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Belgium, Europe, Travel

Exploring Brussels, Part 1

December 3, 2013

If I had describe Brussels in one word, I would say charming.  People had told me that Brussels was boring.  I was there for a conference, so I didn’t have much choice of the location.  Yes, Brussels isn’t hopping and filled with tourists, but it was not boring! Historic buildings, funny statues and friendly people.

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My hotel was in the heart of the city, which made getting around very easy.  My suggestion is to get a map before you arrive as all the maps I found were in French.  Also, all the street signs are on the sides of the building so you have to look further up when looking for the street names.  Another hitch was that many roads have several names because they are in at least two languages, French and Dutch.  I had a 5 minute walk to the Grand-Place or Grote Markt.  Basically, it is like a town square.  The buildings surrounding the square are called guildhalls.  I didn’t know much of what was there but knew I had to go through it to get to another famous landmark in Brussels.  In the Grand-Place I stumbled upon the Museum of the City of Brussels or the Maison du Roi.  (Apparently the English translations don’t mean what they mean in French.  I haven’t figured that one out yet!)  A great museum in a historic building.  Lots of maps and paintings documenting the growth of Brussels.  Did you know that Brussels used to be a walled city?  The museum was only 4€.




The Grand-Place is also where the city’s Christmas tree and Nativity Scene goes up.  The Nativity Scene wasn’t ready yet and the Christmas tree had probably just been put up.  Luckily, I was there when they were testing the lights on the Christmas tree!  It was a beautiful test lighting!

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All of this was seen by change on the way to see the famous Manneken Pis or the Peeing Boy.  As you may know, this is a fountain in Brussels of a naked boy peeing.  No one seems to know why the statue was put here.  He has been a Brussels resident since the early 1600s.  He is much smaller in person that I imagined.  I had also read that he has hundreds of costumes that people have made and sent from all over the world.  He wasn’t dressed the day I was there though.  However, when I went to the top floor of the Museum of the City of Brussels, I discovered that is where all his costumes are stored!  There were so many and they are all extremely detailed.  No pictures are allowed though.  It is worth a visit just to see all these tiny costumes for a fountain statue!

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On the next post, the Horta Museum, my hotel review and the people of Brussels!