Brussels In the Rain

Brussels is an easy, three hour train ride from London on the Eurostar, with a change at Midi to hop a local train for one stop to Brussels Central Station. The city center is just a short walk from central station.  There, you will find the Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is impressive, even on a gray, rainy day. It is a great place to begin your tour of Brussels, and see what remains of the city’s medieval architecture.

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Here, you will also find the Galeries Royals Saint Hubert, one of the oldest covered shopping areas in Europe. When you have completed your shopping, (or, in our case,  when the rain has stopped),  exit the tunnel and wander the alleys off the main corridor. The restaurants here are not as tourist driven as those near the city center and you will find a wide variety of very good food.

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Brussels is the capitol of the European Union, headquarters of NATO and a bustling big city. It appears divided between “strictly business” and tourism. It is also divided among its languages and although Dutch is the 1st language of the region, French is the majority language in Brussels followed by English as a close second.

The biggest, and smallest tourist attraction, after the Grand Place is Manneken Pis, translated as “peeing little man.” It is not easy to find, and you might just pass it by, except for the droves of tourist taking pictures. Originating in the mid 1400’s this little guy has seen a lot of history. Drum roll please….

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Obviously he did not have a full bladder when we visited, so we missed what the fuss is about. Apparently, there is plenty of fuss, and he has quite a mysterious background and an extensive wardrobe (about 800 pieces) that he dons throughout the year. One of his costumes was gifted by Louis XV of France in 1747 and is stitched with gold thread. He also has a Santa suit.

Let’s put things into perspective:

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Yep, that’s it. If it weren’t heavily guarded, you could hold the entire thing (no pun intended) in one hand. Actually, more than one culprit has done just so. This bronze image is far removed from the original. The reproduction was created in 1965, when someone decided to place the other (not original) piece in the Grand Palace for safe keeping. If you read the long history of theft and vandalism, you will wonder what took them so long.

Why, you ask is this tiny might so important to Dutch culture. That seems to be a mystery of debate. There are several versions of his importance ranging from mystical to practical. But, the one I favor is that he is a tribute to the tanners of medieval times who allowed little boys to pee on their leather to make it more pliable for them to work with.

However he came to be and why, he is a Marketing Manager’s dream with almost every shop in town capitalizing on its popularity.

P1780158 (2)Not to change the subject, but those are two of the most popular consumer goods found in Brussels – chocolate and waffles. Along with those and French fries, you cannot walk more than ten feet without encountering a chocolate shop, waffle stand, or French fry vendor; all of which are entirely fine by me.

 

Mont de Arts is one of the prettiest vantage points in the city and a great place to just chill. Walk toward the Palace from the city center and you will notice a series of very wide, tiered steps, surrounded by both modern and historic buildings, with a beautifully manicured garden as the centerpiece. Walk to the top and turn around for stunning views of the city (even in the rain).

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Performers use the stairs as a stage to present nightly entertainment.

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Doing my happy dance to ward off the rain. It didn’t work.

Continue past the Mont de Arts in route to the palace and you will stumble across the Jardin du Petit Saldon, a peaceful small garden surrounded by bronze statues. There are 48 statues in all, representing historical professions throughout the ages. The two gentlemen in the center represent the resistance of protestants  against the Roman Catholic King of Spain in a clash of cultures which eventually resulted in a Dutch Republic. It is a pretty place to sit and contemplate life.

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The gates of the Royal Palace are striking with their ornate gold finishes. If you want to go inside, you will have to visit Brussels between the end of July and the first week of September.

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The Royal Palace, home of the Royal family of Belgium.

Largely due to in-climate weather, and because of a self-imposed one-day schedule, we have given you a cursory view of this city. There is much to see and do and we encourage visitors to take a look at some of the resources below to plan your visit. It is worthy of at least two full days exploration.

As always, you have been patiently reading/scrolling for Thursday doors, so here they are. I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I loved finding them on the streets of Brussels. Thank you Norm 2.0 for providing the forum to showcase beautiful doors around the world.

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Beyond the lavender door is the hotel courtyard. You can read a little of its history here and see photos of the exterior of the hotel, which was once the home of an aristocrat and birthplace of Ann of Cleves, (one of Henry VIII’s wives who wasn’t beheaded).

St. Mary Madeline Church below was originally a convent founded in the 13th Century. Notice the ornate carvings of angels on the entry door. It was near our hotel and we passed by several times, always stopping to admire these doors.

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The church against a starless evening sky.

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A plain, but beautiful, side entrance.

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Resources for visiting Brussels:

The Man in Seat 61  (for trains)

Top 10 Things to do in Brussels

Warwick Hotel in Brussels

 

 

22 Comments on “Brussels In the Rain

  1. Great post. I was just there in April. It’s a fine city, easy to see in a couple of days. Unlike you, I was there during the freak heatwave that hit Europe in April. 🙂

    Like

  2. Just stunning Suzanne. I love Europe and all of it’s history and charm. I only passed through Brussels many years ago but you have certainly tempted me to talk to my husband about visiting there. Just gorgeous and those gardens are beautiful . Enjoy!

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  3. This is why Aussies move to London – Europe is so accessible!
    Excellent photos! I actually really like the old weathered look of that side entrance 🙂

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    • I know, you could actually visit three countries in one day if you wanted to. That side door is beautiful, but the lavender one is my favorite. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed your quick tour of Brussels – rain and all. This is the home of my maternal grandfather and you’ve now solved the mystery of why my Dutch mother had a small brass peeing boy. It was a fixture in our home throughout my childhood. I have no idea where it eventually ended up after my parents passed away. I suspect that one day I will have to go to Brussels to replace it 🙂

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    • Joanne, you will certainly not have a problem finding a replacement. Everyone has them, magnets, bottle openers, key chains, you name it. There are many myths and legends surrounding this little figure. Google the history of Maneken Piss for all the details. Fun stuff!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Waffles and chocolate are a perfect combination!
    And it looks like you and your husband could have used Victoria’s “Plastic Bag Rain Boots.” They could become a trend! 🙂

    Like

  6. Grew up in my childhood right over the border in Holland. So these sights are familiar. Rather walk through Brussels when it’s dry, to sit on a patio drinking coffee outside:):)

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  7. Good beer, great chocolate, wonderful ‘fountains,’ beautiful gardens, but it was packed, and I mean packed, with tourists when we were visiting. Return to Brussels? Probably not, but I am thankful I got to see a lot of its beauty at least once.

    Like

    • What a shame, I guess we got lucky because it was early in the season and the big crowds hadn’t arrived yet. Even in the rain it was beautiful.

      Liked by 1 person

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