Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels is the capital of Belgium and often referred to as the capital of Europe because it is the administrative center of the European Union.

The Atomium, with its nine steel spheres that form the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times, was built for Expo '58, the 1958 World's Fair. Five of the nine spheres, including the very top sphere are open to the public. The spheres house an exhibit of dedicated to Expo '58, a restaurant, and a snack bar. You can even zip line from the top of the uppermost sphere down to Heyzel Hall, called the Death Ride.

Next to the Atomium is Mini Europe, a park dedicated to reproductions of the most attractive monuments in the European Union, at a scale of 1:25. Roughly 80 cities and 350 buildings are represented including the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Blue Church in Bratislava, Big Ben, and the
Széchenyi Bath House in Budapest, Hungary. It was quite fun to see buildings in miniature we have seen on our travels!

The Grand Place is one of the most beautiful squares in Brussels and is surrounded by guild houses, the Town Hall, King's House, and the Breadhouse. A short walk from the Grand Place will take you to some Roman ruins.

Notre Dame du Sablon is a late Gothic church from the 15th - 16th centuries and is noted for its 11 stained glass windows measuring 15 meters in height. Le Petit Sablon is the park across the street from the church. The park is surrounded by 48 little statues representing the medieval guilds of Brussels. In the center is the statue of the counts of Egmont and Hoorne, who were executed by order of Philip II of Spain in 1568.

The Parc du Cinquantenaire has one of Brussels most striking monuments, the triumphal  Cinquantenaire Arch. It was commissioned by King Leopold II for the 1880 National Exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of Belgium independence but was not completed until 1905, just in time for the 75th anniversary of Belgium independence. It is crowned with a quadriga, representing the province of Brabant. The eight other provinces are represented by allegoric statues at the foot of the columns.

The Chateau de Laeken lies in the suburbs just outside the city and is the royal residence where the royal family lives. King Leopold II was quite entranced with the East and had several exotic monuments built on the royal grounds: a Japanese Tower and Chinese Pavilion. One of the gardens open to the public is lined with flowering magnolias and has a stunning monument of King Leopold I.

To see all of our pictures from Brussels, go to

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