Brussels - My favorite attractions and a giveaway

Saturday, February 06, 2016 Books And Trips

Now that you know all about getting to Brussels, I am going to tell you why visiting it at least once in your life is a must. Brussels is the capital of Belgium and home to the headquarters of Europe and NATO. It is a cosmopolitan city, chock full with beautiful museums, lush green parks, quaint little streets with amazing architecture, and probably the best beer and chocolate you have ever tried.

Walking through this amazing city was one of the highlights of my winter. Read on for my favorite attractions in Brussels and for a giveaway to make you enjoy your next walking tour in the city of your choice!    

1. Grand Place - I kept my travel companions in the dark when it came to this World Heritage site and they were absolutely blown away when they saw this opulent 15th century square, adorned with rich guild houses, home of the Brussels Town Hall, and a perfect place to do some people watching. We liked it so much that we saw it twice in our two days stay in Brussels, once on a rainy horrid weather and once basking in the sun. It was beautiful either way. 

2. Palais Royal - this is the official palace of the Belgian Monarchy, but it is not used as a royal residence, but as an audience hall, a place for lavish receptions and a residence for foreign Heads of State during official visits. When we visited, the King was in the country, as the Belgian flag was flying over the main building. Unfortunately, we were unable to pay the good king a visit, as he was not in the palace at the time - no royal guard was standing at the gate.

3. The European District is the colloquial name of the area located between Brussels Park, Cinquantenaire Park and Leopold Park, hosting the EU Commission and Council, with the EU Parliament close by, next to Luxembourg Square. I found it interesting to visit, because here is the place where major decisions are taken and where history is being made as we speak. For those who want to know more about the EU, I recommend a visit to the Parlamentarium, a free museum with dynamic interactive multimedia that guides it's visitors through the journey of European integration and the impact it has on our everyday lives.   

4. La Bourse is one of the most elegant 19th century buildings you will see in Brussels. It reminded me of a Greek temple, with its six Doric columns. The facade is decorated by a female bas-relief representing the City of Brussels, with two figures on either side of her, symbolizing trade and industry. Beneath the facade, there are two winged statues representing Good and Evil, created by the sculptor De Haen. It is a beautiful place where you can take in the city vibes and just chill with a book and a cup of hot chocolate.

5. Manneken Pis - The peeing boy is very small, in the "blink and you miss him" kind of way, so don't be expecting a huge statue in the middle of a square. Literally meaning "Little Man Pee" in Dutch, this little symbol of Brussels attracts crowds of tourists every year, while locals celebrate many festivities by dressing the little guy in over 700 costumes for all events of the year. He was naked, just like his daddy made him when we visited, and here's an interesting fact: the statue was made in 1619, but it has been repeatedly stolen. The current version dates from 1965, while the original restored one is kept at the Maison du Roi / Broodhuis / Breadhouse on the Grand Place.

6. Cathedrals - coming from an Christian Orthodox country, I am always amazed at the beauty and simplicity of western cathedrals and churches. When visiting a foreign country, I always enter the places of worship, take in the amazing architecture and try to climb up to the top for beautiful views of the city. Most of the times entries are free, so when in Brussels, be sure to check out St. Michaels and St. Gudula, Notre Dame de la Chapelle, St. Catherine's Church and Basilica of the Sacred Heart - their version of Paris' Sacre Coeur.  

7. Dansaert District was once the rough shady neighborhood of Brussels, but now is one of the trendiest, hippest quarters. Named for its main artery, Rue Antoine Dansaert, it is comprised of Place St.-Gery to the southwest, where you can find cool bars and fashion boutiques at every turn, and Place Ste. Catherine to the east, with stylish seafood bistros, luxurious chocolate shops and a great food and flower market. If shopping is your poison, you should not miss Dansaert quarter when visiting Brussels. 

8. Atomium was built as a temporary exhibition for the 1958 world fair, a giant structure shining in the sun, in the shape of an iron crystal, enlarged 165 billion times. You can climb on top of the Atomium and enjoy spectacular views of Brussels, then take the stairs and enjoy the art, science and urban exhibitions hosted in the 9 spheres. You also get to experience the "alien abduction" feeling, when taking the escalators to the bottom of this unique architectural piece. Next to the Atomium you will find Brupark, which hosts Mini-Europe and De Laeken Park, which are also worth visiting, especially in the spring or the summer.

9. Albertina Square is home to the statue of King Albert I, the Librarium and a beautiful garden where you can take in the sights and just rest for a bit. While you are there, pop into the Librarium, a free museum hosted by the Royal Library of Belgium, where you can learn all about different kinds of writing, unusual books, manuscripts, miniatures, newspapers and even comic books. The displays are changed every 3 months, so it doesn't matter if you already visited once, you can always find out something new!

What is the next city you are going to visit in 2016 and what are your must see attractions? 

Books And Trips readers who answer the above question by commenting on this post have the chance to receive a promo code from GPSmyCity, which will allow the download of a full version of your city of choice Maps & Walks (City Walks App) for FREE. This city guide app includes a detailed fully functional city map and over 5000 carefully selected self guided city walks for 470+ cities all over the world. The promo codes are valid in the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Contest rules, terms and conditions:

This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE.
This giveaway will start on February, 6th and will end on February, 14th. Winners will be randomly selected and announced on the next day, February, 15th on this blog and on Books And Trips Facebook Page
Entries that are incomplete or inaccurate will be deemed invalid.
This giveaway is hosted by Books And Trips, in partnership with GPSMyCity.
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