Surprisingly walks around Brussels reveal a trendy, exotic side of the city that is easily missed with cursory glances on a tour bus. Let the trails, which take 1 or 2 hours to complete, take you on mini adventures into the European Village and along the way, you can enjoy some quirky museums, superb art nouveau and cute comic strips. The city by foot will surprise you!
Here are some interesting itineraries to spark your imagination. You can download detailed maps from the Brussels tourism website or purchase a booklet from the tourism centre for as little as €7. Website: Under ‘Discover’ at www.brusselsinternational.be.
There are cities with murals and there are cities with graffiti but Brussels is one of the few cities granting wall space for comic strips. These giant replicas of classic Belgian comics, such as Tintin, can be seen all over the city centre. The short tour introduces 13 comics and starts from the city centre at the Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art, circling around the Grand Place, Place St Catherine and on the edges of Mont des Arts. A longer walk involves a tour into the Marolles area which is filled with more works of art! Overall there are 30 illustrations dotted around the city.
If you’re a fan of the EU then a European District tour is a must, there is actually more to see than just glass buildings! Starting at the European Parliament at Place du Luxembourg (metro: Trone), make your way northwards to Arts-Loi. From Arts-Loi to Schuman you will see a collection of European Council and Commission buildings including the giant cross-shaped Berlaymont, one of the earliest EU buildings in Brussels. Finish up with a coffee and fries at Place Jourdan, where Eurocrats go at lunch times.
Built mostly in the south of the city (Avenue Louise, Flagey, Chatelain and the forest area) the art nouveau style in Belgium is mainly attributed to the works of Victor Horta, one of the foremost art nouveau architects. Art nouveau (literally: new art) is a style of architecture that incorporates nature-inspired motifs into buildings; expect to see leafy lamp posts and flowers blooming from door-knockers! This was the era when artful lines jumped off canvases and straight onto buildings.
Sablon to Marolles
The Sablon is a beautiful church in the lower parts of the city centre and the Marolles is the area just below the Palais de Justice. The Marolles area is an eclectic collection of shop windows and flea markets, where the old working class lived amongst the narrow streets. The shop windows have the most fascinating displays; these shops, unlike modern day department stores, are dedicated to selling only one type of wares – mirrors, lamp shades, shower curtains. They almost invite you to take a peek!
This path will need no explanation; it takes you through the sweet delights of Brussels, chocolate and beer. The trail starts at the Sablon, past Place de la Chapelle and up to the Grand Place where there are beer museums and chocolate museums to visit and taste! The tour finishes at the Galeries St Hubert, where Neuhaus built his first chocolate shop.
Brussels tourism would not be complete without enjoying one of the green spaces in the city. Even with heavy urban development, Brussels city has managed to maintain a section of natural forest dating back to the 12th century to the south of the city. The green spaces all around Brussels make up a trail of 60km, best experienced on eco-friendly bicycles!
These are just the beginning, there are also fashion walks, family discoveries and other areas of Brussels to explore.