see + do
Brussels see + do
The central feature of the city is the huge and gorgeous Grand'Place. It houses the 13th-century Hôtel de Ville, famously slightly asymmetrical (the architect was said to have flung himself off it when this was pointed out), and all the medieval gilded guild buildings, once the headquarters of the city's tailors and haberdashers, butchers, brewers, bakers, cabinetmakers, and tallow merchants. It might be best to have your first glimpse after dark, when the floodlighting and crowds make this one of the great theatrical spectacles of Europe. Just off the square, Ilôt Sacré is a warren of picturesque, narrow medieval streets, the contents of which are, alas, pathetically tourist-oriented. There, along Rue de l'Etuve, is the symbol of Brussels: the Manneken Pis, a statue of a small boy urinating that's been eliciting giggles since 1619. It's become a tradition for visiting heads of state to contribute their national costumes in the Manneken's size. He keeps his extensive wardrobe—including a jumpsuit from Elvis—at the Museum of Brussels. The neoclassical Palais Royal in the city's Upper Town, still serves as the royal palace: King Albert II has his offices there and it's used for receptions, audiences, and ceremonies. (The King and Queen actually live in the Palace of Laeken). The Royal Greenhouses, built in 1874, are well worth visiting (especially in late April to early May), as the 16 connecting structures house one of the best private botanical collections in the world. Check details at the royal Web site: http://www.monarchy.be.