City Centre - North
Sainte-Catherine (Sint-Katelijne aus Brussels)
Not far west of the Théâtre Royal lies the majesticaly proportioned church of Sainte-Catherine, built in 1850 in a blend of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance styles to replace an earlier building. Of particular interest in the interior are the 14th or 15th C. figure of a black Madonna and a painting by de Crayer. The Tour Noire (11th-12th C.) which stands behind the church is a remnant of the old city wall while, on the west side, the delightful fish market is a reminder that this was once one of the old town quays.
Even when seen at a distance along the Rue du Peuplier (Populierstraat) from the fish market, the magnificent facade of Saint-Jean-Baptiste au Béguinage is an impressive sight. The church, all that remains of a Béguine convent founded in the 13th C., was built between 1657 and 1676. Designed by Luc Fayd'herbe it is one of the finest Flemish-Italian Baroque churches in Belgium. Among the items of note in the light and spacious interior are the beautiful pulpit and the many paintings, including seven by the Brussels artist Van Loon.
Place des Martyrs (Martelaarsplein)
The dilapidated state of the Place des Martyrs, situated to the east of the pedestrianized Rue Neuve (Nieuwstraat) running north from the Théâtre Royal, is a sad commentary on the inactivity of the Brussels city council. The square, encircled by buildings dating from 1775, has in its center a monument to the martyrs of the 1830 rebellion.
Housed in a building which is well worth seeing in its own right - the Maison Waucquez in the Rue de Sable (Zandstraat), a 1906 department store designed by Victor Horta - the diverting Comic Museum is one of Brussels' more unusual museums, being devoted to the art of the cartoon and the comic strip. On view is a constantly rotated exhibition of 200 original drawings by Belgian and French comic artists. In addition the museum documents the rise in popularity of Belgian and French comic strips through its collection of original manuscripts, draft sketches, and imaginatively reconstructed sets - of which Gaston Lagaffe's office, Lucky Luke's saloon and Tim, Struppi and Captain Haddock's moon rocket are only three.
Twin towers flank the entrance to the 13th-15th C Cathedral Saint-Michel. The ornate interior contains extraordinary stained glass windows.
Colonne du Congrès (Kongreszuil)
Behind the cathedral the Treurenberg (Hill of Mourning) ascends to the Rue Royal (Koningstraat) in the Upper Town. To the left, a little way along the Rue, the Colonne du Congrès (1859), surmounted by a statue of Leopold I, commemorates the National Congress of 1831. At its foot an eternal flame burns on the Grave of the Unknown Soldier. A good view of the Lower Town can be had from the esplanade around the column.
Beyond the Colonne, across the boulevard at the northeast extremity of the city center, the conservatories of the former botanical garden (1826-1829) have been put to new use as a cultural center for the city's French-speaking community.
Map of Brussels Attractions