The Most Interesting Things to See and Do in Brussels

In recent years Brussels has taken on international significance as the political headquarters of the European Union (EU); but it would be sad to only view the city through the foggy eyes of political machination when there are so many other interesting things to see and do.

So, here are my own personal top three non-political things to see and do in Brussels:

1/ Grand-Place and Guild Houses

This charming square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and quite rightly the most visited tourist destination in Brussels. It was originally an important meeting place for merchants and has had haphazard construction since the 13th century that has added to its quirky feel.

Much of Brussels now has a stiflingly modernist feel to it, and the Grand-Place and its surrounding buildings is a welcome oasis of history in the midst of oceans of characterless concrete.

The Grand-Place has some stunning architecture of which even Prince Charles would approve. And if you can plan to visit in August 2016 then you will be especially lucky because every two years there is a magnificent begonia display of over a million plants.

2/ The Atomium

This is a quite stunning 102-meter high monument that rather resembles a Giant Metal Ferris Wheel. It was constructed especially for the Brussels World Fair in 1958 and was actually designed to look like an iron crystal (though a pretty big one clearly) by its designer and constructor Andre Waterkeyn.

Ever since it has been something of a calling card for practical modernist sculpture and architecture and makes a good contrast to the Grand Place for a visit.

Over the years, the monument fell into disrepair and was closed in March 2004 to allow extensive renovation work to be undertaken. It was then re-opened on 18th February 2006 in all its new shiny stainless steel glory with a new restaurant and improved facilities, and so now is an even better place to visit for tourists who like their culture with a little comfort.

3/ The Manneken Pis

Childish of me I know. But this really is a must-see on any trip to Brussels.

The original version of this amusing little man (he only stands 61cm high) doing what nature intended was cast in bronze by Hieronimus Duquesnoy and put on its corner of the Rue des Grands Carmes in 1619.

Ever since it has been stolen so frequently that there now stands a copy that was put there in 1965 and the original has been moved to the Mason du Roi in the Grand Place.

Every week the statue is dressed up in various different costumes like Judo attire, or a Japanese Warrior for the pleasure of the pis-happy public.

Brussels really is a city of contrasts, traditions and has some great attractions that are well worth visiting.

Forget the fact that there are too many politicians living there and instead enjoy the rich-splendor of this ancient capital city.

500 words.

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