Grand-Place#2 in Best Things To Do in Brussels
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- 4.0Food Scene
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.
No matter when you're in town, you can count on something going on at the Grand-Place, from street performances and flower shows to the nightly light shows in summer. But if you can, try to plan your trip around the Ommegang Pageant (the first week in July). This centuries-old festival recreates the celebration held when Emperor Charles V first entered the city in the 16th century. Another good time to visit is around Christmastime, when the entire square is illuminated by a massive Christmas tree.
Travelers love the Grand-Place for its stunning architecture. Recent visitors suggest visiting during the day and night; during the day to see the details of the architecture, and at night to witness the vibrant life that takes over the square. Some even recommended taking a guide book, as the information about the surrounding buildings will provide for a richer experience. The only complaint tourists had were the crowds, but that's to be expected at such a big attraction.
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#1 Manneken Pis
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.
While the statue itself is of a child in the nude, he has been the recipient of about 800 different costumes, a tradition that began when Maximilian II Emanuel gave him a soldier's uniform in 1698. Since then Manneken Pis has been many things, including Santa and Elvis. Those interested in learning more about Manneken Pis should take a trip to the Museum of the City of Brussels, where more than 100 of his outfits are on display. The museum also has a digital archive of every single outfit that Manneken Pis has worn for visitors to view.
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