When we hear the name « Brussels », we immediately think of the European district, the place where all the major decisions are made and where the laws are discussed. It is true that the European district is an important part of the Belgian capital city, but there are also other places that we shouldn’t miss if we go to Brussels.

First, visiting Brussels, is visiting its European district which is one of the most modern part of the east side of the city. This district was originally inhabited by the “upper class”, but people had to leave so that the offices could be built during the 1960’s. It can explain the presence of some ancient and elegant buildings right in the middle of modern and imposing constructions.
TheEuropeanDistrict
We are going to highlight these institutions that make up European Brussels. In fact, the European Union has its main base of operation in Brussels. Among these institutions , the most important of them are the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the European Council. Moreover, many countries also have their embassies based in Brussels to make the most of the proximity to the European institutions. There are about 210 foreign embassies and consulates in Brussels. These embassies and consulates, ranging from A to Z (Afghanistan – Zimbabwe), represent their countries within Belgium. Moreover, it is not just the countries which have embassies in Brussels, almost each Region of the European countries has one. That is the case for example of the “Bureau Franche-Comté/Bourgogne” where we went to listen to people explaining us their lobbying activities.
First of all, it’s important to explain again what the role of the EU is : the work of the European Union is carried out by different European institutions based in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg, in France. Each European institution plays a unique role to generate a democratic process for law and policy development for member countries. The major administrative branch of the European Union is the European Commission whose responsibility is to draft proposals for laws and policy. These laws are then discussed and approved by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Once the European Union laws are passed, the European Commission also ensures they are implemented by member countries.
Then, the European Parliament is the EU institution representing the 470 million members of the European Union , it’s the only institution of the European Union directly elected by the citizens. The European Parliament has three fundamental powers: legislative power, budgetary power and political control of the European institutions. The European Parliament acts as the law and policy checker, it is able to amend, delay and reject laws and policies put forward by the European Commission and also makes recommendations for new European Union laws but can’t put forward new proposals. The European Parliament consists of  representatives from the  member states elected every five years, indeed, all EU citizens are eligible to vote from the age of 18 .

The Parliament
The council of ministers is a meeting of specific ministers of member countries to discuss specific laws and policies . The chairman of these meetings is the President of the Council – currently changing on a 6-month rotation basis between heads of state. The European Council is a summit of heads of state of member countries. In Brussels, this council is held four times a year and attended by two representatives from each country . They are chaired by the presiding President of the Council at the time and the outcomes of this meeting steers the direction for future laws and policy drafts. Here is a little anecdote : our guide told us that at the top of the building of the European Council, there was a gastronomic restaurant where 28 chefs coming from the 28 European countries cook. Moreover, every 6 months, a top chef  is appointed, just like the ministers at the European Council. What a remarkable European sense, isn’t it ?

 

But, visiting Brussels, is also visiting its city centre.
You can’t miss the Grand-Place, which is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is a calm and peaceful place, which has been considered as the heart of Brussels from centuries.

Town Center
The City Hall which is on the Grand Place is one of the best known monuments of the capital, its style is gothic and it has got a tower drawn by Van Ruysbroeck on top of which the statue of Saint Michel, Brussels’ symbol, overlooks the square.
The king’s house, also on the Grand Place, in front of the City Hall, is the building where there is the museum of the city of Brussels, which explains the city’s history thanks to different works of art.
The houses of different corporations surround the Grand Place with their baroque facades.
Then, there is the Manneken Pis, a little statue made by Jerôme Duquesney in 1619 in order to provide the district with water. This sculpture was called “the little Julien” as a tribute to another statue which looked like it and was already there at XVth century. It is said that to preserve the decency of the Manneken Pis, we must offer him clothes. As surprising as it may be, this little peeing boy is one of the most important symbols of Belgium !
The Royal Galleries of Saint Hubert, are the most beautiful Streets in Brussels. They gather all the luxury stores, a cinema and cafés.
Brussels also has other district like the Sablon where there is little square and Church, or Saint Michel and Gudule cathedral,  which is really immense. Many important museums are there, for example the museum of musical instruments,  the Magritte museum, the royal museum of art, or also the museum of  comic strip.

 

Don’t forget to mention two other aspects fixed in the Belgian culture : chocolates and comics ! On top of the numerous chocolate shops and sculptures of belgian comics’ heroes, we could not leave Brussels without learning more about both ubiquitous Belgian prides. That is why we went to a chocolate factory where we successively learned the chef’s story, tasted and compared the chocolates of the chef, and made our own mendiants. We also visited the comic strip museum, the 9th art, the symbol of Belgium. For one hour and a half, we went back into childhood and discovered heroes, old or new techniques, models and unknown adventures.

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Finally, we can say that visiting Brussels is being immersed in a city with numerous facets. From the European district with its imposing buildings to the baroque facades of the Grand Place, including the worldwide known Manneken pis and the specialities such as chocolates, waffles or fries ; Brussels offers tourists many various attractions. It was a great trip on many levels and we will remember this European capital for a long time.

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