How do I love Brussels? Let me count the ways
The huge Grand-Place, the marvellous Magrittes – not to mention chocolate and Tintin. It's all a Eurostar ride away, says Harriet O'Brien
Wednesday 27 October 2010
The price in euros for a room this Saturday at the new Aloft Brussels Schuman, which opened on 1 September. Devised to offer urban-chic looks and good value, the 147-room hotel is at Place Jean Rey, close to the European Parliament and a metro ride from Bourse station by the Grand-Place. Note, though, that accommodation charges in the EU capital fluctuate dramatically: when the Eurocracy is in town the rates are high, but at weekends prices plummet, often by 60 per cent or more. Weekday room rates at the Brussels Aloft start at €189 (prices given exclude breakfast). www.aloftbrussels.com
The width, in metres, of the Grand-Place. Glittering with gilded statuary, this ornate square is, of course, the cultural heart of Brussels – and the most visited site in the city. Traditionally part of the central market area, the square took shape thanks to the city's wealthy merchants. The magnificent guildhalls they funded here date from the late 17th century. The north side is particularly glorious, variously built for the guilds of the bakers, butchers, coopers and boatmen. The central tourist office is in the elegant Hôtel de Ville on the west side. www.brusselsinternational.be
A conservative estimate of the quantity of suits and costumes that belong to the Mannekin Pis. Brussels' most famous sight, this small sculpture of a nude peeing boy stands near the Grand-Place on the junction of Rue de l'Etuve and Rue du Chêne. Bizarrely, he is periodically dressed up with clothes donated by his fans. His wardrobe – an Elvis outfit, a tiny Moroccan costume with fez and much, much more – is housed in the Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles on the Grand-Place. Head to the second floor to see a selection of his vast collection of outfits. www.brussels.be
The number of trains running direct from London to Brussels during weekdays (11 at weekends). The fastest trips on Eurostar's service from London St Pancras to Brussels' Midi station take under two hours, with fares from £69 return. You can travel beyond the capital to any Belgian station for £5.50 single or £11 return. www.eurostar.com
The year in which the Galeries Saint-Hubert opened. Located close to the Grand-Place, the elegant, iron-and-glass building is Europe's oldest shopping arcade. When the galleries were completed the glass ceiling, constructed by architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer, was considered a marvel of engineering – a window to the sky measuring some 200m. Designed as a genteel entertainment area, the arcade is today still home to luxury shops (the likes of Delvaux for leather goods and Mer du Nord for fashion) as well as cafes and the gilded Théâtre du Vaudeville. www.galeries-saint-hubert.com
The year that the architect Victor Horta finished building his house in Brussels – complete with swirling staircase and great twirls of wrought iron. A leading innovator of Art Nouveau, Horta is renowned for the fluidity and the organic forms of his designs. Four of his buildings in the Belgian capital are now World Heritage Sites - Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel Solvay, Hôtel van Eetvelde and his own house at 25 Rue Americaine, now preserved as a museum. www.hortamuseum.be
The number of years since Tintin first appeared in print. On 10 January 1929 the Brussels-based newspaper Vingtième Siecle started to publish the first of Hergé's serialised adventures of the boy reporter. Tintin, though, is by no means the only comic strip hero of the Belgian capital: Lucky Luke, Blake and Mortimer, and the Smurfs are among the host of characters subsequently created here. All this and more can be discovered and explored at Brussels' comic strip museum, the Centre Belge de la Bande, at 20 Rue des Sables, which contains a large quantity of original sketches and drawings, as well as a comic strip library and shop. www.comicscentre.net
A modest estimate of the number of artworks in the Musée Magritte that opened in June last year. The Surrealist René Magritte (1898-1967) attended art school in Brussels and lived in the city most of his life, his graphic paintings famously challenging the viewer's perception of art and reality. Housed in the Altenloh Hotel, part of the Museum of Modern Art complex on the Place Royale, the gallery contains a wide range of his paintings, gouaches, posters, advertising work, sculptures and films. Highlights include a paintings from his Empire of Lights and Sky Bird series. www.musee-magritte-museum.be
The quantity, in kilograms, of chocolate produced per day by Pierre Marcolini. The haute couturier of Belgian chocolate, Marcolini creates just a small proportion of the 172,000 tonnes of chocolate made in the country every year. His most atmospheric outlet is on pretty, cobbled Place du Grand Sablon (on the corner with Rue des Minimes). www.marcolini.be
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