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BRUSELAS THE HEART OF EUROPE

HISTORICAL NOTES bmoving Getting around in Brussels

gastronomy & main events baround Neighbour`s in Brussels

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Historical Notes Brussels’ origins go back to a Gallo-Roman colony founded in the 1st century on a marshy plain in the Senne valley. In 695, Saint Géry, Bishop of Cambrai and Arras, built a chapel in honour of the Archangel Saint Michael on what is now modern-day Brussels. However, it only acquired the name of Brussels when the German Emperor Otto II bequeathed a fiefdom in the River Senne valley to Charles, Duke of Lorraine and a descendant of Charlemagne. Charles built a fort on the island of Saint Géry in 979. This was called Bruocsela, in other words, “the chapel in the marsh”. Today, the River Senne has disappeared through urbanisation and is only visible in the city outskirts. A century later, the island of Saint Géry was abandoned, probably because it was far too marshy. The population moved to another nearby settlement, where a castle was built. In about 1100, a wall was erected around the small city, churches and hospitals built and trade developed, particularly in textiles, favoured by the presence of rivers and canals in the region which provided a route out to the North Sea. Other cities such as Bruges, Antwerp and Ghent also benefited from this privileged geographical location. The city was part of the Brabant dukedom, which in turn had been a dependency of the German Empire since 925.

BRUSSELS

THE HEART OF EUROPE A

small city such as Brussels, capital of a small country such as Belgium, is hugely attractive in the eyes of any visitor. Given its geographical location, halfway between Germany and France, it was at the mercy of royal weddings, incomprehensible wars and peace agreements for centuries. A Roman, Spanish, German and French dependency until the middle of the last century when it was elevated to capital of an entire continent. Home to many European Union institutions, including the Parliament and NATO, there is much more to Brussels than bureaucracy and polyglotism. It is also a byword for mediaeval history, unrivalled buildings, good beer, comics and the very best chocolates. Only a city with such a diverse population could contain such a variety of monuments, including the Atomium, Manneken Pis and the Grand’ Place, a public space overflowing with harmony on all four sides. Far from the giddy expectations aroused by cities such as New York 1

or Rome, the Belgian capital seduces visitors with its details, commercial tradition and mediaeval landscapes. In the shadow of London, Paris and Amsterdam, Brus-

sels has learnt to portray itself as a warm welcoming place, the beacon of community spirit and, in short, the home of every European.

A practical guide Readers should not expect to know Brussels like the back of their hand after reading this text, as the information it contains only gives the most interesting places from the point of view of a tourist visit. Below you will find everything you’ll need for an unforgettable weekend away or a three- or four-day break. The metropolitan area has around one million inhabitants, a respectable figure if we take into account the size of the country, which covers 30,528 km². As a result, this guide only covers certain districts, monuments and museums.

The first attacks By about 1229, the city had become so important that it was granted its first Magna Carta from the Duke of Brabant, which gave it a certain degree of autonomy. In the 14th century, the city councillors installed themselves in a house on the market square, which, over time, would become the Grand’ Place. In 1359, the troops of the Count of Flanders, dependents of the King of France, tried to conquer the city, but the people of Brussels under the command of Everard’t Serclaes repelled the attack. Almost a century later, the successor of the Duke of Brabant, Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, made Brussels the capital of his vast empire. His reign saw the construction of the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), a great palace at Couden-

berg, churches and other important buildings. Mary of Burgundy married Maximilian of Austria and when she died in 1482, rule over Brussels passed to the Hapsburgs. When Maximilian died, his daughter moved the capital to Mechelen (Malines) where she took charge of raising her nephew, the future Charles V, who, when he turned 15, inherited the throne of Burgundy and at 16, that of Spain. In 1515, Spanish dominance of the region began. Charles V reestablished Brussels as the capital, making it re-emerge as a powerful city, surpassing its Flemish rivals: Bruges and Antwerp. The decline In 1555, Philip II succeeded Charles V and was confronted with religious problems which meant two centuries of decadence and obscurity for Brussels. At the end of the 16th century, it was attacked by French troops who destroyed around 4,000 houses and a large part of the Grand’ Place, which was rebuilt over the next five years to acquire the appearance it has today. From 1713 to 1794, Belgium passed to the Hapsburgs. The first independence uprising against Joseph II occurred in 1789, but was very brief. Six years later, Belgium became a French region. When Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, near Brussels, in 1815, the Congress of Vienna decreed the creation of the kingdom of the Low Countries, unifying Belgium and The Netherlands. The city was subjugated to foreign powers, French and Dutch, until 1830 when the revolutionary forces finally triumphed and Léopold I ascended the throne of the new independent nation, with Brussels as its capital. The development years After Belgian independence, Brussels became a demographic magnet. Its industrial areas were populated and, with the majority of Belgians of Flemish origin, the francophonisation of the population began (French was the language used until then only by the nobility and bourgeoisie.) Following the arrival of Léopold I, the Brussels-Charleroi canal was opened and the free university of Brussels was

founded in 1834. Famous refugees of the likes of Víctor Hugo and Karl Marx contributed to the city being a melting pot of ideas. Large-scale architectural works accentuated its character as a capital city: the building of the Saint-Hubert galleries (1846), the Palais de Justice (1866-1833) and the Parc du Cinquantenaire (1880) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of independence. The Senne was covered over, central boulevards opened up and new districts of the city were created within the framework of revolutionary urban planning. Architect Victor Horta was the driving force behind the construction in the early twentieth century of magnificent Art Nouveau residences. Despite its independence, Belgium could not free itself either from the consequences of world wars that isolated Europe during the twentieth century and was occupied by German troops in both struggles: from 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945, during the reigns of Albert I and Léopold III. As a result of the expansion of French, the Flemish movement began to take steps in the mid-twentieth century to reclaim Dutch. The intense debate, which lasted for almost the second half of the twentieth century, culminated in the creation of a three-region federal state: the Dutchspeaking Flemish Region; French-speaking Wallonia; and the bilingual Brussels-Capital Region. By the same token, three cultural communities were created; the Flemish, the French Belgian and the German-influenced community. Transformed into a cosmopolitan and pluricultural city, Brussels reinforced its role as the capital of Europe by becoming the headquarters of the European Union in 1958. This same year saw the construction of the famous Atomium for the World Fair, which would subsequently be held up as a symbol of the city. NATO later chose Brussels as the location for the headquarters of its organisation. In 1979, the Belgian capital celebrated its 1,000 anniversary and in 2000 was named European Capital of Culture.

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GETTING AROUND IN BRUSSELS

Gastronomy

Much more than steamed mussels The people of Brussels like good food and have made their city a true gastronomic magnet. A lot of dishes are seasoned with beer, such as rabbit, sausages or ragoutstyle stews, known in Brussels as waterzooi. The most typical dish is steamed mussels with chips eaten from September to March, although there is a real passion for fish and seafood. The streets around the Grand’ Place are dotted with dozens of restaurants decorated on the outside with culinary scenes that lavishly compete to attract the customer’s attention. However, the top establishments are in what was the

ancient river port, on the edge of the Place Sainte Catherine and the ancient quays, still known generically as the Fish Market. Specialities include the most exquisite eels in a green sauce and grey prawn croquettes. When it comes to desserts, praline, a chocolate-filled sweet, or cinnamon Speculoos biscuits are a must. A lot of the world’s cities worship beer, but rarely do they achieve the heights of passion felt in Brussels. Many museums in the area are devoted to this drink, as well as numerous breweries open to the public. There are beers of every colour: white, Flemish red,

dark brown, amber, golden blonde, cherry red and sweet orange. Each has its own distinctive flavour and is traditionally drunk from a different type of glass. A distinction should also be made between Lambic distilled beers, the abbey beers, usually made by Trappist monks and high, low or spontaneous fermentation beers. One of the most curious is gueuze beers, which are drunk flat and without froth, the most famous variety of which is Mort Subite (Sudden Death).

Handy tips Brussels is in the same time zone as the rest of central Europe, in other words, GMT + 1 hour, like Spain or France. The climate varies between cold, rainy winters and pleasant summers, but when you will still need to wrap up during the evening. In January, the temperature does not go above an average of 3°C, while in July it registers an average of 18°C. Rainfall, which in winter may be snow, is distributed equally throughout the year, although spring is the driest season and the an average monthly rainfall is around 60 mm. Depending on the weather, visitors can choose from open-air activities or indoor visits, so Brussels is a good place to find yourself in at any time of the year. Summer is the best time for taking a stroll and visiting monuments. Spring and autumn are also great because of the wide range of sporting and cultural events held in the city. Museums and bars become the perfect winter refuge when temperatures plummet and the sky is usually overcast for days on end. The public transport system, run by the Société des Transports Intercommunaux Bruxellois (STIB), includes buses, underground and over ground trams and the Metro and is open every day from 6 am to 8 pm. Despite its efficiency and cleanliness, the transport system is not without its problems and from time to time the debate about the need to extend the metro and change the underground trams rears its head. Recent improvements include the installation of disabled lifts at certain stations. 3

The STIB has information points at Rogier, at the Midi metro stations and in the Anspach shopping mall. At ground level, metro stops can be spotted by the white “M” on a blue background, with many suburban stations staging exhibitions of local artists’ work. Trains are comfortable even at rush hour (7.30 am to 9.30 am and 4.00 pm to 6.30 pm). The 1A and 1B lines form a giant H, with the 1A running northeast to southwest, from Roi Baudouin to HerrmannDebroux, and the 1B running southwest to northeast, from Erasmus to Stockel. Both lines join up in the centre and share the same route from Beekhant to Merode, covering the city centre. The unfinished circular line 2, from Simonis a Clemenceau, follows the same route as the ring road. Tram and bus stops are in red and white, respectively. The route number and destination are displayed at the front of the vehicle and all stops should be requested. The yellow and blue trams operate in the city centre and outlying areas and reach their top speed under ground. Tickets can be purchased at metro stations or newsagents. The tourist information point on Rue du Marché-auxHerbes and the City Council’s tourist information office on the Grand’ Place also sell transport passes and provide free maps of the transport system, which are also available from many metro stations. Tickets must be validated at the platform entrance and for buses and trams before or when you board. Once you have bought your ticket, you can use it on any form of transport, even when making connections. Apart from the STIB network, there is also the

Belgian Railway Network, with local trains that run from Bruxelles-Chapelle, BruxellesQuartier Léopold, Bruxelles-Schuman and Bruxelles-Congrès, linking the city centre to the outlying areas. Autolux (www.taxisautolux.be) is Brussels’ official taxi company. Its vehicles carry a yellow and blue plaque and operate from the airport to all points of the city. Brussels city centre has a whole host of taxi ranks at the main railway stations and at La Bourse, Place de Brouckère and Porte de Namur. Taxis can also be requested by phone. There are no surcharges for carrying luggage. We recommend that visitors tip the taxi service. Brussels is one of Europe’s safest capitals. As in other large cities, try and avoid deserted areas at night, above all the outlying areas to the north and west, such as Anderlecht and Molenbeek, the areas around the railway station and some of the parks. Also be on your guard against pickpockets, who usually take advantage of distractions in highly populated areas. The best way to avoid this is to leave your valuables at home or keep them out of the reach of thieves. Almost all businesses and offices are open from 10 am to 6 pm, with an hour for lunch, although some shops are open to customers from 9.30 am or 10 am to 8 pm. Tipping is not compulsory, although in restaurants and cafés it’s usual to round the bill up if the service has been satisfactory.

MAIN EVENTS AND HOLIDAYS New Year’s Day 1 January, the first day of the year. Epiphany Celebrated on 6 January. Brussels Antiques Fair Held between the end of January and beginning of February and brings together around 30,000 visitors. Anima This international festival of cinema animation is held in the Flagey district at the end of February. Ars Musica This festival of contemporary music held between mid-March and April takes place at various locations, both indoor and open-air. Printemps Baroque du Sablon Held in the third week in April in this district of Brussels.

Art Brussels Photography, sculpture and other forms of art all find a home at this festival of contemporary art which brings together over 150 international galleries and more than 25,000 visitors. The Royal Greenhouses at Laeken The stunning botanical collection of the Belgian royal family, located in Laeken, is open to the public in April for twelve days. Mayday Held on 1 May. Kunsten Festival des Arts This avant garde event, held in May, revels in the latest trends in the theatre, music, dance, cinema and Fine Arts. Gay Pride Day Countless parades, parties, concerts and all types of shows celebrating the homo-

sexual community held in mid-May. The Brussels 20 km Race This race brings is the meeting point for some 20,000 runners on the last Sunday in May. Jazz Marathon On the last weekend in May many of the city’s bars come alive with the sound of jazz. Overall around 160 indoor and openair performances are held throughout the city, such as in the Grand’ Place. Europe Day The European institutions open their doors to the public for a day. European Film Festival This film festival takes place at the end of June, beginning of July and focuses on discovering new talent.

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baround Centennaire District

This lies furthest from the centre, although an easy, quick ride on public transport gets you there. A high point of this area, one of the city’s greenest and most tree-covered, is the famous Atomium. In the nearby MiniEurope, visitors can enjoy around 300 models of monuments from all over Europe.

Saint-Gilles

Lying to the south of the historical centre, it is considered the city’s modernist district par excellence, although finding buildings that really fit the criteria of this artistic movement requires a certain effort and conscientious searching. If you do, you’ll enjoy stained glass windows, ceramics, mosaics and uniquely styled grilles, witnesses to an age determined to pay homage to the aesthetic. The vitality and comings and goings on its streets, used every day by a sizeable Spanish and Portuguese community, invite you to take an evening stroll. Some of Brussels’ most luxurious hotels are to be found in this area, especially on the popular Avenue Louise.

Dansaert

The cradle of Brussels fashion offers shops and studios to tempt the visitor at every turn. Lovers of vintage can’t afford to miss the luxurious second-hand clothes boutiques.

The Lower Town

This is dominated by the Grand’ Place and includes the warren of mediaeval streets and the most touristy part of the Belgian capital. Lying at the heart of the city, the district is bursting with restaurants with terraces, ale houses and shops which grab the attention of passers-by with shop windows stuffed with chocolate, lace or souvenirs. It was here that the first inhabitants of Brussels settled and where the mediaeval might of the city was forged, based on trade controlled by the various guilds. The same ones, who, after the French troops had practically razed the Grand’ Place to the ground, managed to rebuild this stunning public space in just five years. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle head for the nearby Marolles district, the most bohemian part of the metropolis. This old working class neighbourhood, which lies in the shadow of the huge Palais de Justice, is dotted with narrow streets and bars not too familiar with subtle aesthetics. The most enchanting spot is the Place du Jeu de Balle, with an open-air market held every Sunday where trinkets share stalls with second-hand clothes or old furniture. At this flea market, you’ll find of types of objects for sale. The many, enchanting cafés that line the square offer a chance to put your feet up between purchases. Craft shops, vintage boutiques, home décor outlets and comic shops are some of the high points of this area.

The Upper Town

Saint-Géry

Not too far from Dansaert lies Saint-Géry, one of the liveliest districts where the bohemian mixes with the ethnic. Not for nothing did the genius Magritte live in this district and he used to play chess at the Greenwich tavern, which to this day continues to serve a very varied clientele.

Saint-Boniface

This is the best example of the new social reality of Brussels and Europe in the twenty-first century. In the kingdom of miscegenation, which scarcely covers six square kilometres, over 150 nationalities live alongside each other. The borders of many of these districts are outlined by skin colour. Matonge – an area named in honour of a district of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a former Belgian colony – has a large Congolese and Rwandan community, Anderlecht is home to Maghrebi immigrants and Schaarbeek to the Turkish community.

The former aristocratic French-speaking district, which contrasted with the bourgeoisie Flemish-speaking Lower Town, is characterised by the wide avenues, neo-classical palaces, museums and well-tended gardens. The multicoloured mediaeval old town gives way here to a whole host of elegant bright boulevards. It includes the so-called Royal District, which comprises the area around the Parc de Bruxelles, flanked by such emblematic buildings as the Palais Royal and the Beaux-Arts. Just a stone’s throw away lies the well-heeled Sablon district, dotted with antiques shops, art dealers, delightful gardens and, perhaps, the best chocolate shops in Brussels. To find this, simply head for the Place du Grand Sablon, full of bars, restaurants and shops. Young people mill around the colourful, avant-garde cafés in this district overflowing with charm.

EU Quarter

In this district, located to the east of the centre, you understand why Brussels is the capital of Europe. It was here that the European Union (EU) began to grow and the European Commission and European Parliament have their headquarters here. It may seem hard to comprehend, but over 100,000 of the city’s inhabitants are in some way or other linked to the universe of community institutions. The Place du Luxembourg, full of bars, is considered the nerve centre of this district with its multicultural, polyglot environment. The green Parc Léopold contrasts with the blue glass and the steel of the European Parliament building, which opened in 1998. This district is practically deserted at the weekend, but comes back to life first thing on Monday morning thanks to the bureaucrats as they make their way to the Justis Lipsius building, the headquarters of the EU Council and named after a sixteenth-century philosopher. A pink-brown granite block that stands at the top of Rue de la Loi and whose solidity aims to represent the consolidation of the European unity project. 5

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Manneken Pis

Behind the Town Hall, on the corner of Stoofstraat and Eikstraat, you’ll find the most irreverent symbol of the Belgian capital. It’s a small bronze statue dating from 1619 of a little naked boy in mid-urination. What visitors see is a copy as the original was stolen by French soldiers in the eighteenth century. There are many stories surrounding it, but it appears that the cheeky young child symbolises the first citizen of Brussels, who, every so often is dressed in different clothes depending on the occasion. Another story goes back to the early Middle Ages when the son of a duke was supposedly found urinating behind a tree in the middle of a battle, which was captured in bronze to symbolise the nation’s military courage. And a third story tells of

Grand’ Place

The historical, geographical and commercial heart of Brussels since the thirteenth century, it is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world due to its variety of guild houses. The setting where long ago princes were greeted and prisoners executed, the meeting point during popular uprisings, it ranks alongside other well known public spaces, such as Saint Mark’s Square in Venice, Tiananmen Square in Beijing or Red Square in Moscow. It was here that the incipient bourgeoisie built their unique style of guild houses to show off their wealth to the nobility. The 39 houses that surround the imposing fourteenth-century Town Hall were built with this aim in mind and have such picturesque names as Le Renard (the fox), Le Cornet (the horn), La Luove (the she-wolf), Le Sac (the sack) and La Brouette (the wheelbarrow). This cobbled square and its adjoining side streets were the birthplace of a city dedicated to trade with Bruges and Louvaine and which today is known as the city of every European. The variety of styles – Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque – is the dominant note of this setting overflowing with vitality and colour, especially in December, when a Christmas market occupies every square inch of space. In one corner stands the statue of Everard’t Serclaes, a national hero who died in an ambush while defending the city from invading troops. It is said that his bronze statute brings good luck, particularly if you rub the arm of the dying figure.

a young country boy who put out a fire by urinating on it. Tourists are often disappointed when they discover just how small the statue is, at only about 30 cm high, victims of Brussels irony.

Rue des Bouchers

This cobbled pedestrian street that retains its mediaeval feel, even in the name, contains the largest concentration of the city’s tourist restaurants. At the end of this road is a dead-end street where in 1987 Belgian feminists installed a replica of the famous urinating boy, christened Jeanneken Pis, that shows a little girl urinating, what else. It’s difficult to find, but intrepid visitors will be rewarded: in the nearby Delirium Café choose from over one thousand varieties of beer.

Atomium

Together with the Manneken Pis and the Grand’ Place, this is another symbol of Brussels. This huge homage to the atom stands in the outskirts, in the Heizel district, although getting there is no problem thanks to the metro and trams. The monument was inaugurated in 1958 for the World Fair and carried an expiry date. However, popular fervour and the international success it achieved enabled it to win a reprieve. This construction, which comprises nine balls contacted by twenty tubes, is an excellent vantage point some hundred metres above the city. Three years, some 15,000 operators and endless mock-ups were needed to build what became the new icon of Brussels.

Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville)

This is the only original building of the Grand’ Place, as all the others were destroyed by bombing from the French artillery in 1695. The tower stands some 100 metres high and is crowned by a statue of Saint Michael, the patron saint of Brussels. The Town Hall, known as the Hôtel de Ville, is an extraordinary example of the Gothic style, with an amazing 200 statues on its façade. The interior houses magnificent tapestries, friezes and furniture, witnesses of the age when Brussels was the capital of the Dukedom of Brabant. Don’t miss the Council Chamber, Maximilian’s Chamber, the Sovereigns’ Gallery and the Gothic Chamber. 7

Maison de l’Arbre d’Or

This houses a beer museum that includes an ancient tavern in its cellar. The exhibition gives an overview of the history of this popular drink from the seventeenth century, when it is believed that Flemish and Dutch merchants introduced hops into the production process, which gave it that highly characteristic bitter flavour.

Maison du Roi

On the northern side of the Grand’ Place,

opposite the Town Hall, stands this beautiful double gallery, late-Gothic style palace with a richly decorated balcony and delicate bell tower on its first floor. It was originally built as a bread market, but was renovated in the sixteenth century by Keldermans The Younger on the orders of Charles V. It is now home to the Museé de la Ville de Bruxelles (Brussels City Museum), which mainly exhibits works by Flemish artist Bruegel, along with the rich wardrobe of the Manneken Pis of 650 garments, including a real Elvis Presley outfit.

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European Parliament

The European Parliament has its headquarters in Strasbourg, where the partial monthly plenary sessions are held. Other additional meetings of this institution, and parliamentary commissions, take place in Brussels in a stunning steel and glass building that is popularly known as the “caprice des dieux” (the whim of the gods), which resembles the box of the French make of cheese with the same name.

SHOWS Brussels offers a packed cultural diary throughout the year that is divided from the linguistic point of view between Francophile and Flemish influences. The music scene is dominated by jazz, a style that has had a high-profile role in the city since the 1920s. The zenith of this music occurs at the end of May with the celebration of the Jazz Marathon. With regard to theatre, there are around thirty venues. Almost half the films screened in the cinemas are shown in English, in other words, in the original version with French and Dutch subtitles. In terms of sport, football and cycling are the Belgians’ two passions. Theatre Théâtre Nacional Boulevard Emile Jacqmain 111-115 (02) 203 4155 www.theatrenational.be This is the main French-speaking theatre of the Belgian capital and stages high quality plays, particularly French classics. Théâtre Le Public Rue Braemt 64-70 0800 94444 www.theatrelepublic.be

OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée (Comic Strip Centre)

Vignettes, another form of the metropolis’ identity, are raised to the category of art at this centre, which occupies an Art Nouveau style house designed by Victor Horta, one of the fathers of this artistic movement. The first exhibition of comics from around the world honours such legendary figures as Spirou, Lucky Luke – the cowboy who was quicker on the draw than his shadow – The Smurfs and Tintin, all creations of Belgian inventiveness. Like Brussels, the capital of every European, the stories of the intrepid reporter and his fox terrier, Snowy – translated into Arabic, Bengali, Esperanto and Persian – now seem to be almost universal.

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Palais Royal

The official residence of the Belgian monarchs was built on the site of a mediaeval fort. Its luxurious interior houses a notable collection of Spanish tapestries, most of Goya’s work, and others of the best works by Flemish painters including Rubens, Jordanes and Van Dyck. One of the most sumptuous rooms open to the public is the Throne Room, decorated with stunning bronze and crystal chandeliers. The secrets of this building can only be unravelled from the day after Belgian National Day (21 July) until early September, during which time popular visits are scheduled. The palace, which was commissioned by Léopold II and completed in 1865, is a witness to nineteenth-century Belgium, when the country was the world’s fourth largest commercial power. Opposite lies the Parc de Bruxelles, surrounded by further monumental buildings, such as the Palais des Beaux-Arts and the Hôtel Ravenstein.

Catédrale des Sts Michel et Gudule

It mainly stages avant garde works by young playwrights and also has a Francophile influence. Kaaitheater Place Sainctelette 20 (02) 201 5959 www.kaaitheater.be This Flemish theatre offers theatre and dance performances, with special emphasis on innovative works. It is housed in a modernist building constructed during the 1930s. Théâtre de Toone Petite Rue de Bouchers 21 (02) 511 7137 www.toone.be The puppets on its stage perform classic works, such as Faust or King Lear. The performances are in French, Dutch and, sometimes, English. Located in a bar whose history goes back to the eighteenth century and which offers a good selection of beers. Music The Ópera Nacional has its centre of operations at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie (Place du Monnaie; www.lamonnaie.be). The Palais des Beaux-Arts (Rue Ravenstein 23; www.nob-onb.be) is home to the Orchestre National and the Societé Philarmonique. The season runs from September to June. This cultural centre also holds temporary art exhibitions, classical and modern dance shows and the final rounds of the Reine Elisabeth music competition. The Cirque Royal (Rue de l’Enseignement 81; www.cirque-royal.org) also offers a variety of shows, from classical music to dance, passing through musicals and operas. Les Halles de Schaerbeek (Rue Royale Sainte-Marie 22b; www.halles. be) is the setting for large-scale operas, theatre and dance performances and pop concerts. There is live jazz every Saturday

and some Sundays at L’Archiduc (Antoine Dansaert 6; www.archiduc.net). Sounds Jazz Club (Rue de la Tulipa 28; www. soundsjazzclub.be) is another well-known venue that also stages live concerts. Rock concerts are held at the Ancienne Belgique hall (Anspachlaan 110; www.abconcerts. be). The Fuse (Rue Blaesstraat 208; www. fuse.be) brings together big names in electronic music. Cinema Watch Hollywood films at the Brouckère UGC multiplex (Place de Brouckère 38). Another option is the Kinepolis Laeken (Boulevard du Centenaire 20), which has 27 screens and an IMAX auditorium. The central Actors Studio (Rue des Bouchers 16) screens art cinema. Sports Brussels has three football teams: RWD Molenbeek (www.rwdm.be), Royal Union Saint-Gilloise (www.rusg.be) and RSC Anderlecht (www.rsca.be). The last one is the most popular, as it is FC Bruges’ rival in the national league and at times manages to qualify for the Champions League. It plays its home matches at the Stade Constant Vanden Stock (Theo Verbeecklaan 2). The renovated Heysel stadium, known as Roi Baudoin stadium and remembered for the tragic European Cup Final between Liverpool and Juevntus in 1985, hosts the Belgian national side’s matches and the Cup Final. Visitors can enjoy a round of golf in the city at the Brussels Golf Club, located to the southeast of the centre, and also swimming and tennis. Fitter visitors can run the legendary 42 km and 192 metres of the marathon held at the start of October.

The first stone of this church, which is the largest in the city, was laid in 1226 and it took 300 years to complete the twin towers, an example of Brabant Gothic. The multicoloured windows, such as the Final Judgement, are another element that are well worth detailed consideration.

Parc du Cinquantenaire This green space, another project fostered by Léopold II, is dominated by a triumphal arch topped by a chariot and designed in the image and resemblance to the Paris style. Popular among the inhabitants of Brussels, especially at lunch time and at weekends, it is home to Autoworld, one of the world’s best collections of classic cars, and also the Great Mosque.

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Brussels City Guide by The Perfect Hotels