Arty walk from Flagey to Villa Empain
This route is dotted with historical monuments to the city centre's rich history. It may not be the greenest part of the capital - for that you need to head to Brussels Park and the gardens of the Mont des Arts - but there is plenty of public space for an invigorating stroll. Street art and historical architecture coexists beautifully in the city centre, and you'll find plenty of welcome doses of culture, literature and anecdotes!
Rodin and Cordal adorn the former Stock Exchange!
We begin our walk on the mythical steps of the former Stock Exchange building, in the centre of Brussels. A thorough renovation will restore this monument to its former glory. What will certainly be preserved is the almost unnoticed statue by Cordal that adorns the facade of this imposing building. It is hard to imagine a greater contrast in scale... There are 12 other intriguing statues by the Spanish artist to discover in the area. One is on the facade of the café at music temple Ancienne Belgique.
Did you know? World-famous sculptor Auguste Rodin, in the early years of his career, helped to cut the statues, caryatids and friezes around the stock exchange building?
Place de la Bourse - Beursplein – pedestrian zoneItinerary
The beating heart of Brussels
You find yourself in the heart of one of the most ambitious pedestrian zones in Europe. Opinions may differ as to how it should be designed, but the fact is that the initiative has noticeably reduced air pollution, noise and stress caused by cars. So why not take the opportunity to check out the latest progress? Comic strip fans can indulge themselves at Brüsel and Multi BD at numbers 100 and 122 Boulevard Anspach-Anspachlaan.
Nearby you'll find the Halles Saint-Géry (Sint-Gorikshallen in Dutch). These covered market halls were built in 1881 on a site that was already the centre of social gatherings in the Middle Ages. Until 1977, locals came to do their grocery shopping there. Today, the remarkable Flemish neo-Renaissance building is an exhibition and event space dedicated to the heritage and lifestyle of the capital. When you walk in, be sure to admire the interior's steel frame.
Halles Saint-Géry - Sint-Gorikshallen
Place Saint-Géry 1 Sint-GorikspleinItinerary
Did you know?
According to some historians, the Halles Saint-Géry were built on one of the places where Brussels came into being! Originally, it was here that the church of St Gaugericus stood, where the relics of St Gudula were kept. When the church was demolished under French rule, the city had a square built in its place. The central pyramidal fountain (which came from Grimbergen Abbey) now stands inside the halls!
To check out the Nero mural at number 20. Nero creator Marc Sleen has more than 200 albums to his name!
Literature and a Lecture For Every One
Walking along rue Antoine Dansaert-Dansaertstraat we head in the direction of Saint Catherine's Church. You'll be sure to find plenty of reading material at international literary house Passa Porta. There is also a lot to discover online in the Magazine, where you can enjoy multilingual author's texts, video recordings and podcasts.
In normal times, rue du Vieux Marché aux Grains-Oude Graanmarkt is a lively square full of cafés and eateries. Community centre De Markten (The Markets) remains open and provides support where it can. Sarah Vanhee and 10 young Brussels artists were given a rehearsal space there and, together with the BRONKS theatre for a Young Audience and the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, wrote a ‘Lecture For Every One’. Camila Lakhloufi was invited to transform the theatre auditorium for a Toots Session on local Flemish broadcaster Canvas.
GC De Markten - Rue du Vieux Marché aux Grains 5 Oude GraanmarktItinerary
Why not try a contemporary art workshop?
Opposite Saint Catherine's Church is the CENTRALE for Contemporary Art, named after the old power station that houses the arts centre. With #CentraleFromHome and #trythisathome, CENTRALE went above and beyond when responding to the call from Brussels Museums to share their treasures online with #MuseumAtHome during the lockdown. On these pages you will find workshops with artists, calls for co-creation and much more. Be sure to try Camille Van Hoof's wacky workshops for children and adults. Try the spy workshop, or the magic workshop. You can even learn how to crochet with Stephan Goldrajch, who will show you how to do it, if necessary with old T-shirts recycled into knitting tufts!
CENTRALE for contemporary art, Place Sainte-Catherine 44 Sint-KatelijnepleinItinerary
Did you know?
The baroque bell tower opposite Centrale belonged to the old, 15th century Saint Catherine's church, which was demolished back in 1893? That explains why it now stands alone...
To take a look at the Black Tower, a remnant of Brussels' first city wall. The building probably dates to the beginning of the 13th century and is largely enclosed by the modern Novotel hotel.
Place Sainte-Catherine 29 Sint-Katelijneplein
Greta Thunberg watches over her own little corner near the Vismarkt
Every self-respecting inhabitant of Brussels calls the place west of Saint Catherine's Church the 'Marché aux Poissons' or 'Vismet'. Here, too, you have enough public space to get a real breath of fresh air. At the end of the Vismet towards Brussels' inner ring road, on the Cité du Sureau-Vlierwijk (a dead-end Y-shaped street) you can see the mural of Greta Thunberg, the young Swede who started a truancy campaign for the climate. The work was created by Brussels artist Encq. The owner of the property first discovered Encq when he won the Public Prize at Carte de visite/ARTopenKUNST, a cultural initiative by the City of Brussels.
Rue du Grand Hospice 21-23 GrootgodshuisstraatItinerary
Did you know?
... that the port of Brussels used to run right into the heart of the city? The longest dock was the Saint Catherine dock, which was the last portion of the historic harbour where the Saint Catherine Church is now located. Port activities took place here until the beginning of the twentieth century, when the docks were filled in one after the other.