We found ourselves in Brussels because of cheap flights and Christmas market. We’ve seen a lot of mediocre opinions so our expectations were modest. We found Brussels to be really nice city for a weekend break. In fact short stop in Brussels is a great idea. City is small enough to see everything in 2 days, tick all the most important sights, try food and explore Christmas market. Down below we put a list together of places not to be missed.
Visited places – Weekend in Brussels
Brussels isn’t the most beautiful European city but its main square is top notch! We’ve been there at least 4 times during 2 days. You can see city hall (l’Hôtel de ville de Bruxelles) build in late Gothic style with impressive 96m tower. All town houses around square are built in neo-Gothic and Baroque style with many elements covered in gold. Grand Place should be visited during the day and night especially when it’s a Christmas time to see evening light show.
Saint Hubert Royal Gallery
Shopping arcades architecturally modelled on Italian galleries (like Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan). Inside arcades you can find a lot of posh boutiques and huge crowd who comes to admire this work of art. We’ve been wondering if anyone actually do any shopping there..
Saint Catherine Square
Little square where part of Christmas market was located. There is St Catherine’s church which is the main feature. At one of the corners there is the best (as we were told) seafood restaurant which also is a fish market. Noodzee – Mer du Nord where you can enjoy a plate on a pod table outside . We don’t really have comparison but can report food there was delish.
Saint Catherine Church
Beautiful from outside with modest interior like most of churches in Brussels. There is an interesting story attached to it. Church got closed in 2012 by city government, due to lack of funding and priest who could look after parish. There was an idea to transform it into fish market (whole area around the square is connected with fish business thanks to nearby river). In the end church remained closed for almost 3 years. It was reopen in 2014 by newly formed priesthood which decided to look after it. Apparently plans for transforming church into fish market weren’t met with approval of local community. During advent you can participate in advent dawn mass. Followers entering church with candles lit with wooden torches held by men by the entrance. Christmas spirit guaranteed.
Previously fish market area (still named like this today) now long rectangular square where many fish and seafood restaurants are. We’ve heard it’s a bit touristic and can be miss and hit with high prices but haven’t tried. Vismarkt is close by the river which is an inland waterway and used to be main way of transporting fish into city. Vismarkt is also the main side of Christmas market, you can find our post from market here .
Fountain sculpture of urinating boy dating back to XVII centaury is a symbol of the city. We don’t really get the concept but symbol is a symbol. There is a few legends which tells where it came from an what it means. One of the legends says a boy was a king’s son and one day got lost in the forest. After few days when all hope was lost some forester heard the sound of stream, following it found naked boy urinating. The second one says about siege and attempt to blow the city up foiled by heroic boy who urinated on burning fuse and save Brussels. In centre of the city you can also find Jeanneke Pis and Zinneke Pis which is urinating girl and dog. As you can see there is clearly somethings going on with urinating in Brussels.
You can find all different European Institutions here with European Parliament at the forefront. You can tour the Parliament for free when reserved in advance here. We decided to walk around and admire all from outside. . There is little park behind Parliament building called Leopold park. After exploring all corners of European district we stopped for a beer in one of the taprooms by Place du Luxembourg. Whole district is calm, clean and modern it will be appreciated by modern architecture fans.
Mont des Arts
One of the best viewpoints in Brussels. From hill of artists you can see townhouses below overshadowed by city hall tower.
Bourse de Bruxelles
Stock exchange building with impressive façade. Bourse is a good reference point when walking around centre. Main square is few alleys away.
Market hall with few nice and cosy cafes and bars. We only popped in to take few photos but you can have a tasty meal there as well.
Notre-Dame du Sablon church
Church isn’t spectacular but it’s a part of Grand Sablon square which together with surrounding buildings creates beautiful space. We spent some time wondering around this area.
Palais de Justice
Grand building which has been renovated and covered with scaffolding when we’re there. Just beside is a city elevator which brought us down to Marollen district.
Less popular district where you stroll around without rubbing shoulders with other tourists. We really took our time to do window shopping of art and antique shops. You can find anything from ‘soup to nuts’ and every art and antique aficionado will feel the like fish in a water.
Palais de Bruxelles – Royal Palace
Grand building, Belgian King’s place of work. What is interesting King doesn’t live there only works. When King is inside Belgian flag is being pulled on a mast. In Summer palace can be toured.
Place de l’Agora
Little photogenic square surrounded by beautiful townhouses
Saint Bonifacio square in Ixelles
Ixelles is actually not in Brussels but it’s a city commune within capitol region of Brussels. It doesn’t change the fact it’s not far away from city centre and one might not be aware of that detail. Square is full of life and there is lots of pubs and restaurants around. It’s worth to get dinner there. There is a church also which we haven’t seen inside but we guess is quite modest like other ones.
Known also as Jubalpark is a large city park in European District. We can find impressive triumphal arch , museum of art and history (part of Royal Museum of Art and History) as well as Royal Museum of Amy and Military History. We think it’s worth to go there even for a walk.
Square within European District surrounded by magnificent townhouses. Area is posh and calm and occupied by higher class. The most interesting architecture is at Palmerstonlaan avenue where art nouveau Hôtel van Eetvelde is located. When we were there hotel building was renovated so we haven’t seen much.