Top historic sites in Brussels

La Grand-Place

La Grand-Place in Brussels is a remarkably homogeneous body of public and private buildings, dating mainly from the late 17th century. The architecture provides a vivid illustration of the level of social and cultural life of the period in this important political and commercial centre. Around a cobbled rectangular market square, La Grand-Place, the earliest written reference to which dates back to the 12th century, feat ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Brussels Town Hall

The oldest part of the present Town Hall is its east wing together with a shorter belfry. It was built and completed in 1420 under direction of Jacob van Thienen. Initially, future expansion of the building was not foreseen, however, the admission of the craft guilds into the traditionally patrician city government apparently spurred interest in providing more room the building. As a result a second, somewhat longer wing ...
Founded: 1420-1444 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium are a group of art museums in Brussels. There are four museums connected with the Royal Museum, and two of them (the Museum of Ancient Art and the Museum of Modern Art, Brussels), are in the main building. The other two (the Constantin Meunier Museum and the Antoine Wiertz Museum) are dedicated to specific Belgian artists, are much smaller, and are located a few kilometers from th ...
Founded: 1803 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg

Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg is a neoclassical church located in the historic square of Place Royale in central Brussels. The medieval abbey church that originally stood on this location was demolished by command of Charles Alexander of Lorraine during his expansive urban planning projects, despite having escaped the great fire of 1731 that destroyed the nearby Coudenberg Palace. The new church was built in line with rue ...
Founded: 1776 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Royal Palace of Brussels

The Royal Palace of Brussels is the official palace of the King and Queen of the Belgians in the centre of Brussels. However it is not used as a royal residence, as the king and his family live in the Royal Palace of Laeken on the outskirts of Brussels. The facade we see today was only built after 1900 on the initiative of King Leopold II. The first part of the present-day building dates from the end of the 18th century. ...
Founded: 1783 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon

Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon is characterized by its late Brabantine Gothic exterior and rich interior decoration including two Baroque chapels. The history of the church dates to the early 13th century when Henry I (1165-1235), the Duke of Brabant, recognized the Noble Serment of Crossbowmen as a guild and granted them certain privileges, including the right to use a plot at the Sablon/Zavel as an exercise g ...
Founded: c. 1400 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula

The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula has been since 1962 the co-cathedral of the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels, together with St. Rumbold"s Cathedral in Mechelen. A chapel dedicated to St. Michael was probably built on the Treurenberg hill as early as the 9th century. In the 11th century it was replaced by a Romanesque church. In 1047, Lambert II, Count of Leuven founded a chapter in this church and organi ...
Founded: c. 1047 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Chapel Church

The Église de la Chapelle (French) or Kapellekerk (Dutch) is a Roman Catholic church founded in 1134 by Godfrey I of Leuven near what were then the town ramparts. The present structure dates from the 13th century. Part of the structure was damaged by the French during the bombardment of Brussels in 1695 as part of the War of the Grand Alliance. It was restored in 1866 and again in 1989. It contains work by Jer&ocir ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Halle Gate

The Halle Gate is a medieval fortified city gate of the second walls of Brussels. It is now a museum, part of the Royal Museums for Art and History. Built in 1381, the gate was named for the city of Halle in Flemish Brabant which it faces. The original gate included a portcullis and drawbridge over a moat. The structures that housed these are still visible. While the other six gateways and the defensive walls were demoli ...
Founded: 1381 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Groot-Bijgaarden Castle

Groot-Bijgaarden Castle is 12th-century castle in Groot-Bijgaarden in the municipality of Dilbeek, Flemish Brabant, Belgium. The castle was built for Almaric Bigard, the first lord of Bigard. The castle is surrounded by a wide moat spanned by a bridge with five arches, leading to the drawbridge. The central part of the gatehouse dates from the 14th century. A four-storey tower (built 1347), 30 metres high, is by the side ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Dilbeek, Belgium

Horta Museum

The Horta Museum is dedicated to the life and work of the Belgian Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta and his time. The museum is housed in Horta"s former house and atelier, Maison & Atelier Horta (1898), in the Brussels municipality of Saint-Gilles. Housed in the Art Nouveau interiors is a permanent display of furniture, utensils and art objects designed by Horta and his contemporaries as well as documents relate ...
Founded: 1898 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Hôtel Tassel

The Hotel Tassel is a town house built by Victor Horta in Brussels for the Belgian scientist and professor Emile Tassel in 1893–1894. It is generally considered as the first true Art Nouveau building, because of its highly innovative plan and its groundbreaking use of materials and decoration. Together with three other town houses of Victor Horta, including Horta"s own house and atelier, it was put on the " ...
Founded: 1893 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Bouchout Castle

Bouchout Castle is located in the Flemish town of Meise. In the 12th century, this territory of the young Duchy of Brabant was strategically positioned between the County of Flanders and the Berthout family, lords of Grimbergen. Most likely, the first fortification was built by Wouter van Craaynem at the end of the Grimbergen Wars (1150–1170). At about 1300, the Donjon tower of Bouchout Castle was erected by Daniel van ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Meise, Belgium

La Cambre Abbey

The Abbey of La Cambre or Ter Kameren Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey in Ixelles, Brussels. The abbey church is a catholic parish of the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels and home to a community of Norbertine canons while other parts of the monastery house the headquarters of the Belgian National Geographic Institute and La Cambre, a prestigious visual arts school. The abbey was founded about 1196, by its patroness Gis& ...
Founded: c. 1196 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Hôtel Solvay

The Hôtel Solvay is a large Art Nouveau town house designed by Victor Horta on the Avenue Louise in Brussels. The house was commissioned by Armand Solvay, the son of the wealthy Belgian chemist and industrialist Ernest Solvay. For this wealthy patron Horta could spend a fortune on precious materials and expensive details. Horta designed every single detail; furniture, carpets, light fittings, tableware and even the ...
Founded: 1898 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Beersel Castle

The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages. The castle was built in around 1420 as a mea ...
Founded: c. 1420 | Location: Beersel, Belgium

Royal Palace of Laeken

The Royal Palace of Laeken is the official residence of the King of the Belgians and the royal family. It sits in a large park called the Royal Domain of Laeken, which is off-limits to the public. The Palace at Laeken should not be confused with the Royal Palace of Brussels, in central Brussels, which is the official palace (not residence) of the King of the Belgians and from which affairs of state are handled. The pala ...
Founded: 1782 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Stoclet Palace

The Stoclet Palace was built by architect Josef Hoffmann for banker and art lover Adolphe Stoclet between 1905 and 1911. Considered Hoffman"s masterpiece, the Stoclet"s house is one of the most refined and luxurious private houses of the twentieth century. The mansion is still occupied by the Stoclet family and is not open to visitors. It was designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO in June 2009. The Stocl ...
Founded: 1905-1911 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.