Brussels is not a very large city but it sure has its appeal. It is the capital of the European Union and boasts of a distinctive charm that makes it a truly intriguing location. When one thinks of fun and interesting things to do in Brussels, many options readily cross the mind; from the stunning architecture, amazing art scene, incredible dishes, to the endless shopping avenues. There is something for everyone. Yes, Brussels is quite small when compared to some of the major tourist destinations in the world, but the advantage of this is that all the major tourist destinations can be enjoyed in one trip! Another great thing about Brussels is that every tourist attraction you visit is more than what meets the eye; there are a lot of rich history and hidden allures in Brussels. In addition, if you are a lover of art and an architecture enthusiast, you have to keep an open mind and prepare to be fascinated!
If you are visiting Brussels for the first time or you are visiting for the umpteenth time, here are 6 things that you must endeavor to do while exploring the art and architecture in this intriguing city.
1. Stay at the luxury Hotel Amigo among pieces of art
Hotel Amigo is situated right at the point of convergence of every facet of Brussels’s culture. It is located a few meters from the Grand Place, the famous Ilot Sacré area right in the middle of a pedestrian district that is surrounded by a wide variety of restaurants, boutiques, shops and art galleries. It is also located in the financial district of Brussels. The location is ideal for anyone who wishes to explore as a tourist or someone in the city for business.
The Hotel Amigo is usually among the top choices for pleasure or business and the atmosphere is lively and suits any purpose. The building itself which is very impressive, boasts of the classic Spanish renaissance style and it is a perfect balance of modern and traditional designs.
The hotel has 173 rooms and the rooms all have the characteristic Belgian accent in addition to the incredible artworks on display. The hotel is decorated with Magritte and Tintin prints and illustrations, as well as Broodthaers prints. An interesting fact is that the Magritte Lithography and “clin d’oeil to Tintin” is different in every room; making it a haven for art lovers. In addition to the Flemish vintage furnishing and the Brussels flagstones that dot the vicinity, the picturesque view from the private terrace is simply amazing. The hotel also has good restaurants that serve delicious food, especially the Italian restaurant, Ristorante Bocconi.
The most striking thing about the Hotel Amigo is the way the architectural design and the artwork come together to create a building that personifies understated elegance.
2. Visit the famous Magritte Museum
The Musée Magritte Museum named after the famous Belgian Surrealist artist, Rene Magritte is situated in the Place Royale. Since being established in 2007, the museum has had over 2 million art enthusiasts cross its threshold to admire and contemplate the widest Magritte art collection in the world. The museum currently has over 200 artworks which cut across all disciplines including gouaches, sculptures, oils on canvas, drawings, vintage photographs, advertising posters, painted objects and musical scores; all works of the artist.
The museum presents the Magritte works in an order that makes you feel connected to the artist and also gives you an understanding of the art works. The collection begins with “The Secret Player”, 1927 and proceeds through other paintings done in the artist’s life. Every painting shows the evolution of the artist through his years and the collection ends with “The Dominion of Light”, 1954 which is perhaps the most mysterious of the artist’s paintings. The effect the order of the paintings has on the admirer is that it either leaves you pondering how the mind of Magritte worked or you just develop an intense admiration for his imagination.
The museum has a lending policy that allows private collectors to loan their Magritte works to the museum. Also, the museum has provided works that have been exhibited in 19 international exhibitions in places such as Tokyo, New York and will contribute Frankfurt and Paris in the near future. If you are a lover of art and have heard of Magritte, this is the best place to have a full view of the art and the artist. However, if you have not heard of him, where else would you want to be introduced to such an incredible collection ?
3. Visit Villa Empain – a masterpiece of Art Deco
The Villa Empain is one of the most exquisite Art Deco masterpieces in Brussels. It was built in 1930 as a private mansion but it became open to the public in 2010. The building has literally been through a lot; with the years of little care and the intense renovations that began in 2008. Currently, the building is in the care of the Boghossian Foundation and its future is very bright indeed. The foundation organizes contemporary art exhibitions and also works on the dialogue on Occident and Orient.
The current exhibition is the Décor, an exhibition event that will run from 8 September 2016 to 29 January 2017. The décor exhibtion will involve several artists who were selected because of their works in modern art and decorative art. The exhibition which will be all about showcasing the decorative contemporary artworks, will also serve as a further facelift for the Villa Emplain. Some of the artists include Milena Muzquiz, Daniel Buren, Latifa Echakhch, Carl Andre, Milena Muzquiz, and others.
4. Visit the Musée Horta – a masterpiece of Art Nouveau
Brussels is the world center of Art Nouveau and this can be seen in a whole of buildings in the city. As a matter of fact, there are tours organized to explore the notable art nouveau works in the city. Some of the creative architects whose works can be explored include Paul Hankar, Victor Horta and others.
The Horta Museum remains one of the best known repositories of art nouveau. It used to be the home of Victor Horta and it is one of the best displays of subway tile and stained glass, as well as other materials like wrought iron and pale wood, carefully combined to provide an illusion of the building being bathed in gold on sunny afternoons. There are also several art nouveau paintings on exhibition, to provide inspiration for aspiring architects and artists.
The other buildings usually included in the Art Nouveau tours are the phenomenal Hanon house which is dedicated to photography exhibitions, the Solvay library, the Cauchie house, the Autrique house, among many others. These buildings are intricately designed and their beauty is made even more obvious by the creative blend of mosaic, wall paintings, stained glass, tiles and every conceivable material used in building them. The Art Nouveau works can also be viewed at the Royal art Nouveau museum. Several other Art nouveau buildings can be used to host events and occasions.
5. Be surprised by the international contemporary exhibition at La Patinoire Royale
La Patinoire Royale is a 19th century architectural masterpiece that used to be an roller skating rink before it was converted into an exhibition space. Currently, the building hosts international exhibitions from world acclaimed artists and you will be surprised at how well it all comes together. The private gallery will be exhibiting the works of the famous French designer famous French designer Jean Prouvé and Vasilis Takis. Therefore, if you know you love art and you are on a visit to Brussels, you should include a visit to this gallery in your itinerary.
6. Explore the MIMA Museum
The MIMA -Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art – is not your usual museum simply because it showcases street art and contemporary art that are painted onto the walls of the building even if some are in frames. Some of the works are permanent while others are painted for the sole purpose of exhibitions. The MIMA is a bold attempt to present a different view of street art and it is working quite well, because a visit to the museum will awaken a new sense of appreciation for modern art in any art lover’s mind. Some of the works being exhibited include, Faile, Swoon, Maya Hayyuk, Barry McGee, Escif, Mobstr and many others.
In addition to the art, you also get to enjoy a panoramic view of Brussels from the rooftops.
Olivier Templar-James is Chief Editor at Luxury Travelers Guide.
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