This statue attracts more tourists and invites more speculation than almost any other site in Brussels. In the 1600s, a bronze statue of a little imp peeing was cast to replace a similar but aging stone statue. No one is sure of its original genesis, but some say that the statue represents a brave boy saving the city from fire, while others claim that a little lost aristocrat was found in a compromising position. Since the statue has been stolen several times through the years, he now rests behind protective bars. Starting in 1698, it became a tradition for visiting heads of state to dress the statue in outfits representing their home countries. Manneken Pis now has over 600 costumes, many of which are on display in the City Museum.
Spend a day with typical Belgian families at Brussels' Bruparck. Bring your swimsuit, and take a dip at the Oceadium. The Kinepolis is a movie lover's paradise; with 24 screens and an IMAX theater, it's one of Europe's largest cinemas. Merry Belgium, another World's Fair holdover, is a "restaurant row" with cute cafés and welcoming terraces that invite visitors to dine and relax. A playground, Internet café and antique carousel complete the available amusements. Admission to the park is free, but individual attractions have varying ticket prices. Combo tickets are available.
Designed by Victor Horta in the 1870s, these grand forests of glass manage to pull off the trick of being both imposing and delicate at the same time. Among the most impressive greenhouses you will find anywhere. Unfortunately they are only open to the public for a few weeks each year, usually late April or early May. Check the tourist office if your visit is around that time.
Three attractions in one, the Museums of the Far East comprise the Japanese Tower (actually a pagoda), the Chinese Pavilion, and the Japanese Museum of Art. The pagoda is particuarly attractive as it is surrounded by elegantly formal Japanese gardens.
Everyone who comes to Brussels knows about the Mannekin Pis, but few people realise that the little peeing boy now has a little sister. Created in 1985, and somewhat hard to find down an alleyway (but very close to the Delirium Café), the indelicately squatting Janneken is about as tasteful as you might expect, but worth seeking out for the novelty value if nothing else.
Construction of this church began in 1905, commemorating Belgium's 75th year of independence. As a result of world wars and irregular funding, completion of "Belgium's Basilica" took more than 75 years to accomplish. It's recognized as the fourth-largest church in the world, and it's also the largest Art Deco building ever constructed. A small charge lets you ride the elevator to the Basilica's dome, where views of the city are unparalleled.
Brussels, the "Capital of Europe," has more than 12 million square feet of office space dedicated to the 20,000 "Eurocrats" who work in the city. Their large complex includes a number of buildings, including the commission's first headquarters, the Palais de Berlaymont, which is undergoing renovations. The Consilium (you'll know it by its beautiful rose granite façade) is home to the Council of Ministers. The European Parliament and International Conference Center is an ultra-modern glass and marble marvel. For an interesting architectural juxtaposition, take the passageway through the center of the complex and emerge in Place Leopold, a traditional European square.
This mammoth edifice was built at the behest of King Leopold II, who wanted to underscore the importance of law and justice in the independent state. Built between 1866 and 1883, it's larger than St. Peter's in Rome and was the largest structure built in continental Europe during the 19th century. The Palais de Justice sits high atop what was once Gallows Hill and is the most dominant silhouette in the Upper Town skyline. Tours are free but must be reserved several weeks in advance.
Knock down the Berlin Wall. Make Mount Vesuvius erupt. Perform in a Seville bull ring. You can experience these activities and more at Mini Europe. The most famous monuments and scenes from EU member states are depicted at 1/25th their actual size. Small trees and shrubs complete the illusion that you're a giant striding across the continent. Among the "sights" you'll encounter are Big Ben, the Brandenburg Gate, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and Venetian canals, complete with gondolas.
This spectacular cathedral was called the "purest flowering of the Gothic style" by none other than Victor Hugo. Begun in 1226, the church was consecrated as a cathedral only in 1961. Through the years, additions and embellishments have been incorporated, including 16th- and 17th-century chapels. Several of the 16th-century stained-glass windows were donated by Emperor Charles V. Through the floor, you can study an earlier Romanesque church built on the same site. Admission to the church is free, but there's a slight fee to tour the crypt.