In 1958 members of the new European Union decided that most of their functions should be performed in one city and Brussels became the ideal choice because of its proximity to Paris, Amsterdam, Luxembourg and Cologne, all of which can be reached in less than 2 hours by high-speed rail.
And so for the past 55 years Brussels has experienced a building spree to accommodate the thousands of people who come to town from all over Europe to work for the EU, especially in an area east of the central district that is now called the European Quarter.
We took a three-hour sightseeing bus tour of Brussels on our last day in Belgium in May of 2012. The tour was basically two 1.5 hour loops, starting and ending at the Central Station. For the first loop we toured the Ixelles/Elsene municipality southeast of the train station and then drove north to cover the European Quarter which is almost directly east of Central Station.
Here are some photos from that first loop of our tour.
Approaching Brussels Central Station (Bruxelles-Central / Brussel-Centraal). We boarded our bus about a block away from here and passed by again an hour and a half later.
We passed the Louise Medical Centre, one of the largest medical centers in Brussels, on Avenue Louise.
Ixelles is full of parks and statues. This one is called The Horse Tamer (Le Dompteur de Chevaux) by Thomas Vincotte, 1885.
An intersection in an affluent Ixelles neighborhood.
The Flagee Building on the left is one of the first Art Deco buildings in Brussels.
The European Quarter begins in Place du Luxembourg with its statue of John Cockerill (1790-1840), a British-born Belgian industrialist. The Visitor Center for the European Parliament is called the Parliamentarium.
Cranes, statues and the European Commission.
One of 54 EU buildings in Brussels.
Seven cranes in this picture!
This big hole was a parking lot a couple of years ago. The church that was once part of the Convent Van Maerlant is now the library of the European Commission.
Saint Stanislas Catholic School, run by the Brothers of Mercy, across the street from Parc du Cinquantenaire. Belgian neo-Gothic.
The Cinquantenaire monument stands at the easternmost point of the European Quarter and we began our loop back to the Central Station from here. Belgium gained its independence in 1830 and in 1880 King Leopold II had this monument built in honor of the country’s fiftieth anniversary. There are several museums in the park plus a mosque for the large Muslim population in Brussels.
The Royal Military School is directly north of Parc du Cinquantenaire.
The lady in front of me on the bus had red hair.
Heading toward the Justus Lipsius building (EU Council).
Could this be a Piet Mondrian?
The Berlaymont Building is the oldest and largest EU building in Brussels.It was completed in 1962 and needed to be restored thirty years later when asbestos was discovered throughout.
The Justus Lipsius Building is on the left.
Glass and clouds.
The Royal Palace of Belgium.
Outside the Royal Palace. That’s an EU building in the background.
Looking down at the Town Hall steeple. That’s The Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Basilique Nationale du Sacré-Cœur) way off in the background.
Modern Belgian Neo-Gothic architecture.
Back to the Brussels Central Station.
The Brussels Region includes 19 municipalities, one of which is the City of Brussels. It is officially bilingual (French and Dutch) and just about everybody we encountered on our stay also spoke a third language (English). The subject of breaking Belgium up into three countries comes up from time to time: Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north, French-speaking Wallonia in the south, and bilingual Brussels which would then become a city-state and the official capital of Europe.
In my next posting I will cover the second half of our bus tour: this loop took us to municipalities west and northwest of central Brussels.