Day 1,607 of Traveling the World | Brussels, Belgium | June 27, 2022

One of our fondest memories of our European honeymoon in 2003 is visiting Brussels for two days, and needing a break on Day 2, we found a small square, ordered some drinks, and sat and watched the world go by for a few hours. It was a good plan, and one we still subscribe to: don’t try to do everything in every place without rest! This time, we did walk somewhere every day we were here, although rain threatened each day. We explored on our own, met with new friends who also got rid of their home to just travel, took a free walking tour, wandered the streets aimlessly, and walked to a local church for a concert.

We had the best guide on our free Sandemans walking tour! Fraser is Scottish but has been a tour guide here for 14 years, even though he hardly looks old enough! He was fun and funny, and we saw the highlights of the city, learned a lot, and went back to see some of the places that we had just breezed by on tour. We met two couples who had also been on our tour in Antwerp, and we met new friends from Ireland. That is the best part of this life of ours – meeting and chatting with people from all over, and finding out about life in their corner of the world.

We went to Notre Dame du Finistere Church for the weekly Monday afternoon organ recital, only to be surprised with an hour-long organ concert with four soloists. It was glorious. Everyone came in, and turned their chairs to the rear of the church, toward the organ. We did likewise. Nobody applauded after the first five pieces, so neither did we. Out of the blue, they applauded for the next piece, then not again until the end. We just follow the locals! Beneath the organ pipes, on three sides, you can see inscriptions in Latin. We translated them: (1) They shall rise up from the ends of the earth, singing to the Lord with instruments. (2) The ends of the earth scatter at the sound of the pipe organ. (3) From the ends of the earth, praise the Lord with strings and organ.

Please don’t take offense, but in the photos you will see the most famous statue in all of Belgium, dating to the 15th century! People search the city for it, thinking that it certainly will be prominent, in the center of a city square, of course. But it is tiny, in a corner, and now apparently is always costumed according to the day or season. The city museum holds his array of costumes! Every souvenir store sells replicas, in all colors, no less. Chocolate shops sell him in Belgian chocolate form. It is like a mania. If you know what the statue is, you are smiling by now. If not, see him in the photo below! But squint – or enlarge your screen, as he is hard to see!!

Beautiful Brussels! Looking down the hill at the Jardin du Mont des Arts. You can use the City Hall tower for directional guidance in this area. The pretty clump of trees on the extreme left can be seen close up in the next photo.
They’re nice to look at, huh?
Opened in 1899, Old England was a department store housed in an Art Nouveau building. Today it is a museum of musical instruments, holding about 2,000 items!
The Royal Palace of Belgium.
16th Century Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. A wedding was taking place, and our tour guide remarked that it must be one of Brussels’ elites, as not everyone can be married there.
The Queen’s Gallery Shopping Arcade. It is opposite the King’s Gallery, which looks identical, and the main business in each appears to be Belgian chocolate shops.
Here is one of the chocolate shops, Neuhaus, founded in 1912. We liked the leaded glass insets above the shop window.
Our tour guide, Fraser, of Sandeman’s Tours. We have NEVER had a tour guide like him! He verbally parried with guests, asked trivia questions, spoke like a Shakespearean thespian, cracked jokes, and most importantly – knew the history of Brussels inside and out. He was the best! (Behind him to the left is THAT statue!)
This is actually a more modern advertising sign for Breda Beer, as it was founded in 1538!
Everything down this street, starting with the church of St. Nicholas, is named after St. Nicholas, since he evokes smiles and joy.
A cute shop – with no room for a name!
We walked through the LGBTQ area of Brussels and saw lots of street art like this.
A pretty Art Nouveau mosaic advertising La Terrasse restaurant.
Jammed with visitors (don’t ask us why!) is the famous, infamous (tiny, tiny) statue of the Manneken Pis. He now has a “dresser” who changes his costumes. Yes, as you can surmise, it means “the little boy pees,” and is one of the best-known symbols of Brussels and Belgium. The statue was in place by 1619, although it is first mentioned in a document dating to 1451!
Guild halls on the Grand Place, the largest square in Brussels and called the most beautiful in all of Europe.
These mutts are for sale, along with the Manneken Pis statues on their left. Actually, the statues are EVERYWHERE in Brussels, and are the favorite souvenir for purchase!
Guild halls across the square. We were gathering for a free tour, and so were about 10 other groups – hence, the umbrellas to “find your way.”
Grote Markt Huis, on the Grand Place, mainly used for exhibitions.
City Hall, also on the Grand Place, whose tower can be seen from most points in the Old Town.
Brussels City Museum is housed in this building with stunning architecture. In here, you can see the 1,000 costumes designed for the Manneken Pis!
A pretty pedestrian street decorated with garlands of silk flowers.
See? A view of the tower led us around this part of Brussels!
Originally built in 1697, this gorgeous building, Le Roy d’Espagne, was named for Charles II of Spain. It is the baker’s guild headquarters. We were attracted to the lovely gold statue on top.
Our Lady of Finistere Concert, with the inscriptions below the pipes.
An impromptu parade of college students. She looks like…the Queen of Beers???
A chocolate shop with its old facade, in French. In Brussels, Dutch, Flemish, French, and English are all spoken!
A colorful high-heeled camel.
A sad excuse for a funny sign…but it’s funny because it’s not!
This is called “The Cyclist,” featured outside of a bar/restaurant in Brussels.
This was a sandwich at Fritland, one of the best places for Belgian fries in Brussels. There is some sort of meat under the fries. We were shocked that anyone could eat bread loaded with fries!