I would like to recommend an Art Nouveau bus tour operated by ARAU (Atelier de Recherche et d'Action Urbaines), a non-profit local resident's group of architects, designers and interested citizens. The tour takes you to the most extravangant houses of the time around 1900, explaining not only who built it, but also who lived in it and what happened to the building throughout the century. The tour includes visits to the interiors of some Art Nouveau buildings, some of which are not open to the public.
The tour guide we were lucky to join was a very entertaining man, who also told us a lot about city developement and the way Brussels deals with its historical monuments.
The Atomium, built as part of Belgium's Expo 1958, is a must visit for anyone interested in 1950s technology. You can travel by lift and on elevators running through 18-metre aluminium tubes rising 102 metres in the air for a city-wide view from this oversize iron crystal atom!
It's a private townhouse designed in 1893 by Brussels' art nouveau architect Victor Horta. It has recently been renovated by cult cartoonist duo Schuiten & Pieters and opened to the public. It's situated in the Schaerbeek area, which is off most tourist maps (being just north/north east of Rogier station) but well worth visiting for the beautiful buildings alone, many of which have been built in art nouveau style and kept in excellent condition (or recently restored). What's more, there's hardly a tourist in sight!
The entrance fee for Maison Autrique is 5€. Closed on Mondays, Tuesdays and bank holidays.
266 Chaussée de Haecht, Schaerbeek, 1030 Brussels;
tel: 02 215 6600;
Accessible by tram: 92 & 93 (Saint-Servais), 90 (Robiano), or if the weather's nice, take the metro to Rogier and walk for 20-30 mins along Chaussée de Haecht;
Can't believe no-one's mentioned it yet, but the Grand Place is the one genuine "must see" in Brussels, justly reputed to be one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, with its gabled guildhouses and the towering Hotel de Ville. There's a Son et Lumiere display every night during the summer months, although the buildings don't really need flashing lights to draw attention to themselves. The Mannekin Pis and Galeries Hubert are just around the corner.
Nearest Metro - De Brouckere or Gare Centrale
This spectacular covered shopping arcade was one of the first in Europe and is filled with enticing little shops, boutiques, cafés and restaurants. It buzzes with activity until late and is worth visiting for the architecture alone.
Near the Grand Place
Modelled on the grand Loire Valley chateaux in France, this is a great place to relax. Wander the grounds or visit the chateau, 20km south of Brussels.
La Hulpe, 1310, Brabant Wallon, Brabant; Tel: +32 02 653 64 04; www.dreamit.be/castles/FT/FR/lahulpe.htm
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