BRUSSELS - NEIGHBORHOODS
Grand Place and Bas de la Ville
Bas de la Ville (Lower Town) stands on the site of Brussels' original settlement, which dates back to the 10th century. Surrounded by the Petite Ceinture, the Lower Town is the core of historic Brussels, featuring some of the city's most beloved landmarks. At the heart of Lower Town is the Grand-Place, one of Europe's most ornate and theatrical squares, an architectural marvel of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. The square is surrounded by the Houses of the Guilds (or Guildhalls), the Town Hall and the King's House. Neighboring the square are numerous popular attractions, including the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, a towering gothic church that dates back to the 13th century. The Rue de l`Etuve, a street branching off of the southwest corner of the Grand-Place, leads directly to the Manneken Pis, Brussels' most popular monument. Restaurant lined Rue des Bouchers and Petite Rue des Bouchers, part of an area known as the Ilot Sacré (Sacred Isle) are nearby. A block from the Grand-Place is the classical, colonnaded Bourse (Stock Exchange). A few blocks north, on Place de la Monnaie, is the Monnaie opera house and ballet theater. Brussels' busiest shopping street, pedestrian Rue Neuve, starts from Place de la Monnaie and runs north for several blocks. Just north of the center lies Gare du Nord and nearby Place Rogier.
Every two years in August, an enormous 'flower carpet' is set up in the Grand Place for a few days. A million colorful begonias are set up in patterns, and the display covers a full 79 feet by 253 feet, for an area total of 19,000 sq ft.
From Place Louise, Brussels' most fashionable thoroughfare, Avenue Louise, runs south all the way to a large wooded park called the Bois de la Cambre. On either side of Avenue Louise are the classy districts of Ixelles and Uccle; they're both good areas for casual, inexpensive restaurants, bars, cafes, and shopping; and both border the wide green spaces of the Bois de la Cambre and the Forêt de Soignes. Avenue Louise is one of the most prestigious and expensive streets in Brussels. The Avenue Louise is one long catwalk of famous fashion brands, including big international names like Chanel, Vuitton, Hermes, Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace and Christian Dior. The first section is one of the most attractive shopping districts in the city, with prestigious as well as more affordable shops clustered around the large department store Innovation. In the morning, Avenue Louise turns into the perfect hangout and rendezvous for most stylish events while in the evening, the street is transformed into a fashionable maze of gourmet restaurants and fashion stores.
Gare Midi and Haut de la Ville
Haute de la Ville is also contained within the Petite Ceinture, lying just east and uphill from the Grand-Place, along Rue Royale and Rue de la Régence and abutting the unpretentious, working class Marolles district. The former royal residence, Palais Royal, sits along the southern edge of the large Parc de Bruxelles, once a game park for the royal family that now features intricately designed gardens and plenty of paths for strolling. This area is also home to the city's Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique and the Centre for Fine Arts (BOZAR). Lying between the Palais de Justice and Gare du Midi, the Marolles has cozy cafes, drinking-man's bars, and inexpensive restaurants. If you head southwest and cross the broad Boulevard de Waterloo, sitting southwest is the Place Louise, arguably the most fashionable part of the city with its exclusive designer shops and trendy boutiques littered along Avenue Louise.
East of the city center and North of Ixelles, the modern European Union district surrounds Place Schuman, where the European Commission, Parliament, and Council of Ministers buildings jostle for space in a maze of offices populated by civil servants, journalists, and lobbyists. The area is also home to a wealth of restaurants and cafes that cater to Euro appetites. The Cinquantenaire, a park crisscrossed with tree lined avenues, extends from just east of the European District to the Porte de Tervuren and is bisected east to west by Avenue John F. Kennedy. At the park's eastern end are the museums of the monumental Palais du Cinquantenaire and the Arc du Cinquantenaire.