Length 3.5 km (2.2 miles), terrain: one small hill, total gain of 40 meters
Brussels Running Routes:
Avenue Louise/Bois de la Cambre
EU Quarter/Woluwe Park
For more running routes, see Route List
Brussels, in my opinion, has a cosmopolitan flair that its small size doesn't really warrant: it has world-class chocolate makers, French cuisine, a typically Dutch old town, capital-city institutions like a parliament, palaces and embassies, the European Union quarter, the NATO headquarters, sprawling parks, gigantic monuments and -- of course -- Europe's most beautiful square - Grand Place.
|The Brussels town hall on Grand Place|
Here's a little route through the heart of Brussels that goes by a lot of the most scenic spots in the old town: Parliament, Brussels Park, the royal palace, Grand Place, the Manneken Pis statue, the restaurant streets, the cathedral and back to the park again.
We'll start the run on the east edge of the old town, up the hill at Brussels Park, right in front of the parliament building. This neighborhood, the Koudenberg, used to be the castle area, defending the main old-town area down the hill towards the northwest. The old castle burned down, and now the newer royal palace occupies the spot, although the Belgian royal family lives at Laeken, outside town.
So let's go to the Rue de la Loi, to the front door of the unassuming Palace of the Nation (parliament). The building looks like it might just hold the state archives or maybe the transport ministry, but this is the Belgian parliament.
Turn your back to the front entrance of the parliament, and face into the north entrance of Brussels Park across the street. This small rectangle of green-space is one of those pleasant little European parks that includes about everything a proper park needs: fountains, statues, a playground, a café, a bandstand, even a theater.
|Feeding the ducks in Brussels Park|
At the south end of the park, you'll come out facing the royal palace. This gigantic building is only used for functions: nobody lives there.
|The royal palace|
Turn left on Rue Royale and take just a few strides into the next square, Place Royale, with the statue of the knight Godfrey on his horse.
|Place Royal and Godfrey|
|Music above the Jardin du Mont des Arts|
|Market day at the Marché aux Herbes|
Now, turn left into the little side street, Rue de la Colline, and you'll see Grand Place opening up at the end of the street. You'll run past some of the first chocolate shops, and they're pretty inviting: Belgian chocolate is among the best in the world. You can run through some streets in the west end of the old-town and the whole street will smell like cocoa.
|Grand Place: Brussels Museum|
Circle past the guild-houses on the north side of the square, then southwards past the Gothic, 600-year-old town hall and its huge tower.
At the south end of the town hall, turn right to exit Grand Place (we'll be back in a few minutes, though), and run southwest along Rue Charles Buls. Keep running straight for three blocks, till you come to the crowd looking at Manneken Pis, a tiny statue of a boy peeing into a fountain. On many days of the year, he'll be wearing special costumes commemorating one special occasion or another. He has over 900 costumes, more than Madonna...
|Manneken Pis seems a bit lost among the tourist crowds|
Run just two blocks, where you turn diagonally to your right onto Rue du Marché au Charbon, where you head straight back into Grand Place again, this time on the other side of the town hall.
Now just cross the square to the left corner of the gothic city museum and exit Grand Place by running into narrow Rue Chair et Pain (Meat and Bread Street). In a block, the street turns into the Petite rue des Bouchers (Little Butcher Street), where a long row of restaurants with outside seating begins.
|Restaurants along Rue de Bouchers|
At the end of the street, turn right onto Rue des Bouchers (more restaurants). You'll pass the Galeries St. Hubert again (this street bisects the gallery into two halves), and then run into Rue de la Montagne.
Turn left here and now run uphill for the next blocks. You'll see the Gothic-style cathedral coming into view ahead, with its twin towers. Run through the green square out front of the cathedral, towards its front doors, then run past it around the right side.
Turn right and run the one block back to Brussels Park.