I visited Belgium in 2011. I took a bus tour from Amsterdam, Holland. The Package includes visiting Antwerp, Bruges and Brussels.
Antwerp is famous with its diamonds. My tourist guide said that the city is home too to the second largest harbour in Europe. It has an array of 16th and 17th century architectural marvels. Artist Peter Paul Rubens also lived here. I visited Antwerp-Central railway station, which has a vast dome above the waiting room. I really admire the antique clock above the upper level, but I couldn’t take a picture because there were many people going here and there (why I felt too embarrassed to do it that time? Nyeseel deh sekarang) We just spent several minutes in Antwerp because it’s too early in the morning, and it’s just the second city in Belgium. Not much we can see there.
We moved on to Brussels. Brussels is the capital of Belgium and has enormous diversity in terms of places of interest and things to do. (My tour guide told me that Brussels has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by a descendant of King Charlemagne to more than one million inhabitants, wow!) I saw some sights from museums & monuments to parks & points of interest there. Here they are:
1. The Grand Place
The Grand Place, the central square of the city with its ornate baroque and gothic guild houses, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. It’s also called Grote Mark in Dutch language. Built as a merchants market in the 13th century, it is the city center and the most important tourist destination in Belgium. I really enjoy Belgian hospitality at one of the many terrace cafes there. There are many events held in this place throughout the year.
2. Brussel Town Hall
It’s a Gothic building from the middle age, located in Grote Markt. The facade is decorated with numerous statues representing nobles, saints, and allegorical figures. The present sculptures are reproductions; the older ones are in the city museum in the “King’s House” across the Grand Place.
3. Broodhuis or Breadhouse.
It’s also famous as The Maison du Roi (The King’s House). This building is just a symbol of ducal power, but no king has ever lived there. I just took pictures in front of it.
4. Manneken Pis
I don’t know why this is a famous statue, it’s not so impressive to me. Just a statue of a little boy peeing in a fountain (they say it’s eternal pee, ha ha), but draws many people to take pictures there. It’s located on the corner of Rue de L’Etuve & Stroofstraat since 1619. Over time it has become a tradition for visiting heads of state to donate miniature versions of their national costume for the little naked boy, and the wardrobe of Mannekin Pis are kept at the Brussels museum (some say there are over 800 outfits).
They used to be left neglected in poor condition after being destroyed on the revolution against symbol of Christianity. But in 19th century they are reconstructed and restored. I bought some souvenirs from one shop on the guildhall.
Atomium was built for the 1958 World Fair, it represents a molecule’s nine atoms – magnified 165 billion times. It is also a symbol of the city, which provides a panoramic view of Brussels and its surroundings. The 9-spheres that make up the “atom” are linked by escalators, they host a museum and is also a venue for special events. But we don’t go inside the Atomium, we just take some pictures in front of it.
7. Cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule
This is a magnificent cathedral, dedicated to the male and female patron saints of Brussels, located near Central Station. I read the information board that it was completed by the end of the 15th century in the Brabant Gothic style, but was damaged by the French shelling of 1695. The white stone façade is from the year 1250 and the interior is so proportioned and stuffed with treasures, very beautiful! I went inside the church and there were not many people inside, just us tourists. My tour guide said that Belgian don’t believe in Church any more, I mean people don’t go to church now, they use it just for some ceremonial things like wedding or infant baptism, nothing else.
Bruges is beautiful. It’s s a town in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium. It is one of The UNESCO World Heritage Cities. I really enjoy walking around the cobblestone street, stroll through luxury shops, and eat Moules frites (try it, your trip in Belgium is not even complete without getting your fingers sticky with mussel juice. Moules frites are mussels with chips or French fries, and the price is not very expensive. You eat the first mussel with your fingers and then scoop up the rest using the empty shell as a spoon. And what about the fries? Just dip those in mayonnaise, oh yummy!
My Belgium experience is mostly perfected by sampling the world-famous chocolate and visiting Comic Strip Museum in Brussels. There are so many chocolate shops in Belgium, such as Wittamer (family-owned chocolatier that’s been in business since 1910), Pierre Marcolini near the Grand Place, Neuhaus, Guylian, Jeff de Bruges, and many more. My favorite chocolate shops are also there: Godiva and Leonidas. They sell reasonable prices for my pocket, of course. I also try Belgium waffle, soo yummy! Now I believe that Belgian waffle is the best in the world.
I revisited the comic strips of my youth: Tintin and Smurf. I don’t know that Herge is a Belgian, I thought he’s French. I saw many comic artworks in the Comic Strip Museum, and also other sketches and memorabilia.
Beautiful Belgium, beautiful memory. ^_^