Capture Creative Belgium
Area Manager of the Citadines Apart’hotels in Brussels, Frederic Carre, walks you through this city of innovation
Issue: Jun 2011
Brussels’ architecture and many museums bear testimony to its innovative spirit through the ages
Photo credit: www.famousmuseumsinbrussels.blog.com
Brussels is the capital of Belgium. As it is also the administrative centre of the European Union, many have dubbed it the Capital of Europe. With its rich and colourful history that is a mix of French and Flemish culture, this centre of modern European civilisation is an enigma.
“The city is one with an eye on the future, unafraid to innovate and test out new ideas yet with one foot still firmly planted in its heritage,” said Frederic Carre, Area Manager of the Citadines Apart’hotels in Brussels.
Frederic Carre (right) at Citadines Toison d'Or Brussels located near Jardin d'Egmont and Avenue Louise, a stretch of road lined with world class shops
Standing at 102 metres, the nine inter-connected spheres of the Atomium was designed by engineer André Waterkeyn
Photo credit: www.unusual-architecture.com
Carre, a native of France, moved to the city three months ago to work with the Citadines and has two serviced residences under his care - Citadines Sainte-Catherine Brussels and Citadines Toison d'Or Brussels. He recommends the Atomium as one of the first places to visit to experience the city’s spirit of innovation.
Visit the City’s Icon of Innovation
The Atomium embodies this spirit of innovation. This monument was built in 1958 as part of the Expo ’58, the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Back then, it served as the main pavilion of the event. Today, it stands as an iconic symbol of the ideas of the future, igniting the imagination of all for a better, technologically superior tomorrow. One cannot visit Brussels without going to the Atomium. Some of the steel-clad spheres are open to the public. One sphere houses a permanent exhibit dedicated to Expo ’58. Using archive documents, photographs, videos and a variety of models, this exhibition will let visitors rediscover the magic and understand the dreams for progress and happiness of the Expo’58. Another sphere hosts temporary exhibitions with scientific themes.
“This was one of the first places I visited when I first came to the city. From the top sphere you can have a splendid view of the city and, on a clear day, you can capture a magnificent view all the way to the coastal city of Antwerp,” said Carre.
Brussels continually invites innovation. Every year in November, it hosts Brussels Innova, a trade show for inventors from across the globe to introduce their inventions to the world. Last year, the exhibition saw inventions like the Magic Buffet, a crate that keeps food cold for up to 10 hours and can be converted into a portable buffet table on wheels complete with five trays that can serve food for up to 50 people. There was also the ARUT Mobile Version 1.0, a system built into the camera of the mobile phone that allows 3D animation to be superimposed onto real or virtual live videos.
A five-minute walk from Citadines Toison d’Or Brussels is Hotel Solvay, one of the four town houses designed by Victor Horta, Brussels’ most noted Art Nouveau architect and considered by many scholars to be his masterpiece
Photo credit: www.bluffton.edu
Inside the Square are three auditoria, huge exhibition halls and numerous meeting rooms
Photo credit: www.belgiumtheplaceto.be
The extraordinary collection at the Museum of Modern Art fuels creativity and inspires innovation
Photo credit: www.bruxelles-booking.com
Draw in the City’s Innovative Architecture
Perhaps the most innovative aspect of Brussels is its architecture. Much of the architecture stands as a testament to its bold and uninhibited character of the city. Take a walk from either one of the Citadines properties and one will see evidence of Art Nouveau facades all around. Art Nouveau literally means “new art” in French and during the turn of the 20th century, it was all the rage. Brussels’ most noted Art Nouveau architect, Victor Horta, designed four town houses here which are now considered “works of human creative genius” and are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Alongside these are the newer creations that have risen as modern tributes to architectural creativity. The giant glass cube of the Square Brussels Meeting Centre in the middle of the historic centre of the city is a fine example. The entrance to the state-of-the-art venue for international meetings shines like a holographic vision on a sunny day.
Ignite Your Creativity at Museums Celebrating Innovation
One of the best ways to explore the city centre is on foot. 15 minutes from the Citadines serviced residences is the Museum of Modern Art near the Royal Square. Here is a place where creativity and innovation in the arts is celebrated. Eight floors dedicated to Belgian modernist works such as Marcel Broodthaers, and Rik Wouters as well as foreign artists like Andy Warhol and Marc Chagall can be found.
The Grand Place is a five-minute walk away from Citadines Sainte-Catherine Brussels. Near the Grand Place is the Scientastic Museum, another museum where innovation is encouraged. Here, 80 interactive exhibits invite you to partake in a sensorial experience that engages your sight, hearing, smell and touch. Create the colour of your choice with just three lights, get involved in shadow play, experiment with motion relativity in a special illusion-elevator – here, the daily tools of life are employed to help you think creatively.
Feast to the eye for all fans of the world famous and well-loved character, Tintin, at the Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art
Photo credit: Neil Gallagher
Get Acquainted with Brussels’ Global Innovations
Some of Brussels’ innovations have gone global. The most famous and far-reaching is the saxophone, by Brussels native Adolphe Sax. At the Musical Instrument Museum, renowned for its collection of over 1,500 musical instruments, you can see a vast selection of brass horns developed by Sax. Musical instruments from all over the world throughout history are available on four floors not only to be viewed but to be heard. An infrared headphone system allows you to hear the sounds of the instruments as you draw near the exhibits.
At the Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art, 15 minutes from Citadines Sainte- Catherine Brussels, is another place where other innovations of the country that have gone international can be appreciated. Comic book character Tintin was created by Belgian artist, Georges Remi who wrote under the pen name, Herge. The Centre added an area dedicated to Herge in 2004. You can also see the Smurfs at the centre. The creator of the imp-like creatures was a Belgian cartoonist, Peyo.
A mouth-watering array of pralines at Belgium’s Master-Chocolatier, Neuhaus
Photo credit: www.flickr.com
Duvel is the archetypal Belgian blonde ale - one of the most popular bottled beers in the country and internationally
Photo credit: Jmcstrav
Sample the Bitter Sweet Taste of Innovation
Belgian innovation also extends to its cuisine. Brussels is the home of the praline - another invention of the nation. The city is a haven for chocoholics. 10 minutes’ walk from Citadines Toison d'Or Brussels is Place du Grand Sablon-Grote Zavel Plein where you will find three of the most famous chocolate shops. There you can pick up some pralines to take home. Each shop has its own specialty. Pierre Marcolini has take-away cakes and ice-creams. Wittamer has a café that has hot chocolate to die for and Neuhaus will spoil you with their choices of exotic chocolates.
Just as famous is the beer in Belgium. Beer in Belgium varies from the popular pale lager to lambic beer and Flemish red.
“Although I am French and prefer a glass of wine, the beers here in Belgium are legendary! You must try some,” urged Carre.
The origins of Belgium beer brewing can be traced to the Middle Ages. There are more than 120 breweries in the country and over 800 standard types of beers in the country. Five minutes’ walk from Citadines Sainte-Catherine Brussels is Delirium Café, known by the locals as a beer paradise. This place has the reputation of having the world’s longest list of beer certified by the Guinness World of Records, no less.
Other Belgian culinary innovations include French fries which they call frites. You can find them almost everywhere. They are eaten with different flavoured mayonnaise. A must-try local dish that features frites is Moules et Pomme Frites or mussels and fries. Of course, the original Belgium waffles is just as legendary. Two minutes’ walk from Grand Place is Aux Gaufres de Bruxelles. Round or rectangular, plain or with toppings, sweet or savoury, you can have your waffles any way you like at this restaurant.
The selection of waffles at Aux Gaufres de Bruxelles will astound you
Photo credit: www.pur-r.de
Whether in ambience, architecture or local offerings, Brussels is a city where innovation finds many expressions.