The ‘Capital’ of the EU

Just 1h30 minutes drive from Lille, Belgium was the first country to be crossed off the bucket list after starting school. Brussels is small enough to be explored in one day and easy enough to walk by foot. We did a ‘free’ walking tour which highlighted all the historical spots of Brussels and the history behind them.

WHERE I WENT

ROYAL PALACE

Royal Palace Brussels

Who didn’t know that Belgium had a King & Queen, raise your hand….🙋🏾‍♀️. If you did, hats off to you 👏🏾. Though it is not the official residence of the Royals, it is often used for administrative purposes by the King. Located near Brussels Park, it’s not very old as it was built only in 1900 and represents part of the constitutional monarchy. Seeing this palace for the first time, I think it mirrors Buckingham Palace quite a bit, but it is actually only half its size.

EUROPEAN QUARTER

This district is home to most of the EU institutions including the European Parliament and EU Council. The symbol of the EU, the Berlaymont is also located here and houses the EU Commission.The building is quite unique as it is shaped like an ‘X.’ This quarter is one of the main reasons, if not the only reason Brussels was named the ‘de facto capital of the EU’.

The Berlaymont (European Commission)

Fun Facts:

  • European Parliament: largest & only direct-elected legislative body in the world
  • EU Council: main decision-making body of the EU
  • EU Commission: runs all day-to-day business regarding the EU

MANNEKEN PIS

Left: Manneken Pis; Right: Jeanneke Pis

While walking through the stoned side streets of Brussels, we saw a large crowd gathered and couldn’t understand why. Lo and behold, there he was, the famous Manneken Pis (Dutch: ‘Little Pissing Man’). It’s a small fountain sculpture of a little boy urinating in a tracksuit. It was designed in 1619 and though this is the replica, the original can be found in the Brussels City Museum. The sculpture symbolizes the rebelliousness of the people of Brussels. Believe it or not, he has more clothing than most of us with a wardrobe of 1000+ costumes. He actually has a sister called the ‘Jeanneke Pis’ designed to look bolder than her little brother.

CATHEDRAL OF ST. MICHAEL & ST. GUDULA

Known as the main Roman Catholic church in Brussels, it was built in the 11th century and took more than 300 years to complete. St. Michael & St. Gudula are the patron saints of this gothic, medieval-style cathedral as well as the saints of Brussels. The architecture in this church was absolutely stunning and I’ve never seen anything like it before.

WHAT I ATE

MAISON ANTOINE

French fries are Belgian, not French 😱. So why is it called French fries then? Well, the story dates all the way back to World War I when soldiers deep-fried potatoes and named it ‘French fries’ because the main language of the Belgian army was French. However, there’s still debates decades later whether fries are French or Belgian; but being one of the most popular foods in the world, I don’t think it really matters. Maison Antoine fries are delicious and apart from regular ketchup and mayo, you get a ton of other sauces to choose from.

BELGIAN WAFFLES

Another food torn between its French & Belgian origin. However, given the large variety that can be found in Belgium, I’m personally giving this one to them! Waffles are to Belgium like gelato is to Italy. Waffle shops are almost everywhere in the city centre of Brussels and I can attest that it is absolutely amazing. So good that I didn’t really want to share but I had to for ‘health purposes’.

PS. I did have Belgian chocolates but I’ve saving it for another post 😉

my plans next visit

ATOMIUM

What is this strange looking thing and why I am interested in visiting? Well this landmark was built in 1958 and it’s really a museum. Shaped like a unit cell, each sphere contains exhibit halls and the top spheres houses a restaurant overlooking the city of Brussels. It’s also the main symbol of Belgium.


Will you visit Brussels? Let me know in the comments.

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