Despite it being relatively smaller than most European capitals, many unexpected great things have come from Brussels. Here are some interesting facts:
Remembered as the iconic British actress, model, dancer and humanitarian that she was, Audrey Hepburn was originally born on 48 rue Keyenveld in Ixelles, Brussels. Although she is not Belgian, we still pride ourselves in knowing that she came from our city.
The Belgian capital has an impressive 138 restaurants per square mile, boasting every possible cuisine imaginable and making it one of the hottest destinations for foodies. From cheap eats to gastronomic Michelin starred restaurants, Brussels can satisfy any preference.
A Peeing Obsession
You’ll probably recognise this famous statue of a peeing boy, also known as the Manneken Pis. Repeatedly stolen and dressed in all sorts of costumes, this little guy is one of the main tourist attractions in Brussels. But did you know that in Brussels you can also find a peeing girl (Janneken Pis) and peeing dog statue?
Don’t ask us why… It’s a thing.
The Oldest Shopping Mall in Europe
The galleries Saint Hubert opened in 1847, making them the oldest shopping arcade in Europe. Tourists will find an assortment of high end brands like Delvaux, Belgian chocolate shops, like Neuhaus and Pierre Marcolini, and other artisanal Belgian shops.
Speaking of chocolate, we’re obsessed with it and so are our tourists. The airport in Brussels is the largest chocolate selling point in the world. Whether you’re picking up your haul in the city or at the airport, you will be met with a vast choice of famous household names like Leonidas, Godiva, Pierre Marcolini, etc.
The Biggest Court In The World
Standing at 26.000 square metres, the justice palace in Brussels is the largest court in the world. Constructed in the 19th century by Joseph Poelaert, it is currently a candidate to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Monument. Having been born after 1982, I have never seen this building without scaffolding, construction which is supposed to end in 2028.
Despite being the most hated vegetable in America, the success of our local veggie around the world is indubitable. Yes, Brussels sprouts were broadly cultivated here during the 16th century. Many people think that Brussels sprouts are baby cabbages, this is because they are part of the same family but they are different vegetables.
Summertime opens up a whole host of fresh opportunities in the city. Outdoor strolls around London’s parks, gardens and markets are de rigueur throughout the season, but summer also brings with it plenty of exceptional but short-lived events. Catch the ones below before they’re gone!
Visit Buckingham Palace’s State Rooms
22 July to 1 October
Year round, crowds flock to admire Buckingham Palace’s beautiful façade, but it’s only in late summer that you can explore some of its exquisite interior too. The State Rooms – those rooms designated for the Queen to receive and entertain subjects and visiting dignitaries – are open from July to October, and with a Royal Day Out ticket you can gain access to the Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Mews too.
The Throne Room is a particular highlight; in recent times it’s perhaps most famous as the setting of several official photographs from the wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Give summer ice cream a gourmet, personalised twist over at the Esquimau Choc Ice Bar at the Pierre Marcolini boutique on Marylebone High Street. Select from four ice cream (or two sorbet) flavours and then choose from six luxurious chocolate toppings to round it off (including smoked dark chocolate, milk chocolate with toasted hazelnut and fleur de sel or white chocolate and toasted coconut).
Experience Movie Magic At The Outdoor Cinema In Hyde Park
3, 4, 5 and 7 July
Hyde Park’s British Summer Time festival comes with more than just musical performances. They’re also hosting four free movie nights in July on a huge open air screen, and the line-up is a spectacular combination of family fun (a sing-along of The Lion King and two of Disney’s sensational live-action remakes – 2016’s The Jungle Book and this year’s Beauty and the Beast) and grown-up modern classics (including Dirty Dancing and Back to the Future). See the schedule here – entry is on a first-come-first-served basis, so be sure to arrive early!
Channel Your Inner Patissier At The Big London Bake
Until 1 October
The Great British Bake Off has practically become a national institution since first gracing British TVs back in 2010. (These days it’s even gaining in popularity across the pond as The Great British Baking Show.) Whether you have a penchant for cake, pastry and all things baking or are just a fan of the series, snap up the opportunity to take on a baking challenge yourself at The Big London Bake. Set in a marquee kitchen, contestants take part in the competition in 10 teams of 2 with all ingredients provided and a professional baker on hand. No experience required!
Go On A Sensory Journey At Somerset House’s Perfume Exhibition
21 June to 17 September
If you’re a connoisseur of scent, you won’t want to miss Somerset House’s intriguing Perfume exhibition, which examines its perfumers’ modern and accessible approach to perfumery and celebrates their inspirations through visual, auditory and tactile displays. Visit one of the Perfume Lab Residencies (9 and 23 July) for a unique chance to learn more about the art and science of crafting a fragrance from an expert perfumer.
Europea’s Covent Garden residence is only a short distance from Somerset House.
Experience Theatre Anew At The Open Air Theatre At Regent’s Park And Immersive Ensemble’s The Great Gatsby
Swap the West End for Regent’s Park’s Open Air Theatre this summer, with productions including A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist and the return of their 2016 sell-out (and award-winning) Jesus Christ Superstar.
For an alternative, but equally extraordinary, theatre experience, check out the Immersive Ensemble’s ‘heart-racing, immersive’ version of The Great Gatsby, held at a secret location. Don’t forget those dancing shoes!
Europea’s Primrose Hill residence is very close to Regent’s Park.
London is an art lover’s delight. With artistic treasures spanning centuries and movements, the city’s many galleries and museums offer something for every taste. Even better, many of these innovative, beautiful and thought-provoking pieces are part of the national collection and are thus available to enjoy entirely free of charge.
Before your trip and stay in our luxury rentals, take a moment to get acquainted with some of London’s greatest artworks and where to find them.
Seurat’s monumental pointillist masterpiece Bathers at Asnières (Une Baignade, Asnières) depicts working class men relaxing on the left bank of the river Seine. The artist’s first large-scale painting, it juxtaposes the smoky industry of nearby factories with the simple harmony of leisure time spent on a riverbank. The work is suffused with a sense of hazy summer warmth and light lent by small brushstrokes and soft, muted colours. In both its subject and tones it can be seen in contrast to another of Seurat’s paintings from later the same year – A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The latter piece is set directly across the river from the Asnières scene and shows upper class leisure, this time bathed in shadow instead of light.
The Arnolfini Portrait by van Eyck is one of the most celebrated paintings in European art, renowned for its originality, complexity and air of mystery (to this day there’s disagreement about the meaning of the painting). The domestic scene it depicts seems modest on the surface, but a closer look sees each detail brought to life in skilful reproduction – from status symbols and sumptuous fabrics to the convex reflections of the scene in the mirror on the wall.
Other prominent works at the National Gallery include: Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors; Monet, The Water-Lily Pond; Botticelli, Mars and Venus; Turner, The Fighting Temeraire and Van Gogh, Sunflowers.
Though the Seagram Murals were originally commissioned for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York, Rothko was repulsed by the overtly pretentious atmosphere of the setting and withdrew from the project before the series was complete. He kept hold of the paintings and they were subsequently sold off in separate groups. Room 3 at the Tate Modern unites their own eight murals with a selection of those from Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art in Sakura and the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
The wash of deep tones marked a dramatic shift in Rothko’s palette and the pieces were, according to him, intended to inspire feelings of invited entrapment and the sense of being ‘walled in’. Though they were explicitly intended to imbue negativity in viewers, there is also a quiet grandeur and warmth to the large and sombre frames.
Other prominent works at the Tate Modern include: Picasso, Weeping Woman; Frampton, Marguerite Kelsey; Kandinsky, Swinging and Matisse, The Snail.
Manet’s painting of a barmaid at a Paris music hall was recently hailed as the best painting in London by Time Out, who called it ‘one of the most psychologically-charged paintings you’ll ever see, a glittering world of misleading reflections and skewed perspectives.’ The last of Manet’s great works, its most intriguing element is perhaps the ambiguous expression of the barmaid and how that relates to the powerful gaze present in the painting (whether that of the man in the mirror or our own gaze as viewers).
Other prominent works at the Courtauld Gallery include: Degas, Two Dancers on a Stage; Cézanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire with a Large Pine; Gauguin, Nevermore and van Gogh, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.
Associated with John Taylor, William Shakespeare, c. 1600-1610 (National Portrait Gallery – Free)
The ‘Chandos portrait’ of William Shakespeare (reputed to be by John Taylor) is perhaps most distinguished by its provenance; the portrait is the only depiction of the playwright with a reasonable claim to have been painted from life. The pale skin of Shakespeare’s face almost glows against the rich background tones and his black doublet, appropriate for such an incomparable luminary of English literature. What’s more, our Covent Garden residence is close by.
Other prominent works in the National Portrait Gallery include: Unknown, Queen Elizabeth I (the ‘Darnley portrait’) and Austen, Jane Austen.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, 1767 (Wallace Collection – Free)
A sensuous masterpiece of the rococo era, The Swing (Les hazards heureux de l’escarpolette) symbolises the hedonistic and flighty spirit of the time. A young lady – gliding through the air with abandon, dress billowing and shoe flying – is observed rather indecorously by the reclining young man in the bottom left. According to the memoirs of the writer Charles Collé, this risqué composition originated with the courtier who commissioned the work, originally from a different artist: ‘I should like to have you paint [my mistress] on a swing that a bishop would set going. You will place me in such a way that I would be able to see the legs of the lovely girl…’
Other prominent works at the Wallace Collection include: Hals, Laughing Cavalier, Velázquez, The Lady with a Fan and Titian, Perseus and Andromeda.
Visiting: Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930 (Royal Academy of Arts, 25th Feb – 4th June)
American Gothic is one of those rare paintings, in the company of the Mona Lisa, The Creation of Adam or The Scream, which has taken on a life of its own through cultural appropriation and parody. As of last year, its dour (or perhaps impassive) subjects, their pitchfork and the quaint ‘Dibble House’ backdrop, have left US for the first time. Catch sight of the modern classic at the Royal Academy of Arts America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930sexhibition, running till 4th June.
Other prominent works at the America After the Fall exhibition include: Hopper, Gas and New York Movie, O’Keefe, Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses and Benton, Cotton Pickers. If you’re staying in our nearby Knightsbridge residence, it is definitely worth heading there.