Free Things To Do in Brussels
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This little boy has put Brussels on the tourist map; people travel to this city from all over the world just to catch a glimpse of him urinating. The legend behind the Manneken Pis (which translates to little peeing man in Dutch) varies widely depending on who you ask. One popular story is of a little boy relieving himself on a witch's doorstep. Catching the boy in the act, the witch wished to punish him by turning him into stone, forcing him into that compromising position for eternity. A local, who witnessed the entire incident, ran to the boy and replaced him with a statue in the nick of time, making the boy miss the curse entirely. Another very popular story is that of a little boy stopping Brussels from meeting its demise. Enemy forces, intent on destroying Brussels, lit a small fire with the hopes it would spread and burn the city to the ground. A wandering little boy, who apparently really needed to go to the bathroom, saw the fire and put it out with his natural resources, thus saving the city.
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Whether you're just passing through Brussels or here for a week, you can't miss the Grand-Place. This square marks the heart of Brussels' Lower Town district. Flanked by ornate Gothic and Baroque-style buildings, the Grand-Place is probably the best place to begin your tour of historic Brussels; it is within walking distance of many of the city's main attractions, including the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral and the beloved Manneken Pis. This is also a great location to grab a cup of coffee or a beer and watch the world go by.
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It's less ornate than other Gothic churches, but most agree the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral's no-frills design is a refreshing quality. St. Michael and St. Gudula has been known throughout history — particularly by French writer Victor Hugo — as "the purest flowering of the Gothic style." The Belgian royals thought so, too, as it has served as the site for royal weddings and funerals. Constructed in the 13th century, with its clean stone exterior and intricate stained-glass windows, this cathedral makes for an impressive sight.
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For those of you interested in military history, this museum makes for a great afternoon. Located in the Cinquantenaire district, the Royal Museum of the Army and Military History (Musée Royal de l'Armée et d' Histoire Militaire) traces the world's violent past back to the Middle Ages, displaying weaponry, uniforms, documents and technology from various points in time. You should spend a fair amount of time in the airplane hangar, which features 80 different aircraft. The museum also hosts educational activities for all ages, making it a great place for children and adults to explore.
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As you might've guessed, the Palais de Justice houses the city's law courts and is considered to be Belgium's supreme court of law. This building was one of the largest construction projects of its time during the 19th century. Larger than St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the building sits atop Gallows Hill, providing panoramic views of the city.
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