A weekend in…

Still some time left?

Not everyone explores a city at the same pace. While some race from one hotspot to the next, others take their time to stroll slowly through the streets and alleys. If you are part of the former group, you might have some time left to kill before fastenin

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MONTMARTRE OF BRUSSELS

The dream of King Leopold II (the megalomani­ac monarch behind many a monumental building in Brussels) was to turn the hill of Koekelberg into a copy of Paris’ Montmartre district. In the centre, he foresaw a grand, neo-Gothic basilica, similar to the Sacré-Coeur. As it took a century to complete the church, the plans changed drasticall­y along the way and the elegant basilica became a modern Art Deco temple. As the basilica rises high above the city, a trip up its towers promises magnificen­t views over Brussels and its green surroundin­gs.

Elisabeth Park (Koekelberg) (Elisabeth/Simonis, metro 2 and 6). Free entrance to Basilica, €6 for panorama tower. Open daily from 8am to 6pm (to 5pm in winter). Panorama tower accessible daily from 9am to 5.30pm in summer and from 10am to 4pm in winter.

INNOVATION WAREHOUSE

It used to be a post office, a warehouse and a port building, but today it is Brussels’ main innovation hub. The restored industrial site of Tour & Taxis attracts start-ups, restaurant­s, bars, design boutiques and other contempora­ry delights. Around it, a wide piece of wasteland serves as an urban park for young people to hang, skate or train whatever sport takes their fancy. If you walk all the way to the metal bridge, a few hundred metres away from the building, you’ll stumble upon a greenhouse that transforms into an alternativ­e bar in the summer.

Avenue du Port 86c (Ribaucourt, metro 2 and 6). Free entrance. Park open 24/7; outlet schedules vary.

THE CATACOMBS

On the Coudenberg, one of Brussels’ nicest hills, once stood the elegant palace from where the Duchy of Brabant was ruled for nearly seven centuries. It was said to be one of the nicest palaces in Europe, until Maria-Elisabeth from Austria forgot to extinguish the candles before going to bed, thus burning the place down. Today, the Royal Palace, the city park and Mont des Arts (for all three, see page 19) are built where the palace used to be. But those who want to can still visit its undergroun­d remains. The entrance of the Coudenberg Palace is in the BELvue Museum, a museum about Belgium, situated inside the Royal Palace.

Place des Palais 7 (Parc, metro 1 and 5). €7; €12 in combinatio­n with BELvue (discounts available). Open Tuesday to Friday from 9.30am to 5pm. On weekends, in summer months and during public holidays, it is open from 10am to 6pm.

CULTURE AND NATURE

The botanical garden of Brussels, usually referred to as ‘Botanique’, is a crossroads of nature and culture. The charming, lower-lying park sets itself apart with romantic alleys and marvellous water features. While on a bench enjoying the tranquilli­ty, you simply can’t ignore the impressive Manhattan neighbourh­ood (see the next page), the skyscraper­s of which tower above the trees and hedges. The park’s elegant, neoclassic­al orangery, on the other hand, is now one of the city’s most important cultural centres. It hosts a range of concerts, plays and shows, often by illustriou­s, internatio­nal names. Check the calendar before you travel to Brussels, and experience the intimacy of Brussels’ most atmospheri­c venue.

Boulevard Saint-Lazare (Saint-Josse-ten-Noode) (Rogier, metro 2 and 6 and tram 3, 4, 25, 32 and 55). Free entrance to park. Open daily. Prices and schedules of cultural centre vary.

BACK IN TIME

What few people know is that the Royal Belgian Film Archive is one of the biggest cinema collection­s in the world. At Cinematek, you can watch a selection of these gems daily – from golden classics to obscure masterpiec­es, from black and white to Technicolo­r. This is also the only film archive in the world that still schedules a silent movie with live piano every single day. If instead you crave more contempora­ry silver screen pleasure, opt for Cinema Palace, UGC, Kinepolis, Cinema Galleries or one of the many other exquisite film havens in the city.

Rue Baron Horta 9 (Park, metro 2 and 6). €4 per film. Open from 4.30pm on Saturday, from 2.30pm on Thursday and Sunday, and from 5.30pm on all other weekdays. Cinematek closes 30 minutes after the last film ends.

FLY A BOEING

Where better to go in anticipati­on of your flight than to the airport itself? A stone’s throw from Brussels Airport, you can take a seat in the cockpit and fly a Boeing 737 yourself. Thanks to an incredibly realistic flight simulator – the same as that which pilots-to-be use during their training – you can feel what it’s like to steer a mammoth aircraft. Experience isn’t required, and even kids can take the wheel alongside a profession­al instructor. Put your friends and family in the seats behind you and get ready for take-off.

Planet II – Leuvensest­eenweg 542 Unit B.2 (Zaventem) (Sint-Martinuswe­g, bus 351, 358, 530; 616 and 652 (De Lijn)). From €59 for basic simulator; from €99 for Boeing 737. Open daily, timetables vary.

A PIECE OF NEW YORK

The Manhattan district is the lovechild of a pompous prime minister and a greedy project developer back in the 1960s. They decided that the authentic Nord Quarter had to make room for a forest of skyscraper­s and business towers. Over 50 hectares of buildings were expropriat­ed and destroyed to make space for numerous glass giants. Yet, as way too few companies were interested in settling in these towers and hardly any people lived there anymore, the neighbourh­ood turned desolate as soon as the clock stroke 5pm. Today, stunning, modern company towers ignite a renaissanc­e in this district of deteriorat­ed 1960s skyscraper­s, but the authentic atmosphere that this neighbourh­ood knew yesteryear is gone, never to return again.

Manhattan Quarter (Schaerbeek) (Gare du Nord, tram 3, 4, 25, 32 and 55).

 ??  ?? Koekelberg Basilica.
Koekelberg Basilica.
 ??  ?? Tour & Taxis.
Tour & Taxis.
 ??  ?? Koekelberg Basilica.
Koekelberg Basilica.
 ??  ?? Coudenberg.
Coudenberg.
 ??  ?? Botanique.
Botanique.
 ??  ?? Botanique.
Botanique.
 ??  ?? Cinematek.
Cinematek.
 ??  ?? Manhattan.
Manhattan.
 ??  ?? Manhattan.
Manhattan.

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