Brussels in general
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Review of "Brussels in general"
BrusselsI recently took a trip to Brussels so I thought I would share my experiences of the city.
Firstly a little bit of background from an article I read. Brussels is the largest urban area in Belgium. It comprises 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels proper, which is the capital of Belgium, Flanders and the French Community of Belgium. The metropolitan area has a population of over 1.8 million. Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been an important centre for international politics. The presence of the main EU institutions as well as the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has made the city a polyglot home of many international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants.We actually went to Brussels as a side visit, it was not our intended destination. We had planned a week in Heidelberg as a surprise for my mother who used to go to university there. As I am pregnant I did not want to fly so we decided to take the Eurostar to Brussels and then rent a car and drive to Heidelberg. We decided to spend a night in Brussels to break up the journey and it all worked very well.
It is very easy to get to Brussels on the Eurostar. The trains leave from London St Pancreas and arrive at the Brussels Midi Station. The whole journey takes about 2 hours which is great. We booked early and so were able to take advantage of their £59 return tickets.Upon arriving in Brussels I found it quite a undescrpit place. Obviously as it is the home of all things European there were a lot of big office type building and official looking buildings and it was actually quite a quiet place in some areas. I also found the area quite dirty unfortunately. I guess you do find this with most big cities but there was quite a lot of litter on the ground. We also walked past an open air urinal which smelt awful and was truly disgusting!
Most people in Brussels speak English which is nice. Historically Brussels is a Dutch speaking community but today most inhabitants are native French-speakers, although both languages have official status. I found a lot of menus were in French but they also offered English versions as well which was nice.Brussels does have some tourist sections that are well worth a look. The Grand Place is the central market square of Brussels. It is surrounded by guild houses and the city's Town Hall. The square is the most important tourist destination and most memorable landmark in Brussels. I thought this was a really beautiful part of the city and quite different from the streets surrounding it. It was quite strange to be walking in the littered streets and then all of a sudden come across this lovely square with lots of flowers on the lampposts and a litter free centre. The square is quite large and has a lovely cobbled centre to it to allow you to wander around. In the middle you will find people selling their drawings and paintings of the square. The buildings surrounding it are very grand and contain a lot of gold in their decorations. There is one building with a statue of a gold man on a horse. There are some shops located in the Grand Place as well which are generally touristy but of quite high quality, you will not find the tacky shops here. For example they had a Godiva chocolate shop and a shop selling antique Belgium lace. You can also find a few pubs where you can stop and have a drink.
A few streets away from this square you will find the famous statue Manneken Pis which in my opinion is the best never for a statue ever. Manneken Pis is Dutch for little man urinating and that's basically what the statue is, a small bronze fountain sculpture depicting a naked boy urinating into the fountain's basin. He is also known in French as the petit Julien. I was a bit disappointed when I saw the statue though as I thought it would be a lot bigger, it's really quite small and can just be found on a small corner of the street. However, it's quite a tourist attraction though as we were surrounded by lots of people taking photos.According to an article I read there are several legends behind this statue, but the most famous is the one about Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142, the troops of this two-year-old lord were battling against the troops of the Berthouts, the lords of Grimbergen, in Ransbeke (now Neder-over-Heembeek). The troops put the infant lord in a basket and hung the basket in a tree to encourage them. From there, the boy urinated on the troops of the Berthouts, who eventually lost the battle.
The street that leads you up to Manneken Pis is the place to buy all your tacky Brussels souvenirs such as beer glasses, magnets, postcards, etc. There are also quite a few Belgium Waffle stands where you can buy gorgeous looking and tasting waffles with all kinds of toppings such as whipped cream, chocolate, strawberries and raspberries.We also visited the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral which is located at the Treurenberg hill. It is quite a tall, beautiful building from the outside with a Gothic style to it and is worth a visit inside.
If you are driving around the city I definitely recommend leaving yourself a lot of time if you need to get somewhere on time. The traffic was really heavy around the Brussels Midi Station with lots of one way streets which we seem to go over quite a few times so you do need patience.I did enjoy the few touristy bits we did in Belgium but I probably would not return to Belgium in a hurry as I feel one day is enough to see all the sights and there really was not much more to see and keep you here.
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Listed on Ciao since: 23/07/2000