WE HOPE TO RETURN TO TRAVEL WITH SERENITY SOON!

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Brussels is a European capital that is infrequently considered in the travel plans of tourists. Indeed, very few people think of Brussels as a possible destination at the idea of a trip or a weekend in a European city. This is also proven by the fact that it is even difficult to find tourist guides destined exclusively for Brussels in bookstores, often flanked by other cities such as Bruges or Ghent, as if Brussels did not deserve a tourist visit alone.Brussels is today named more in political or economic speeches than in tourism magazines or blogs. The city, in fact, is the symbol and capital of Europe as well as, with Strasbourg, the seat of the European Parliament.

Brussels in one day?

Indeed, I cannot say that Brussels offers particular ideas for a visit. However, it can represent an all in all economic destination for a weekend dedicated to undemanding tourism. So undemanding that, as far as I’m concerned, the visit lasted only one day. Impossible? If you have the patience to follow the reading of this post until the end I will explain how I did it and how you can do it yourself  (when epidemic wil be finish, of course!). You have to konw that at least 8 hours of visit must be necessary.

The tour of the city

When you arrive at Brussels-Zaventem airport, the first visit you have to make is the Atomium. The monument, in fact, is located on the outskirts of Brussels, near the Heysel park, and therefore starting from here the tour allows you to optimize the time of visiting the city. The Atomium alone requires at least an hour and a half of your time.

It is a symbol of Brussels, erected in 1958 on the occasion of the Universal Exposition. It has a fate similar to the Eiffel Tower, built in 1889 on the occasion of a similar circumstance. And, like the Eiffel Tower, the Atomium was also intended to be dismantled at the end of the event, which fortunately did not happen.

Being in front of the Atomium (photo 1) certainly arouses a certain impression, perhaps for its 102 meters in height which certainly make it an element of great grandeur, perhaps for its 9 spheres of 18 meters each representing the 9 atoms of a iron crystal, of which the Atomium represents its shape enlarged 165 billion times.

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1. Atomium

The Atomium can be visited inside. Once inside, through an elevator you reach the highest sphere from which you can enjoy a beautiful panorama. From this observation point you can see the city (photo 2) but also the nearby Heysel stadium and Minieuropa, an amusement park.

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2. Panorama from the top of Atomium

The other spheres (though not all) can be reached through a path made of stairs (photo 3) and spectacular escalators (photo 4).

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3. Stairs in the Atomium
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4. Escalators in the Atomium

The spheres have no particular attractions inside and are characterized mainly by the presence of multimedia paths or representations of life-size 3D paintings, including the “Wedding Banquet” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (photo 5).

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5. “The wedding banquet” by P. Bruegel in 3D, life size

After visiting the Atomium, it is advisable to return to the city center. To be precise, you can get to the Sablon district. From the Louiza metro station and after passing the Palace of Justice (photo 6), you reach the beautiful Gothic church of “Notre Dame du Sablon” (photo 7).

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6. The Palace of Justice

The church was built between the 14th and 15th centuries and shows its best in the lateral part rather than in the facade. The best perspective of the church, in fact, is the one visible from the overlooking Parc du Petit Sablon, a delightful garden with a scenic fountain on top.

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7. Notre Dame du Sablon

Unlike the generalities of Gothic churches, the interior of Notre Dame (photo 8), divided into five naves, is unexpectedly bright, thanks to its large wonderful windows.

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8. Notre Dame du Sablon – Inside

Then along Rue de la Regence, past the Magritte Museum (photo 9) and the Museum of Fine Arts, you will reach the Place Royale (photo 10).

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9. Magritte Museum
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10. Place Royale

From here, along the Rue Montagne de la Cour and passed in front of the “MIM” (Musée des Instruments) with an unmistakable English style (photo 11), you come to what can be considered the most beautiful view of the city, that of the Mont Des Arts (photo 12), with a vaguely Parisian flavor.

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11. “MIM”
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12. Mont des Arts

Walking through the entire park, passing in front of the National Library, you can breathe the real atmosphere of Brussels, a city known more for the European institutions it hosts than for the art and the numerous youth that lives there.

From here, you cannot miss a visit to Manneken Pis (the child who pees), another of the symbols of Brussels (photo 13), reachable in less than five minutes on foot. It is a bronze statuette fifty centimeters high which represents a child who, according to legend, would have extincted the fuse of a bomb in his own way with which the enemies wanted to set the city on fire.

To be honest, it is not much, since it is a very small statuette not even excellent. But it is a symbol of the city and a stop (and a selfie) in these parts cannot be missing.

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13. Manneken Pis

From here, you can reach the Grand Place, without a doubt the most beautiful and photographed part of the city, rightly considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world.

The square is fairly small size, almost “closed” and delimited on all four sides by magnificent Gothic-style buildings: the Guild House, the Town Hall (in photo 14), the Maison du Roi. It is the beating heart of the city, a meeting place for tourists and citizens, where you can sit at the tables of a cafe or restaurant to fully enjoy the beauty of the place.

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14. The City Hall in Grand Place

A few meters from the Grand Place, the Saint-Hubert Galleries (photo 15), with a magnificent glass cover, a place with elegant shops and countless patisseries and chocolate shops whose only purpose is to torture unfortunate tourists who, by choice or need, cannot take advantage of all this goodness. Inaugurated in 1847, it is considered the first “commercial center” in Europe.

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15. Gallerie Saint-Hubert

Leaving the galleries on the opposite side from which you had entered, a few more minutes of walking and you arrive at the cathedral of the city, dedicated to St. Michael and St. Gudula (photo 16).

The external facade has three portals and two 64-meter-high towers, a typical example of Gothic architecture, dividing horizontally into three levels, one lower centered on the three portals, one median with a large polyphora, one upper characterized by the large triangular tympanum.

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16. Cathedral

The interior (photo 17) is a Latin cross with three naves divided by large columns and you can admire the wooden Pulpit and the beautiful stained glass windows  (photo 18).

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17. Cathedral – Inside
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18. Cathedral – A glass window

If you have had the patience to read this post, you have had the opportunity to see that the city, a little underestimated from a tourist point of view, does not lack interesting ideas.

It is in fact a city with one of the most beautiful squares in the world, with splendid Gothic churches and great gastronomic traditions (French fries, world-famous delicacies, were invented here), where above all the desserts and the excellent beers they represent are the natural background for a short (or very short) holiday.

Obviously, if you have more time you can visit at least one of the main museums of the city (Magritte Museum or the Museum of Fine Arts), the Centenary Park and the buildings of the European Parliament.

Arrival

To visit Brussels in one day you need to optimize the short time available.

From Brussels-Zaventem airport, the cheapest way to reach the Atomium, the first stop of the visit, is definitely the bus. Line 820 leads from the airport (“Zaventem Luchthaven Perron B” stop) to the “Brussel Madelon” stop. Departures every 30 minutes, travel time 45 minutes. From here, just over 1 km on foot to reach the Atomium. If you have little time available, it is possible to get to the Atomium by taxi (a ride costs on average 40-45 euros).

Where (and what) you can eat

The top specialty of Brussels is the “Moules et frites“, that is mussels and chips, a dish that may seem trivial (in fact it is a bit) but that here in the city represents the top of the specialty. A real must are the desserts, the pralines above all, but the waffles are not to be overlooked (photo 19), prepared in countless ways. Impossible to resist!

The city is full of restaurants that prepare typical Belgian cuisine. My choice fell on the “Chez Leon“, a well-known restaurant in the city, a few meters from the Grand Place. Prices a bit high (but it is difficult to spend less elsewhere) in a rather typical environment. My full Trip Advisor review is here.

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One day tour

And now, are not curious to know how we managed to visit the city in one day? Nooo? I tell you the same.

Departure from Rome Fiumicino Airport at 6.30 am, arrival at Brussels-Zaventem airport at 8.45 am. Taxi from the airport at 9.00 am to reach the Atomium at 9.30 am. Entrance to the Atomium at 10.00 (opening hours), visit until 11.30. Metro from Heysel stop (5 minutes walk from the Atomium) to reach the Louiza stop in the Sablon district at 12.00. Visit to the Church of Notre Dame du Sablon. Walk to Place Royal, Monts des Arts, Manneken Pis, to the Grand Place at 1 p.m. Lunch until 3 pm. At the end of the lunch, still the Grand Place, with the purchase of sweets and various junk, followed by Gallerie Saint Hubert. At 4 p.m. visit to the Cathedral. 4.45 pm Taxi (with Uber) to the airport at 5.15 pm, in time for security checks and boarding at the gate. Departure flight to Rome at 6.25. Easy, right?