The climb is long and steep, but the views of the Lower Town and the more palatial feel of the buildings here make it worth the struggle.
|Statue of Godfrey de Bouillon|
The statue of Belgian-born crusader Godfrey de Bouillon looks down to the high tower of Old Town Hall in the Grand Place. He is the centerpiece of the Place Royale, ringed with Neoclassical buildings and a busy tram line.
|Yes, this is a Church|
Near the Place Royale is the easily-confused Royal Palace. This is the official residence of the Belgian royal family, the figurehead kings and queens of this modern democracy. The royal overlords exert their non-power from right here in this pricey building.
|Belgian Royal Palace|
Further down the road in this neighborhood is the 14-century Gothic church, Notre-Dame du Sablon. This church is decidedly less flying-buttress-y than many of its Gothic contemporaries, but it makes for some stunning photos- inside and out.
|Notre-Dame du Sablon Church Exterior|
|Notre-Dame du Sablon Church Interior|
|Palace of Justice|
From the viewpoint we could see some of the more far-flung sights of Brussels. The kitschy and expensive Atomium exhibit was built in the 1950s in the age of the nuclear craze. It depicts an iron molecule... and I guess you can drop a big chunk of money to go up into it. Not for me, but hey, at least we got to see it!
With most of the Upper Town hotspots done and the day getting on, we made our way back downhill to the Lower Town. On the way back to collect our bags, we paid a visit to one of the last pieces of the old Brussels city wall, with a corner tower- the Tour d'Angle. It's now surrounded by urban development and a busy road, which makes a nice juxtaposition of the issues facing so many old European cities. How does a city preserve its past while developing for the 21st century?
|Tour d'Angle- Brussels Corner Tower|
Fittingly, one of the last photos we took in Belgium before catching our flight home was of this familiar scene.
|One More Belgian Beer|
The stuff they brew over there in Belgium is amazing. We couldn't get out of town without enjoying one more. It may seem like we had a lot of beer on this long-weekend-holiday, but beer was the real reason for the trip. We did enjoy the sights and sounds (and smells) of these two very different cities, but our evenings were for enjoying the fine fruits of the talented Belgian brewers.
If we were to go back to Belgium, we would like to get out of the cities and into the countryside and small towns. Bruges would be a very nice hub from which to cycle out into the small villages in the flat farmland of the northern coast. I feel like we did everything in Brussels that we would want to do- we only really skipped the European Union Headquarters.
Next time we go to Belgium, more villages and more beer.