Brussels: The Capital of Europe
The Capital of Europe
As the capital city of Belgium, Brussels is a commercial and administrative hub with a UNESCO-protected center. Known as the “capital of Europe,” it is home to many EU institutions and functions as a nexus of European decision-making.
The best way to get around Brussels is on the metro (run by STIB-MIVB). Signage is easy to follow, trains are frequent and run on renewable energy. Buses are also available, though you’ll need a separate ticket for them.
Cinquantenaire Park & the Triumphal Arch
The park is home to three museums and a stunning central arch that resembles the Arc de Triomphe. The arch itself was designed by Gedeon Bordiau, who spent over twenty years working on the project. The patinated bronze quadriga atop the arch represents Brabant, a major Belgian province, while other personifications of Belgian regions show up throughout the structure.
The arch was completed for Belgium’s 50th birthday in 1905. Leopold II wanted to use it to promote his kingdom—which was financed by the exploitation of Congolese rubber.
To some, the monument is a reminder of that dark chapter in the country’s history. Others point to it as evidence of the “unbridled capitalist greed, criminality, and dehumanisation” that the king displayed.
The Grand-Place (also known as De Grote Markt or the King’s House or Broodhuis in Dutch) is the heart of Brussels and its most iconic landmark. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts amazing architecture from different time periods.
The square grew into a huge public space surrounded by opulent guildhalls with beautiful gables, thanks to the city’s rich mercantile history. It was also important socially and culturally.
A statue of Everard t’Serclaes stands in the center and, according to legend, if you rub his hand your visit will be successful. There are plenty of other things to do around the square as well!
In addition to serving as the administrative and commercial heart of Belgium, Brussels functions as a regional metropolis and an international centre for many European institutions. The city is also host to a wide range of important cultural and educational centres.
The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken are a huge complex of monumental greenhouses within the park at the Royal Palace in Laeken, near Brussels. These huge dome-shaped structures are open to the public a few days a year, and were designed by Alphonse Balat.
Located in Bruparck, at the foot of the Atomium, Mini-Europe has reproductions of monuments from the European Union on display. It receives 350,000 visitors a year.
Despite its shabby reputation (largely due to overhyped media reports), Molenbeek is a diverse, lively and interesting part of the city. Behind the façade of alluring pastry shops, dilapidated car repair joints and corner cafés is a growing gentrification of artists’ studios and organic shops.
But it’s also a neighborhood that’s known for its high unemployment, disaffected youth and jihadist propaganda. It’s where many of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks were from. And after raids in January at a motel and kosher grocery, police found that leads in several cases led back to Molenbeek.
Residents say they need more guiding examples from successful locals, and that’s why volunteers have started coaching programs for youth. But they say they also need more help from the government.
Located to the north-east of Brussels, St-Josse-Ten-Noode (French: [se
This is reflected in the fact that there are 153 different nationalities and a staggering number of languages spoken in this pocket-sized global village. A stroll through this colourful neighbourhood will show you why this is so. You will see, among others, two theatres (Le Public and Theatre de la Vie), places for jazz and other music genres, the Botanique cultural centre, and the Charlier museum.
There is a strong community of migrants in Brussels, and the number is increasing rapidly. As a consequence, there are several languages spoken in the city, including French, Dutch, German, Arabic, and Turkish.
The city’s main football team is Anderlecht, which was founded in 1920 and has won 20 championships. The club has also won a number of European titles and competitions.
The Saint-Guidon/Sint Guido district is the heart of Anderlecht, and it’s home to the Church of St. Guido, the Place de la Vaillance/Dapperheidsplein, and other important streets. The area is also known for its high levels of crime and poverty. In addition to being a football club, Anderlecht is also known for its performing arts scene.