Brussels and the Art Nouveau Tour Map

EUROPE, GUEST BLOGGERS, Historic/Museums — By on September 22, 2013 at 16:16

By guest blogger Lisa A. White. Photos Copyright © Lisa A. White.

I HAVE TO ADMIT that I am both an avid traveler as well as a two-faced traveler: I want to travel everywhere BUT I have certain locations that I love to repeat. I work on both goals regularly, depending on time and circumstance.

Brussels, Belgium is a definite repeater. My husband Dan and I knew very little about Brussels before catching a last minute flight on standby three years ago (I digress but every mother should force at least one of her children to sacrifice for the family to work for an airline–the flight benefits are incredible). The first visit led to several more, including my recent self-proclaimed “Art Nouveau Tour.”

Brussels in February is similar to Chicago in February, with less wind and less snow. In other words, it is not most people’s first choice of travel times. But alas, the standby seats looked good, and Dan suggested that we were short on our supply of European cheeses and chocolates. So off I flew by myself for a few days of wandering. Forget the guided tours of the warmer seasons: my Art Nouveau Tour was a self-guided special using the large descriptive map that I purchased for 3 euros from the visitors’ center located in the Grand Place (also called Grote Markt).

Brussels map

My handy dandy map for my self-proclaimed “Art Nouveau Tour”

I must digress again: wandering through the Grand Place [see feature photo] is mandatory for absolutely every visit to Brussels. We typically stay around the corner at the Royal Windsor Hotel (a four-star hotel, nicely situated about two city blocks from both Centraal Station and the Grand Place, and which incidentally has wonderful last-minute rates).

Chocolates and macarons in Brussels

Left: La Belgique Gourmande for chocolates
Right: Jean-Phillippe Darcis’ for macarons

Other mandatory standards within a two block radius: Catherine’s shop for cheeses, La Belgique Gourmande for chocolates, Jean-Phillippe Darcis’ for macarons–the little colorful hamburgers which are outrageously good meringue-like sweets–and L’Express for casual but excellent Lebanese food. Don’t ask about the logic of going to a Lebanese restaurant in Brussels–just try it!

L'Express in Brussels

L’Express for Lebanese cuisine in Brussels

I began my self-guided Art Nouveau Tour on the Open Tours Hop-On Hop-Off bus with my handy dandy Art Nouveau map. The Hop-On Hop-Off buses are nice for learning more about a city as you travel where you want to go, but never fear, I walked a lot of miles on this adventure. Bus stop number five dropped me close to the Victor Horta museum as well as ninety other art nouveau homes and buildings. Close, but not that close when I was walking up and down blocks, never totally sure whether the next number on the map would be a gem or just so-so.

I knew there were certain art nouveau houses and buildings I wanted to find during my short adventure, so I didn’t follow the suggested walking tours. I did parts of four out of five outlined tours in two gruelingly long days. I found and photographed the outside of over sixty buildings, and spent quite a bit of time in the Victor Horta home and museum. A part of my scrawled up and well worn map is shown here, but the map is copyrighted and absolutely worth the three euros it costs. Go buy one! I will let the photos speak for themselves, and encourage you to research the short and fascinating 15 year history of the art nouveau style.

Brussels architecture

Left: Hotel Tassel by Victor Horta | Right: Rue du nancy no. 6-8,
home and studio of painter Cortvriendt, architect Leon Sneyers

One final experience from my “tour”: I saw there were two art nouveau residences on Rue du Lac. I found the first and wasn’t overwhelmed with the style. However, there was a gorgeous guy looking out of a fourth floor window of that building. Yes, with the window open–in the winter–he was that hot. After smiling and acknowledging each other, I looked back at my map, looked at both sides of the street, and considered giving up on the second house. Then I glanced back up at him. Without a word, he pointed to the house I was looking for–the small but wonderful house at Rue de Lac no. 6, designed by architect Ernest Delune in 1904. If not for Mr. Hot, I may have missed that gem altogether!

Rue de Lac, Brussels

Door and window details on Rue du Lac

By the way, did I tell you that one of the reasons Dan and I love Brussels so much is that the people are so friendly and language is never a barrier?

———

Beer in Brussels

Lisa drinking beer in Brussels


Lisa White has wandered through world like she has wandered through professions. In both pursuits, she always has more to explore, more to learn, and more to do. Currently she practices law in the area of dependency and neglect as well as other cases that address the well-being of children. Often this is an area of law that feels exceptionally “heavy.” When it becomes too emotionally burdensome, she catches a flight somewhere–anywhere–to remember the good, positive, beautiful, tasty, and fun of the world.

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    7 Comments

  • Teresa Davis
    Twitter: iluvmnts4x4
    says:

    Wow..love your story. I have always wanted to visit Belgium and especially now after reading your story. I love to travel and getting to know other cultures. Thanks for sharing.

  • bloggoneit
    Twitter: bloggoneit
    says:

    Bless Mr. Hot!! What I love most about travel is the unexpected and unplanned moments, and it’s especially fun when there is a language barrier. Nothing like using one’s body to convey confusion and delight.

    Nicely done piece, and I truly loved looking at the architecture.

  • JM Merchant
    Twitter: JMMerchant86
    says:

    Yay! Awesome piece to get MT rolling again 🙂

    Lovely pics Lisa, and you gotta love those stand-by seats!

  • Estrella Azul
    Twitter: EstrellaAzul
    says:

    What a lovely story of your tour, Brusells sounds soo good! I’ll have to check out some flight info myself, who knows, maybe I’ll get there sometime 🙂

  • Erin says:

    You drew me in from your first paragraph! (I totally missed having one of the kids ‘take one for the team’ and work for an airline. Such a missed opportunity.) We are planning a trip to Brussels before a river cruise in Amsterdam this fall – my two sisters and our mom (celebrating her 80th birthday). Any suggestions would be much appreciated. It’ll be my first time visiting the city. We will be looking for some of your Art Nouveau recommendations for sure. Thanks for sharing.

  • William says:

    Ultimately, a dilemma that I’m passionate about. I have looked for data of this caliber for the previous various hours. Your internet site is greatly appreciated.

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