Brussels is Europe or Belgium is Europe!

Ok in continuing my saga of old posts that comes to life, I will talk today about Brussels in specific and Belgium in general. Well Brussels or Bruxelles is to me the essence of the Belges! I have good friends here,and family living close to the border, and over the years my family have enjoyed our vacations there from Brugge to Geel, Olen ,Anvers, and Brussels. I like to write about Brussels in specific today.

What better way to start than to show you my previous posts in my blog on Brussels and Belgium in general here:

https://wordpress.com/post/paris1972-versailles2003.com/1871

https://wordpress.com/post/paris1972-versailles2003.com/6767

https://wordpress.com/post/paris1972-versailles2003.com/6814

https://wordpress.com/post/paris1972-versailles2003.com/6827

https://wordpress.com/post/paris1972-versailles2003.com/6840

https://wordpress.com/post/paris1972-versailles2003.com/6802

https://paris1972-versailles2003.com/2011/08/06/my-escapades-in-europe/

Brussels or Bruxelles (FR) or Brussel (NL) is the capital of the  Brussels-Capital Region comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels, which is the capital of Belgium, as well as Anderlecht, Auderghem, Berchem-Sainte Agathe, Etterbeek, Evere, Forest, Ganshoren, Ixelles,Jette,Koekelberg, Molenbeek-Saint Jean, Saint Gilles, Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Schaerbeek, Uccle, Watermael-Boitsford,Woluwe-Saint Lambert, and Woluwe-Saint-Pierre (French names version) . The Brussels-Capital Region is located in the central portion of the country and is a part of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community, but is separate from the region of Flanders (in which it forms an enclave) or Wallonia (French speaking side). As you can see a bit complicated indeed. Historically a Dutch-speaking city, Brussels has seen a language shift to French from the late 19C onwards. Today, the Brussels Capital Region  is officially bilingual in Flemish/Dutch and French, but French is now the de facto main language with over 90% of the population speaking it.

Brussels is the home of numerous international organizations. Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union, the secretariat of the Benelux and the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are also located in Brussels. Today, it is classified as an Alpha global city. The Royal Palace, where the King of Belgium acts as the  head of state. The Palace of the Nation is located on the opposite side, and is the seat of the Belgian Federal Parliament. The office of the Prime Minister of Belgium, colloquially called Law Street 16 , is located adjacent to this building. This is also the place where the Council of Ministers holds its meetings. The Court of Cassation, Belgium’s main court, has its seat in the Palace of Justice. Other important institutions in the City of Brussels are the Constitutional Court, the Council of State, the Court of Audit, the Royal Belgian Mint and the National Bank of Belgium.  The City of Brussels is also the capital of both the French Community of Belgium  and the Flemish Community. The Flemish Parliament and Flemish Government have their seats in Brussels, as do the Parliament of the French Community and the Government of the French Community. Ok ok…

A bit of history I like tells us that the official founding of Brussels is usually situated around 979, when Duke Charles of Lower Lotharingia transferred the relics of Saint Gudula from Moorsel to the Saint Gaugericus chapel. Charles would construct the first permanent fortification in the city, doing so on that same island. By the middle ages Lambert I of Leuven, Count of Leuven, gained the County of Brussels around 1000, by marrying Charles’ daughter.

In the 15C, by means of the wedding of heiress Margaret III of Flanders with Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, a new Duke of Brabant emerged from the House of Valois (namely Antoine, their son). In 1477, the Burgundian duke Charles the Bold perished in the Battle of Nancy. Through the marriage of his daughter Mary of Burgundy (who was born in Brussels) to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, the Low Countries fell under Habsburg sovereignty. Brabant had lost its independence, but Brussels became the Princely Capital of the prosperous Burgundian Netherlands, also known as the Seventeen Provinces, and flourished. After the death of Mary in 1482, her son Philip the Handsome succeeded as the Duke of Brabant. In 1506, he became King of Castile, and hence the period of the Spanish Netherlands began. In 1516, Charles V, who had been heir of the Low Countries since 1506, was declared King of Spain (Charles I) in the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula of Brussels. Upon the death of his grandfather Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1519, Charles became the new ruler of the Habsburg Empire and was subsequently elected Holy Roman Emperor. It was in the Palace complex at Coudenberg that Charles V abdicated in 1555. Following the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the Spanish sovereignty over the Southern Netherlands was transferred to the Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg. This event started the era of the Austrian Netherlands. The city was captured by France in 1746, during the War of the Austrian Succession, but was handed back to Austria three years later. Brussels remained with Austria until 1795, when the Southern Netherlands were captured and annexed by France. Brussels became the capital of the department of the Dyle. The French rule ended in 1815, with the defeat of Napoleon on the battlefield of Waterloo, which is located south of today’s Brussels-Capital Region. With the Congress of Vienna, the Southern Netherlands joined the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, under William I of Orange. The former Dyle department became the province of South Brabant, with Brussels as its capital.

In 1830, the Belgian revolution took place in Brussels, after a performance of Auber’s opera La Muette de Portici at La Monnaie theatre. Brussels became the capital and seat of government of the new nation. South Brabant was renamed simply Brabant, with Brussels as its capital. On 21 July 1831, Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians, ascended the throne, undertaking the destruction of the city walls and the construction of many buildings. During World War I, Brussels was an occupied city, but German troops did not cause much damage. During World War II, the city was again occupied, and was spared major damage during its occupation by German forces, before it was liberated by the British Guards Armored Division, on 3 September 1944. The Brussels-Capital Region was formed on 18 June 1989, after a constitutional reform in 1988. It has bilingual status and it is one of the three federal regions of Belgium, along with Flanders and Wallonia.

Some of the things to see , walk is great , I have there by train, plane and mostly car but once in, walking is better than public transports unless very far off like to the Atomic attraction. The medieval architecture is still around  in the historic center or  Îlot Sacré, such as the neighborhoods of  Saint Géry/Sint-Goriks and Sainte-Catherine/Sint Katelijne.  The wonderful Brabantine Gothic Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is still a prominent feature in the skyline of downtown Brussels. The second walls is the Halle Gate can still be seen. The Grand Place is the main attraction in the city center; the square is dominated by the 15C Flamboyant City Hall, the Neo-Gothic Breadhouse , and the Baroque guildhalls of the Guilds of Brussels. The Manneken Pis, a fountain containing a small bronze sculpture of a urinating youth, is a tourist attraction and symbol of the city.

Brussels

Grand Place parents 1993

The neoclassical style of the 18-19C can be seen in the Royal Quarter/Coudenberg area, around the Brussels Park and Royal Square. You can see such buildings as the Royal Palace, the Church of Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg, the Palace of the Nation (Parliament building), the Academy Palace, the Palace of Charles of Lorraine, the Egmont Palace, etc. Other uniform neoclassical ensembles can be found around Martyrs’ Square and Barricades’ Square. Some other landmarks, in the centre, are the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert (1847), one of the oldest covered shopping arcades in Europe; the Congress Column (1859); the Brussels Stock Exchange building (1873); and the Palace of Justice (1883), reputed to be the largest building constructed in the 19C.  Located outside the city center/Downtown, you come to the wonderful  Cinquantenaire park with its triumphal arch and nearby museums,  Royal Castle of Laeken and the Royal Domain with its large greenhouses, as well as the Museums of the Far East.

The Art Nouveau style is well represented too with work by the Belgian architects Victor Horta, Paul Hankar and Henry Van de Velde. Good examples can be found in the neighborhoods of Schaerbeek, Etterbeek, Ixelles, and Saint-Gilles. The Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta – Hôtel Tassel (1893), Hôtel Solvay (1894), Hôtel van Eetvelde (1895) and the Horta Museum (1901) – have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site .  Another example of Brussels Art Nouveau is the Stoclet Palace (1911), by the Viennese architect Josef Hoffmann, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Art Deco is also, represented here including the Résidence Palace (1927), the Centre for Fine Arts (1928), the Villa Empain (1934), the Town Hall of Forest (1938), and the former House of the Radio building on Flagey Square (1935–1938) in Ixelles. Some religious buildings from the interwar era were also constructed in that style, such as the Church of St John the Baptist (1932) in Molenbeek and the Church of Saint Augustine (1935) in Forest. Completed only in 1969, and combining Art Deco with Neo-Byzantine elements, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg is one of the largest Roman Catholic basilicas by area in the world, and its cupola provides a panoramic view of Brussels and its outskirts. Another example are the exhibition halls of the Centenary Palace (Brussels Expo), built for the 1935 World Fair on the Heysel Plateau in northern Brussels.

The Atomium is a symbolic 103 meters (338 ft) tall modernist structure, located on the Heysel Plateau, which was originally built for the 1958 World’s Fair (Expo ’58). It consists of nine steel spheres connected by tubes, and forms a model of an iron crystal , magnified 165 billion times. A great experience indeed, and a great one-two combination visit to the  Mini-Europe park, with 1:25 scale models of famous buildings from across Europe.

Brussels contains over 80 museums lol!! The wonderful Royal Museums of Fine Arts (beaux-arts) is great as well as the Royal Museums of Art and History, and the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History. The Musical Instruments Museum (MIM), housed in the splendid Old England building, is part of the Royal Museums of Art and History and is internationally renowned for its collection of over 8,000 instruments. The Belgian Comic Strip Center combines two artistic leitmotifs of Brussels, being a museum devoted to Belgian comic strips, housed in the former Waucquez department store, designed by Victor Horta in the Art Nouveau style. The King Baudouin Stadium is a concert and competition facility with a 50,000 seat capacity, the largest in Belgium. The site was formerly occupied by the Heysel Stadium. Furthermore, the Center for Fine Arts (often referred to as Bozar), a multi-purpose center for theatre, cinema, music, literature and art exhibitions, is home to the National Orchestra of Belgium and to the annual Queen Elisabeth Competition for classical singers and instrumentalists, one of the most challenging and prestigious competitions of the kind.

Nice parks in my opinion are the Botanical Garden of Brussels 6 ha (14.8 acres) lovely; Leopold Park 10 ha (25 acres) Brussels Park 11 ha (27 acres) and my favorite the Parc du Cinquantenaire / Jubelpark 30 ha (74 acres).

Brussels is known for its local waffle, its chocolate, its French fries and its numerous types of beers, and reasons enough to come visit the city or country. Belgian cuisine is characterised by the combination of French cuisine with the more hearty Flemish fare. Notable specialties include Brussels waffles (gaufres) and mussels (usually as moules-frites, served with fries). The city is a stronghold of chocolate and pralines manufacturers with renowned companies like Neuhaus, Leonidas and Godiva. Pralines were first introduced in 1912, by Jean Neuhaus II, a Belgian chocolatier of Swiss origin, in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, in central Brussels. Numerous friteries are spread throughout the city, and in tourist areas, fresh hot waffles are also sold on the street. In addition to the regular selection of Belgian beer, the famous Lambic style of beer is predominately brewed in and around Brussels, and the yeasts have their origin in the Senne valley. Kriek, a cherry Lambic, enjoys outstanding popularity, as it does in the rest of Belgium. Kriek is available in almost every bar or restaurant.

Brussels

corne port royal galerie Royales Saint Hubert Brussels wife

Brussels

my gang museum of beers off grand place Brussels

Shopping is done best by amous shopping areas include the pedestrian-only Rue Neuve (Dutch: Nieuwstraat), the second busiest shopping street in Belgium (after the Meir, in Antwerp)  Avenue Louise lined with high-end fashion stores and boutiques; the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert; as well as the neighbourhood around Antoine Dansaert Street. The Old Market  on the Place du Jeu de Balle/Vossenplein, in the Marollen neighbourhood, is particularly renowned. The nearby Sablon area is home to many of Brussels’ antique dealers.  The Midi Market around Brussels-South train station and Boulevard du Midi is reputed to be one of the largest markets in Europe.

How to move about, reach Brussels and al. There are two main airport located outside the region of Brussels, Brussels-National Airport, located in Zaventem, 12 km (10 mi) east of the capital; and Brussels South Charleroi Airport, located near Charleroi , some 50 km (30 mi) south-west of Brussels.

Water traffic is important even for a land city like Brussels, the port of Brussels. Located near the Sainte-Catherine/Sint-Katelijne square, it lies on the Brussels-Scheldt Maritime Canal (commonly called Willebroek Canal), which connects Brussels to Antwerp via the Scheldt. The connection of the Willebroek Canal with the Brussels-Charleroi Canal, in the very heart of the capital, creates a north-south link, by means of waterways, between the Netherlands, Flanders and the industrial zone of Hainaut (Wallonia). There, navigation can access the network of French canals, thanks to the important inclined plane of Ronquières and the lifts of Strépy-Bracquegnies.

The train; the Brussels Capital-Region has three main train stations: Brussels-South (Sud), Central (Midi) and North (Nord). Brussels-South/Sud is also served by direct high-speed rail links: to London by Eurostar trains via the Channel Tunnel ; to Amsterdam by Thalys and InterCity connections; to Amsterdam, Paris and , and Cologne by Thalys; and to Cologne , and Frankfurt by the German ICE. The City has minor railway stations at Bockstael, Brussels-Chapel, Brussels-Congres, Brussels-Luxembourg, Brussels-Schuman, Brussels-West, Haren, Haren-South, Simonis. In the Brussels Region, there are also railways stations at Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Boitsfort, Boondael, Bordet (Evere), Etterbeek, Evere, Forest-East, Forest-South, Jette, Meiser (Schaarbeek), Moensberg (Uccle), Saint-Job (Uccle), Schaarbeek, Uccle-Calevoet, Uccle-Stalle, Vivier d’Oie-Diesdelle (Uccle), Merode and Watermael.

The Brussels Metro with underground lines known as premetro has a network consisting  of four conventional metro lines and three premetro lines. The metro network within the region has a total of 69 metro and premetro stations. The metro connects  with six railway stations of the National Railway Company of Belgium, and many tram and bus stops operated by STIB/MIVB, and with Flemish De Lijn and Walloon TEC bus stops.  A comprehensive bus and tram network covers the city with the Brussels tram system consisting of  17 tram lines making  it one of the largest tram networks in Europe. The Brussels bus network is complementary to the rail network and consists of 50 bus routes and 11 night routes, STIB/MIVB has been operating a night bus network called Noctis. On Fridays and Saturdays, 11 bus routes operate from midnight until 03h.  They run from the centre of Brussels to the outer reaches of the Brussels-Capital Region.

Now we go to automobile and you will read Brussels is the most congested city in Europe and so on. Well , I have been driving to it since 1992, and never had a problem on traffic or parking’s underground; the street level can be had if you can walk long. Brussels is the hub of a range of old national roads, the main ones being clockwise: the N1 (N to Breda), N2 (E to Maastricht), N3 (E to Aachen), N4 (SE to Luxembourg) N5 (S to Reims), N6 (S to Maubeuge), N7 (SW to Lille), N8 (W to Koksijde) and N9 (NW to Ostend). The town is skirted by the European route E19 (N-S) and the E40 (E-W), while the E411 leads away to the SE. Brussels has an orbital motorway, numbered R0 (R-zero) and commonly referred to as the Ring. It is pear-shaped, as the southern side was never built as originally conceived, owing to residents’ objections. And yes this RO or ring is the best way to get to city center just pinpoint your central location and the exit from them and you are off; once at final destination parked and walk, lovely.

Tourist office here in English : https://visit.brussels/en

Region tourist office in English: http://be.brussels/culture-tourism-leisure

Belgium tourist board in English : https://www.belgium.be/en/about_belgium/tourism/cities_of_art

Enjoy Belgium and especially the Brussels region as we do. Do take a look at my previous posts for plenty of info and photos. Enjoy your week, happy travels. Cheers!!!

 

 

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