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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.

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The Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

These enormous art museums—one filled with "ancient" works; the other, modern—will keep you busy for a day, or two. They chart the history of...more

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Musée des Instruments de Musique, Brussels

Known as MIM, the Musical Instrument Museum would be worth seeing even if it were empty, since it's housed in the beautiful Art Nouveau former Old England...more

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La Maison Autrique, Brussels

The first building designed by Belgium's greatest architect, Victor Horta. It was restored by Brussels' own François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters,...more

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Ixelles, Brussels

An extremely pleasant neighborhood of boulevards, squares, and a string of lakes known as the Étangs d'Ixelles. It's worth the trip for real-estate...more

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Horta Museum, Brussels

As Gaudí is to Barcelona, Victor Horta is to Brussels, and this, his former house, is now his museum. If you think you're not interested in Art Nouveau,...more

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Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée, Brussels

The Comic Strip Museum is another attraction that's housed in a building at least as great as the museum itself (in fact, unless you're a huge Tintin fan, the...more

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Bruparck, Brussels

In the shadow of the instantly recognizable '50s-futuristic Atomium, built for the World's Fair of 1958, sits this haven for kids: the Océade swimming...more

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Bois de la Cambre, Brussels

At 272 acres, Bois de la Cambre is Brussels's biggest park. This central spot is a delightful place to spend an afternoon strolling around its woodland paths....more

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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