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Things to Do in Brussels - page 2

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Belgian Comic Strip Center
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This exploration of comic strips as art is appropriately housed in an Art Nouveau building designed by Brussels’ most famous architect, Victor Horta. It traces the history of first comic strips through to the evolution of European comic books and present day pieces. The museum celebrates both the heroes and the creators of so many beloved comic strips. Many know of the Smurfs or the famous character Tintin of “The Adventures of Tintin,” and the center’s exhibit on imagination traces comic strip art from the development of Tintin in Belgium in 1929 up to 1960. Comic strips in French, Dutch, and English as well as from genres ranging from politics to science fiction and children’s comics are all represented.

In addition to the permanent collections, visitors have the option to delve into animation, a reading room, a research library, and a conservation facility.

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National Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Basilique Nationale du Sacré-Coeur)
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One of the city’s most striking landmarks, the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Basilique Nationale du Sacré-Coeur) was built to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Belgian independence. King Leopold II laid the first stone of the Roman Catholic basilica and parish in 1905. World War I delayed construction and it took nearly 60 years to complete. Today the Art Deco style monument with its red brick and distinctive green dome holds two museums and is one of the five largest churches in the world.

Visitors can marvel at the size and design of the basilica from the outside or climb the interior for some of the best views of Brussels and the Flemish Brabant countryside. Walking out onto the platform near the top of the basilica dome grants panoramic views almost 80 meters up from the ground. There are also eight bright stained glass windows depicting the life of Jesus that were designed by Belgian painter Anto Carte.

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MOOF Museum
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The MOOF Museum, or the Museum of Original Figurines, is a museum in Brussels dedicated to comic strips. The museum features comic strip figurines, collection items, original comic strips and drawings. More than 650 figurines and original objects are on display, but the museum's entire collection consists of around 3,500 pieces, making it one of the finest collections of comic book memorabilia in the world. The museum has items from Belgian comics, such as the famous Tintin and the Smurfs, as well as American collections, manga and more. The figurines are displayed next to the original comic plates from which they originated.

The MOOF Museum has something for everyone, whether you are a passionate comic book enthusiast or simply curious about the art form. At the museum, you can relive your childhood, learn about comics you might not be familiar with, and enjoy different pieces from various parts of the world. In addition to the figurines, there are large murals of your favorite characters. The museum often has special temporary exhibits as well as the permanent collection.

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Maasmechelen Village
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Just a short drive outside of Brussels, this village offers some of the area’s best luxury shopping with access to 95 designer shops. The area’s traditional Limburg style of architecture is reflected in the form of the buildings, and the location in the quiet countryside carries over into the village. Conceived as a historical mining village, it is now filled with high-end boutiques containing both local Belgian brands such as Essentiel, Olivier Strelli, and Sarah Pacini, and internationally known labels such as Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana. Prices are often significantly lower than similar nearby shops.

Of course it is important to refuel after a long day of shopping, and the village has both traditional Belgian treats such as waffles and moules frites in addition to Italian cuisine at the center’s outdoor Gastronomia Cellini. Just be sure to bring enough strength to carry multiple shopping bags.

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Art & History Museum
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Culture, art, and history abound in this Belgian national museum. The four main collections span periods of time from prehistory in national archaeology and classical antiquity, to European decorative arts and non-European displays. Explore artifacts from all over the world, with collections dedicated to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome and also movements in Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and even Art Deco European arts. Trace the evolution of art in Europe from the 10th century or journey through the arts of India, China, pre-Columbian Americas, and other non-European civilizations.

Unique pieces in sculpture, tapestry, historic jewelry, and even glassware are some of the museum’s highlights, as well as the overview of history of mankind from prehistoric times. The museum contains more than 350,000 historical artifacts in total in its permanent collection. It routinely houses some of Europe’s finest traveling exhibitions.

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Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
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The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels explores the natural evolution of our planet going all the way back to prehistoric times. It has Europe's largest dinosaur exhibitions with over 30 complete skeletons, both originals and reproductions, as well as bone fragments from dinosaurs. The museum also includes the Gallery of Evolution which has displays on the history of life on earth. The BiodiverCITY section teaches visitors about biodiversity. There is an animal kingdom section with displays on various groups of animals, such as mammals, whales, animals of the North and South Poles, insects, shells, and more. Another section of the museum has exhibits on minerals including 2,000 rocks from the earth and the moon.

Some sections of the museum have interactive touchscreens and audio guides to teach visitors more about the exhibits. Along with the permanent exhibitions, the museum has a rotation of temporary exhibits. The artifacts on display represent only a fraction of the museum's entire collection. The Natural Sciences Museum is also a research facility focused on studying and preserving animals, fossils, and bones in order to continue bringing us new information about the natural world.

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Autrique House (Maison Autrique)
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La Maison Autrique was the first house built by Belgian architect Victor Horta, with early elements of his famous Art Nouveau style apparent in the design details. Although the entry and ground floor reflects the classic architectural style of the 19th century, when it was built, the halls and other rooms are illuminated by open space and natural light, an innovation at the time.

The house is simpler than Horta’s later projects, as it was built as a comfortable home for engineer Eugène Autrique and his family. It was completed in 1893, but was recently renovated and reopened to the public. With a striking exterior of iron pillars and columns, Horta’s touch can be seen with the use of light and color in the home’s intricate stained glass in the interior. The classic town house is at once both an embodiment of a traditional private Belgian home and the modern step toward Art Nouveau.

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Museum of the Turn of the Century (Musée Fin-de-Siècle)
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One of Brussels’ newest museums, the Museum of the Turn of the Century (Musée Fin-de-Siècle) celebrates the city’s history as an artistic capital at the end of the 19th century. Though a tempestuous time politically, artists emerged during this time period that pushed the envelope away from classical traditions into modernism. Covering a span from 1868-1914, the museum chronicles the changing attitudes in art. Realism, Impressionism and Art Nouveau emerged during this time, ending only with the start of the first World War and with Belgium leading the way.

Historic collections of 19th- and 20th-century art are here explored with the newest technologies, like touch screens and interactive multimedia. Music, photography, and literature are represented as well, though less so than visual arts. Collections of the many facets of Art Nouveau, from furniture to decorative arts, are a highlight for many. With four floors to explore and many detailed descriptions throughout.

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BELvue Museum
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Learn the history of a nation at Belgium’s BELvue Museum, housed in the 18th-century Bellvue Hotel in the center of Brussels. Trace the story of Belgium from the Belgian Revolution, through World Wars I and II, and in its royal and political progression as you walk through its 12 rooms. Filled with historical documents and artifacts as well as engaging multimedia displays, each room represents a different crucial period in Belgium’s history. The rooms are meant to be explored in chronological order.

Photographs and royal items on display give a real sense of time and place. Curators strategically placed windows that look out onto some of the very places the museum tells the history of. Visitors can see the Mont des Arts and Brussels Park, crucial sites of the Belgian Revolution, from museum rooms and hallways. Temporary exhibitions also bring contemporary stories of Belgian heritage and politics to life.

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Mini-Europe
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From Paris’ Eiffel Tower and London’s Big Ben to the canals of Venice, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Acropolis of ancient Athens, the Mini-Europe theme park in Brussels presents all of the major sights and famous buildings of the European Union countries—in miniature.

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More Things to Do in Brussels

Herge Museum

Herge Museum

Belgium has produced more comic-strip creators than any other country, and one of the world’s favorite comic characters flowed from the pen of Georges Remi, who breathed life into Tintin and his trusty terrier Snowy in 1927 under the name Hergé.

Tintin’s outlandish adventures are published in over 70 languages, and more than 200 million copies of all 24 titles have been sold around the world. Hergé is now commemorated at his own museum just outside Brussels.

The building itself was designed by French architect Christian de Portzamparc and the architecture is all part of the attraction -- a sparkling white, minimalist and box-like contemporary affair. One exterior wall of the building comprises a massive image of Tintin, while another bears Hergé’s distinctive signature. Although there are more than 800 original plates and drawings of Tintin on display in the museum, there are also samples of Hergé’s other graphic design and cartoons to be seen, taking their rightful place alongside an in-depth profile of the artist’s life.

Real aficionados can also follow the Tintin Trail around Brussels or buy copies of the cartoons from the Tintin Boutique just off Grand-Place at rue de la Colline 13.

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Cinquantenaire District

Cinquantenaire District

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The Cinquantenaire District in Brussels is the area of the city surrounding the Cinquantenaire Park. The park itself was built to commemorate 50 years of Belgium's independence. Dominating the park is the Triumphal Arch and three museums. The museums located here are Autoworld, which showcases the evolution of the automobile throughout history; the Royal Museum of Art and History, which contains a wide range of art and artifacts from pre-history forward; and the Belgian Army Museum and Museum of Military History, which examines the development of military technology throughout history along with the major campaigns fought on Belgian soil. In the summer, the park hosts concerts, festivals, drive-in movies, and it is the starting point of the Brussels marathon.

This district, also known as the European District, is the heart of the European Union. The buildings that house the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council of Ministers can be found in this area. This section of Brussels is also known for its many Art Nouveau buildings, trendy restaurants, and boutique shops. The entire area is populated with international people who work at the European institutions or at large corporations that have offices in Brussels.

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Ciamberlani House (Maison A. Ciamberlani)

Ciamberlani House (Maison A. Ciamberlani)

The Ciamberlani House is a townhouse in Brussels that was built by Paul Hankar for the Italian artist Albert Ciamberlani in 1897. Hankar and Ciamberlani collaborated on the design and details of the house, and it is one of the major Art Nouveau buildings in Belgium. Architect Adrien Blomme renovated the house in 1927 resulting in aspects of both Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the interior. One of the most remarkable details about this building is the spectacular sgraffito on its facade. The facade combines elements of ironwork, bricks, and natural stones. Two large, semi-circular windows on the first floor allow sunlight to flood the rooms located in this section of the house.

A row of six windows, which are separated by cast iron posts and flanked by small columns, illuminates the second floor. On the top level there is another sgraffito designed by Adolphe Crespin with a frieze of sunflowers and seven medallions themed around the Labors of Hercules. The building's design and the details of the facade are perfect examples of how the architect liked to contradict traditional building concepts and let his originality shine through. The exterior walls and the building's interior went through extensive restoration between 2004 and 2009 which reconciled the Art Nouveau style of Paul Hankar with the Art Deco style used by Adien Blomme in his 1927 renovation.

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Hotel Tassel

Hotel Tassel

This Brussels town house is widely considered to be the first structure built in Art Nouveau style. Designed by architect Victor Horta in 1894, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site along with three of Horta’s other iconic hotels. Horta was a pioneer of the Art Nouveau transition away from the classical tradition to modern architectural design.

The town house’s floor plan, materials, and decorations, including custom built furniture, were highly innovative at the time of their construction. The two main parts are connected by a steel structure with a glass roof that brings in much of the rooms’ natural light. With mosaics and stained glass throughout, much of the house’s beauty is due to the small lavish details Horta urged. The use of stone alongside a modern use of metal materials was groundbreaking in the 19th century. The open floor plan and curved lines of decoration blend seamlessly with the square structure of the rooms, another progressive architectural move.

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Hotel Solvay

Hotel Solvay

Famous Brussels architect and leader of the Art Nouveau movement Victor Horta built this town house along Avenue Louise in 1894. Horta designed the house in great detail and with precious material from floor to ceiling. From the carpets and walls to the furniture and the light fixtures, Hotel Solvay is a display of luxury and design. The iron and marble staircase was built in collaboration with Belgian pointillist painter Théo van Rysselberghe.

Along with three of Horta’s other Brussels town houses, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site for its contribution to the development of Art Nouveau in architecture. Chemical magnate Arthur Solvay commissioned the house with unrestricted budget and creative freedom, so Horta was able to realize all of his design ambitions for the space. Hotel Solvay is the best preserved of the four houses, having undergone several renovations and keeping original art and functionality in place.

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Museums of the Far East

Museums of the Far East

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King Leopold II wanted famous structures from around the world represented on his royal estate at Laeken, and architect Alexandre Marcel undertook the project with these two towers representing Japan and China. It is said that King Leopold was inspired by his visit to the 1900 Exhibition in Paris. The towers were completed in 1904, built entirely of wood, and connected by tunnel. The woodwork was completed by specialists from Shanghai and Yokohama, and on display are both Chinese and Japanese arts and artifacts dating back to the 17th century.

The area around both structures is surrounded by a lush garden, fit for picnics. The distinct cultural styles of both the Chinese pavilion and the Japanese pagoda makes them stand out amongst the rest of the city’s architecture. Standing tall in red and with adjacent wooden pavilions, the towers are unique parts of Brussels that are not to be missed.

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Halle Gate (Porte de Hal)

Halle Gate (Porte de Hal)

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The Halle Gate (Porte de Hal), is what remains of the city’s second fortified wall, making it one of the most historic structures in Brussels. Built to defend the capital city in 1381, it guarded the interior with a medieval drawbridge and moat. Though many of the other structures from this time period have since been destroyed, the Porte de Hal was used as a prison, thereby still standing and recalling an earlier age. The stonework and style of the gate’s tower still looks like it was lifted straight from the Middle Ages.

The museum goes into detail about the city’s fortification, history, and folklore. Various weapons and armor are on display, including the parade armor of the Archduke Albert of Austria. Here visitors can learn in depth about the trade guilds and battles that make up the history of Brussels. Three stories up a winding staircase take you to the Battlement, with panoramic views of the city.

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Lion’s Mound (Butte du Lion)

Lion’s Mound (Butte du Lion)

The Lion’s Mound (Butte du Lion) is an artificial hill commemorating the location where Prince William II of the Netherlands was wounded during the infamous battle of Waterloo against the Napoleonic armies. The prince’s father, King William I of the Netherlands, ordered construction in 1820; workers used earth taken straight from the historic battlefield, a symbol of the Allied victory and a tribute to Prince William’s sacrifice. The hill was later on surmounted by an imposing 31 tons, 15 feet high and 15 feet wide Medici-like lion statue (standing male lion with ball under one paw looking to the side), which stands upon a stone-block pedestal. Also known as Leeuw van Waterloo (Lion of Waterloo), the lion was not picked by coincidence; not only does it symbolizes courage, it is also the heraldic beast on the personal coat of arms of the Netherlands monarchs. The sphere under the lion’s right front paw signifies victory of global European peace. For a long time visitors were led to believe that the lion was cast from brass melted down from cannons abandoned on the battlefield; this was, however, inaccurate, as the lion is cast out of nine different pieces iron. The view from atop the hill offers splendid panoramas of the battlefield, and gives visitors a better idea of how the battle was carried and how the cavalry and infantry were deployed. The mound’s shape and lion sculpture became such an icon of Waterloo that they are now represented on the municipality’s coat of arms.

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Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History

Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History

Situated in Brussels’s expansive Parc Cinquantenaire, the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History features a number of military-related pieces. Come to browse old armor, armored tanks, and aircraft, or to do some research in the library, complete with military files and photographs and a collection of trench maps.

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ADAM Brussels Design Museum

ADAM Brussels Design Museum

Formerly known as the Art & Design Atomium Museum but now simply called "The ADAM," this museum focuses on design from the 1950s through the present, with a particular emphasis on plastic design. Here visitors will find a variety of permanent installations and exhibitions, along with a rotation of temporary exhibits and other programs.

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Train World

Train World

Housed inside the Schaerbeek Railway Station, Train World is an interactive museum dedicated to all things train related. Here you'll find vintage trains and steam engines that visitors can board; educational railroad exhibitions and ephemera, many with an interactive spin; and rail-related art.

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Brussels Gueuze Museum (Musée Bruxellois de la Gueuze)

Brussels Gueuze Museum (Musée Bruxellois de la Gueuze)

Housed in the Brasserie Cantillon, the only remaining traditional lambic brewery in Brussels, the Brussels Gueuze Museum is a great place to learn about Belgium’s celebrated brewing traditions firsthand. Here, visitors can see the insides of a working brewery that has changed little over the last century.

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