The founding of Brussels dates back to around 979 when Duke Charles passed on the relics of Saint Gudula from Moorsel to the Saint Gaugericus chapel in Brussels. Today the chapel is located on the holy island of Saint Gaugericus. On this same very island Charles of France, the expelled son of King Louis IV, built the first permanent fortification when The Holy Roman Emperor Otto II gave the duchy of Lower Lotharingia to him. In those days Saint Gaugericus island was recognised as the Island of Saint-Gorik. Carl of France decided to build a castrum on the island which laid the foundation of Brussels city.
By the start of the 10th century, after the death of Charles, Low-Lorraine was taken in possession by Lambert of Leuvenm Charles' son. In 1047, his son Lambert II of Leuven established the Saint Gudula chapter. He also started expanding the city by building a new castrum and fortification walls.
In the 12th century, the small town became an important stopover on the commercial road from Bruges to Cologne. The village benefited from this favourable position and as the population started multiplying, the nearby marshes were cleared to allow for further expansion.
Around 1183 - 1184 AD the Counts of Leuven were elevated to the position of Dukes of Brabant.
In 1357 to 1379 a new city wall was constructed as the former one was already proving to be too small: the inner ring or 'pentagon' now followed its course.
In the 15th century, due to the wedding of heiress Margaret III of Flanders with Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, a new Duke of Brabant surfaced from the House of Valois, their son Antoine. Another line of descent appeared from the Habsburgs when Maximilian I of Austria married Mary of Burgundy, who was born in Brussels. Due to such sudden variations in the descendants, Brabant lost its independence, but Brussels flourished by becoming the Princely Capital of the prosperous Low Countries.
Charles V became the Emperor of Low Countries since 1506, in spite of being just six years old. His aunt Margaret of Austria unofficially governed the Low Countries till the year 1515. In 1516 Charles V was declared King of Spain in a ceremony conducted in the Cathedral of Saint Gudule. When Maximilian I died in 1519, Charles V became the new archduke of the Austrian Empire. However, in the year 1555 Emperor Charles V resigned.
His successor Philip II had a major difference with the William of Orange, supervisor over Holland, Zealand and Utrecht. William of Orange was a broadminded ruler and did not pay much heed to Philip II quarrels. Brussels nevertheless suffered under the cruel Duke of Alva, an official representative of Philip II. A revolution took place in Brussels and the people with the help of William of Orange chased Alva away.
Brussels was attacked by troops sent by King Louis XIV of France, in 1695. This most caustic event in the form of a bombardment destroyed the city's heart and more than 4,000 houses including the medieval buildings on the Grote Market or Grand Place. One-third of the city was razed down.
In 1830 Dutch emperor William I had to leave the Belgian country when the successful independence struggle broke out in Brussels. The Belgian revolution arose in Brussels after a performance of Auber's opera La Muette de Portici at De Munt or La Monnaie theatre.
On the 21st July 1831 the first Belgian king, Leopold I, ascended the throne. Brussels became the capital of the new kingdom of Belgium. A long period of rebuilding the city of Brussels began, where new and impressive buildings were built and the city walls were pulled down. International congresses were arranged and scientific organisations were established. Work of foreign artists, philosophers and scientists were also given encouragement in Brussels.
After WW2, Brussels had been damaged substantially and plans were implemented to restructure the region. The region was divided into two, the Flanders and the Walloon Provinces, with restricted powers. The Brussels Capital Region was founded on June 18, 1989 with its own government and capital.
Belgium was one of the first countries to join the European Union and along with the association of several other European organisations, more importantly, it became the headquarters of the European Economic Community in 1957. Brussels’ new involvement with the EU saw many changes within the city centre. There were many developments that began and were not completed for a while as those responsible had other priorities in mind, therefore the city was majorly disrupted and many locals even lost their homes to railway structures, such as the Gare Centrale that had uprooted many buildings. Further structural transformations followed in 1958 when Brussels was set to host the World Fair. The old city walls surrounding the centre were rapidly changed into a network of motorway links making the city easily accessible.
In 1967 Brussels became the headquarters of NATO. By that time, a lot of ancient Brussels had been torn apart and modern buildings were erected in place to accommodate the EU integration, for example, the Berlaymont building had opened which consisted of offices belonging to the European Economic Community (EEC).
The highly respected King Baudouin who prevented Belgium from dividing passed away in 1993. His brother King Albert II then took over.
In 2001 Brussels officially became the Capital of Europe and the Euro currency came into place. Many new industries and plants continued spurting up, resulting in difficulty to balance historic treasure and modern infrastructure. Furthermore, the city was bombarded by officials, diplomats and other consultants all involved with the European Union.
Just as Paris had warmed to the Eiffel Tower, Brussels had to The Atomium, its own legacy from a world fair. World Expo of 1958 left behind this gigantic structure shining in the sun. Journey up into the Heysel area of Brussels to explore the Atomium which yields a spectacular view of the city as well as art and science exhibitions and a restaurant in its 9 spheres.
Mini-Europe Brussels is a theme park with miniatures of the most famous monuments, sites and scenery of Europe. It is located next to the Atomium in Brupark in Heysel area. It is a great chance for families to have a nice day out with children. The miniatures are about 25 times smaller than the life size versions, some of the most famous include the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Mount Vesuvius and of course the Grand Place.
The Autoworld Brussels is a collection of old cars dating back to the late 1890s when the first cars rolled onto the roads. Based at the Parc du Cinquantenaire, this warehouse holds over 400 vehicles and stocks mostly European or U.S. original models. It is a great walk back into history for both car buffs and families.
Seeing historic trains live is definitely worth it. Brussels Trainworld has the oldest locomotive on the continent. But many other beautiful pieces housed in a historic train station. Don't miss it!
5. Grand Place
A delicately sculpted town square erected over centuries to become the representation of Brussels history. Almost all of the buildings have a historical significance and the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) is still in use today. Located just down from Brussels Centrale, this historical marketplace is a must.
6. Manneken Pis
Just a few narrow alleyways from the Grand Place, the Peeing Boy or Manneken Pis is a famous little statue. Locals celebrate many festivities at this bronze fountain and there are over 700 costumes for this little fellow. Brusselans dress him while celebrating many events of the year from many countries around the world.
7. Flanders war memorial
Take a tour to Flanders Great War memorial. See the beautiful Belgian countryside and the thought-inducing experience of First World War battle sites. These tours are supported by knowledgeable guides and normal include lunch.
8. Palace de Justice
A goliath of a structure with good view of the evening cityscapes of Brussels. With an area of 20 000 square metres and heavy architecture this grand Brussels sight stands slightly above Brussels old town. Palais de Justice still serves its original purpose as the high courts of Brussels. It has a distinctive golden dome and many columns decorating its façade. Located at Place Poelaert near Avenue Louise shopping street.
9. Opera House
The most famous opera house in Belgium is La Monnaie (The Mint). Along with many historical buildings in Brussels, this building has enjoyed a long history of construction, rebuilding and refurbishment. The current building is the third on the site and at one point it hosted the best of French theatre only second to the opera houses in Paris. Brussels opera is still highly active and the agenda is packed. So admire the structure during the day but pay a visit to the theatre at night.
10. The Royal Palace
Although it has been more than a century since the Belgian royal family lived in the palace, the Royal Palace of Brussels remains the headquarters of the Belgian constitutional monarchy: located on the south side of the Parc de Bruxelles (Brussels Park).
The Royal Palace is where the King of Belgium exercises his authority as Head of State and is the official palace of the King and Queen of Belgium. It also houses rooms for the country’s special guests, most of which are Heads of State and the offices of certain ministries. The palace has not been the official royal residence since 1831, when the King of Belgium decided to move to the Royal Palace of Laeken, in the outskirts of Brussels.
The construction of the Palace began at the beginning of the nineteenth century commissioned by William I of the Netherlands. During the reign of King Leopold II the palace was remodelled and the façade was changed completely. These were the last restorations done to the Palace.
11. The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
The Brussels Cathedral, officially called the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, is one of the most important landmarks in Brussels. It was built in a Gothic style at the beginning of the thirteenth century on the foundations of a Romanesque church established in the eleventh century. The actual cathedral took 300 hundred years to complete. It is perfectly conserved because between 1983 and 1989 it was completely restored.
The Cathedral was initially called the church of St Michael until, in 1047, the relics of the martyr of St Gudula were brought to the church. The saint Gudula died in the eighth century. This is when the church was called St Michael and St Gudula. Although the cathedral was built centuries ago, it was only given the cathedral status in 1962.
Belgium's 10 best dishes
As Belgium’s national dish, each pan of steaming mussels is served with a helping of the obligatory chunky frites. Traditionally sent out mariniere-style, with cream, parsley and a splash of white wine, there’s also a hearty version with beer marinade worth seeking out. Most of the seafood restaurants around St Catherine’s Square do excellent moules, but the wooden-panelled Bij den Boer has the added authenticity of only serving them in season between September and February.
2. Seafood platter
Belgians celebrate their North Sea coast with gusto. One of the greatest indulgences to be had in Brussels is a leisurely lunch in front of towering silver platters on which oysters, sea snails, clams and lobster nestle in glistening ice. Look out for the Belgian grey shrimp, with all the hard work peeling the shells for a tiny morsel paying off as the sweet flavour builds up on the palate.
3. Carbonnade flamande
Whether it has been brewed by monks for centuries or it is so potent the landlord will only ever serve you a half, Belgian beer is legendary and many of the nation’s famous dishes include a healthy dose of the tipple. Carbonnade flamande is the ultimate comfort food: chunks of tender beef simmer in dark beer and onions, transforming into a rich and sweet mahogany-hued stew.
4. Congolese moambe
King Leopold’s murderous reign in the Congo still haunts Belgium, but the two nations remain close and half a century of colonial rule is reflected in the Brussels dining scene. Food from across West Africa can be sampled in the understated chic surrounds of the Horloge du Sud restaurant on the fringes of the African Matonge quarter. Its moambe is thick stew made from palm oil and palm butter, with bold flavours of lemon and chilli.
5. Lapin a la Kriek
Another classic using Belgian beer. Here the lean meat of rabbit is served in a piquant sauce made from Kriek, a cherry beer derived from the sour lambic brew. Enjoy it in diplomatic style at Brasserie 1898 in the heart of the European Union district. Just opposite the European Commission, the classic French-style brasserie is a favourite of diplomats and politicians and former British Prime Minister David Cameron once slipped out of a night of tough negotiations for dinner there.
It is a topic which pits experts in France, Belgium and Britain against one another. Which country invented the humble chip? Visit Maison Antoine, a stall in the EU district, where tubs in all hues from pastel greens to vivid reds sit in the window. There are 29 sauces to choose from, ranging from the Belgian staple of mayonnaise, to the intriguing ‘Bicky Hot’ sauce.
Roughly the size of a tennis ball, Belgian boulets (meatballs) are traditionally made with a mixture of beef, pork and served in tomato sauce. For a more interesting take, stop off at small chain Balls & Glory, which has two branches in Brussels. In pared-down industrial décor you can choose meat or veggie options, stuffed with everything from sun-dried tomatoes to truffles.
A starter on practically every Belgian menu. The best croquettes present a crunchy layer of breadcrumbs which gives way to a moist centre of pureed potato packed with the flavours of cheese or seafood. Eat a delicious grey shrimp croquette on the go at one of three city branches of La Mer du Nord, where upturned seafood crates serve as tables and where the best croquettes in town, razor clams and fish soup are washed down with a chilled glasses of white wine.
Waffles actually come in two forms: the round Liege waffle, moist and doughy on the inside and crisp and caramelized on the outside, and the Brussels waffle, the drier square variety. Confusingly, most of the waffle trucks in Brussels actually service Liege waffles, and one of the best is the ice cream and waffle truck parked near the entrance to the Bois de la Cambre, a large park in the south of the city.
10. Chicory gratin
Many Belgian classics are pleasingly retro, from the huge vol-au-vents of flaky pastry filled with creamy chicken and mushroom sauce, to chicory gratin, a Belgian endive wrapped snuggly in a piece of ham and baked with béchamel sauce.
Lapin a la Kriek
Gaufres de Bruxelles
Order your Belgian Waffle just the way you like it. There are plenty of toppings to choose from. These waffles are made perfectly light and crispy.
In my humble opinion, they taste amazing with simple vanilla ice cream and maple syrup.
Corné Port-Royal Chocolatie
You can taste Corné Port-Royal’s 80 years of experience in every exclusive chocolate the brand produces.
In 1932, the young maître chocolatier Maurice Corné established himself in Brussels, becoming an immediate hit with the locals. Today Corné Port-Royal employs fifty craftsmen who produce chocolates according to the original recipe, which Corné formulated almost one hundred years ago.
Corné Port-Royal’s heavenly chocolates melt in the mouth. They use only the best raw ingredients and cocoa to produce these Belgian chocolate gems. The stylish boxes are filled with some of the best chocolates ever, including the world-famous Manon sucre, Trésor blanc and Carré vert.
Treat yourself and your loved ones to these sweet delicacies.