided tour of Brussels typically costs from around US$20 up to US$50+ per person:

- Take a 3-hour guided walk around central Brussels to discover the city's historic locations, learn about its legendary men and women who made history, delve into the origins of Brussels, and acquaint yourself with the Belgian capital's contemporary culture and gastronomy;

- Embark on a must-see tour of real Brussels exploring the city's top attractions through the eyes of a local guide revealing a flip side of the well-known locations, plus discovering a few secret spots only the locals know about, away from the trodden tourist paths. En route, you may give yourself a treat to the authentic Belgian cuisine at a local eatery, not forgetting the world-famous Belgian chocolate, plus indulge yourself in some other local delights along the way.

- Appreciate Belgian gastronomy in its diversity – chocolate, waffles, beers, fries, and more – on the Food and Beer walking tour of Brussels offering a unique chance to savor a variety of local foods, drink local beers and unleash your sweet tooth onto the delicious local chocolate, whilst listening to a great deal of fun stories associated with each of these delights!

- Come and see what's made Belgium an international beer superpower on a 2.5-hour beer tasting tour of Brussels led by a local expert. Here, you will learn to tell a difference between the Belgian and foreign-made brews plus acquaint yourself with some of the 1,000+ craft beers made in this country.

- Pedal your way across Brussels on a 3.5-hour guided biking tour to discover the city's beauty manifested in its top landmarks, breath in the local atmosphere, plus enjoy along the way some of the best fries and beer (optional) the city has to offer.

- Explore the artistic side of Brussels on the tour following in the footsteps of renowned Belgian artists who left their mark in the field of Surrealist painting and Art Nouveau architecture. On this tour you will see some of the city's hidden gems, visit independent galleries and more, led step by step by a knowledgeable local guide.

Day Trips

If you have a half or full day to spare whilst in Brussels, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations, like Ghent and Bruges, Antwerp, Maasmechelen, or Waterloo. For as little as US$10+ to US$100+ you will get a chance to acquaint yourself with the UNESCO World Heritage city of Ghent's medieval architecture, learn about Bruges's Viking and Middle Age history, get to see Antwerp - the hometown of Peter Paul Rubens and one of the largest harbors in the world, shop till you drop at Maasmechelen Village with over 100 international boutiques offering big-name brand clothing at reduced (down to 40%) prices, plus visit the site of one of the most significant battles in the history of Europe that saw the ultimate defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte. All these trips start and end at your hotel and you'll be carried by a comfortable air-conditioned coach or minivan, accompanied by an English-speaking tour guide.