With deep foreboding, your MoMI editor completed his last will and testament, donned his helmet and body armour, and flew into the heart of Europe's 'Jihad Central' (also known as Brussels, Belgium) on 7 June. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to instead find a vibrant and resilient historic city with bustling shops, cafes, and restaurants, and not a single crazed Islamist screaming 'Allahu Akbar' before self-detonation. Yes, the sight of Belgian Army trucks and armed troops on the streets was a grim reminder of the 22 March 2016 terrorist attacks upon Brussels Airport and the Maalbeek Metro station that killed 35 people and injured another 340; however, this visit proved thankfully uneventful and, with some free time after the completion of a busy program of business meetings, it was possible to explore a part of Belgium's capital city on foot.
|The front of the Atlas Hotel, an 88-room, 3-star hotel on Rue du Vieux Marché aux Grains, only a five-minute walk from Brussels' historic Grand Place.|
|Second floor corridor of the Atlas Hotel.|
|Room 251 at the Atlas Hotel.|
|The comfortably-appointed basement breakfast room in the Atlas Hotel, serving a buffet breakfast daily from 7:00 to 10:30.|
|The continental European-style breakfast offerings include coffee, tea and hot chocolate, juices, cold cereals, croissants and pain au chocolat, a variety of bread rolls, cheeses, cold sliced meats, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, and fresh fruit.|
La Grand Place / Grote Markt
The Grand Place is the city's central square and, therefore, the heart of Brussels. Measuring 68 x 110 metres (223 x 361 feet), this UNESCO World Heritage site features a large number of historic buildings dating back to the 1400s, including the city's Town Hall, the Maison du roi / Broodhuis (Breadhouse), and ornate, gold-leafed guildhalls. The power and influence of Brussels' merchants is reflected in the fact that the Grand Place is notable for not being anchored around a church, but rather by mercantile and government buildings.
The bombardment of Brussels by the French army on 13 August 1695 reduced much of the Grand Place to rubble, but the buildings were rebuilt by the city's craft guilds by 1700. By the 19th century, neglect of the Grand Place's buildings and the effects of pollution led the city's mayor to launch a major restoration and reconstruction effort, which was completed by the late 1800s.
As the Grand Place is Brussels' most important tourist destination, the square is busy around the clock, with restaurants, shops, taverns, and cafes occupying the ground floors of many of the guildhalls and musicians and artists catering to the throngs of people constantly wandering through. Since 1971, the Grand Place has hosted every two years a 1,800 square metre (19,000 square foot) floral 'carpet', crafted from a million begonias arranged in patterns and displayed for several days as a major tourist attraction.
|A view of the Grand Place, looking northwest.|
|A view of the front façade and belfry of Brussels Town Hall, showing the building's ornate Gothic architecture.|
|Some of the guildhalls that line the perimeter of the Grand Place, built in 15th and 16th centuries.|
|A closeup of the elaborate decoration on the front of the Maison des Brasseurs (Brewers House), one of the guildhalls that line the Grand Place. The Maison des Brasseurs now houses a brewing and beer museum.|
|Cafes, shops, and restaurants now occupy the former guildhalls in the Grand Place.|
|Intricate masonry, statuary, and lavish use of gilt characterise the guildhalls on the Grand Place, while tourists enjoy a drink on the patio of La Chaloupe d'Or (The Golden Rowboat).|
|The Maison du roi / Broodhuis has been home to the Museum of Brussels since 1887. The museum tells the history of Brussels from its origins to the present day through tapestries, paintings, sculptures, models, dioramas, photos, and other artefacts.|
|Closeup view of one of the guildhall buildings.|
Manneken Pis ('Little man Pee')
Manneken Pis is a small bronze statue located at the intersection of Rue du Chêne and Rue de l'Etuve, a short walk south of the Grand Place. The 61 centimetre-tall statue depicts a naked boy urinating into a fountain, and was designed in 1619 by Brussels sculptor Hieronimus Duquesnoy the Elder. With numerous castings of the statue having been stolen over the years, the current version was installed in 1965 and is guarded by a high protective metal fence and a security camera. The original, restored copy is on display at the Museum of Brussels in the Grand Place.
|The Manneken Pis statue, showing its small size relative to the overall fountain.|
Located a brief stroll from the Grand Place, this area is home to many hotels, restaurants, taverns, and boutique shops catering to tourists.
|Looking southeast up Rue Auguste Orts at the intersection with Rue des Poissonniers. The columned building in the distance is the Bourse de Bruxelles (Brussels Stock Exchange).|
|The Bourse de Bruxelles, located on Boulevard Anspach between Rue de la Bourse and Rue Henri Maus.|
|Dusk on the Place de la Bourse, named for the Bourse de Bruxelles. The stock exchange was founded by decree of Napoleon in 1801, and this structure was built between 1868 and 1873, mixing Neo-Renaissance and Second Empire styles.|
|A building at the corner of Rue Henri Maus and Rue du Midi is adorned with the Belgian flag in support of the national team's imminent participation in the Euro 2016 football (soccer) tournament in France.|
|The Danish Tavern, located across from the Bourse de Bruxelles, at the corner of Rue de la Bourse and Rue de Tabora.|
|Looking down the pedestrianised Boulevard Anspach from Rue de l'Evêque. Boulevard Anspach is the main artery in downtown Brussels.|
|Looking up Rue de Chair et Pain (Flesh and Bread Street) from Rue du Marché aux Herbes (Herb Market Street). The belfry of Brussels Town Hall towers over the Grand Place in the distance.|
|Walking down the narrow, cobblestoned Rue des Bouchers, home to many restaurants and bars. Hosts standing in front of the restaurants actively entice passersby to dine in their particular establishments, noting the day's dinner specials.|
|Les Galeries Royale Saint-Hubert, a covered shopping arcade located a block north of the Grand Place.|
|Exotic chocolates on display in the window of the Corné Port-Royal chocolate shop, located in Les Galeries Royale Saint-Hubert.|
|Looking up the Rue des Fripiers, bedecked with colourful soccer ball decorations in honour of the then-upcoming Euro 2016 championship in France.|
|Looking northeast along Place Sainte-Catherine. The trees flanking the open square have been pollarded, an ancient process used in Europe since medieval times to encourage the growth of dense foliage and control the height of trees.|
|Some of the quaint restaurants and bistros fronting onto Place Sainte-Catherine on the Quai aux Briques.|
|Army trucks parked in the Place de Brouckère remind resident and visitors of the heightened risk from Islamist terrorists in the wake of the 22 March 2016 attacks on the Brussels Airport and downtown.|
|Cafe-goers enjoy a drink on the patio of the Café Metropole, on the ground floor of the Hotel Metropole. Located in the Place de Brouckère and built in 1895, the Hotel Metropole is the only 19th century hotel in Brussels still in operation.|
|Another view of the lobby of the Hotel Metropole, a Brussels landmark.|
The interior of the Café Metropole. It was here, in 1949, that bartender Gustave Tops invented the Black Russian cocktail for U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg, Perle Mesta.
A Bombardier Flexity Outlook (3000 series) tram travels along Rue de la Régence, outside the Église Notre-Dame du Sablon.
|A view down the 109 metre (358 foot) long nave of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, showing the 4,300-pipe organ mounted above the columns on the left.|
|Devotional candles in front of a statue of Saint Michael.|
|Light streams in through the enormous stained glass window in the south transept.|
|A sculpture of Christ following his crucifixion.|
|A closeup of the stained glass window in the south transept.|
|A police constable guards the ornate, gilded front gates of the Royal Palace on the Place des Palais.|
|A large fountain inside the main entrance to the Parc de Bruxelles, with the Belgian parliamentary building seen in the background.|