St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral

#3 in Best Things To Do in Brussels
St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral picture
Soo Hon Keong/Getty Images

Key Info

Parvis Sainte-Gudule

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Sightseeing, Free Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.5

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

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.

Recent visitors appreciated the architecture of the church, with some noting the beauty of the stained-glass windows in particular. Some travelers recommended paying the extra fee to visit the archeological site, saying it gave them greater insight into the church's history. 

The St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral (also known as the Cathedrale St-Michel et Ste-Gudule) is less than one mile northeast of the Brussels train station (Gare de Bruxelles - Central) and is open daily from around 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday with varying hours on Saturday and Sunday. You can attend services and explore the main parts of the cathedral for free, but if you wish to take a peek at the archeological site, you will have to pay an extra euro. The crypt is open for viewing by appointment only, and costs about 3 EUR. For more information, visit the church's website.

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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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