Brussels is not just a series of grand gestures or a haven for the smooth and sophisticated. That's where the area of "LES MAROLLES" comes to our attention. A traditionally rebellious lower town, just southwest, behind the Palais de Justice. This workmen and lower social revenues have been for centuries implicated in numerous uprisings, like the faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. When the palais de justice was built at the end of the 19th century, it was largely amputated. Nowhere else are the social and economic problems of many of the capital's inhabitants more graphically illustrated than here. The poorer sections of the community who have to grapple with unemployment and sub standard housing congregate in this quarter of the city.
This area doesn't have major monuments, but you come here more for the communitarian atmosphere and a chaffer spirit. Narrow alleys, steep flights of steps and tiny shops selling goods from all corners over the world, this is the genuine Marolles. Unfortunately this "Marollien" is dying specie, rebuking the "European vision" of the city, bringing dramatic changments and accelerations of the pace of life.
A good starting point to visit the Marolles is the TOUR ANNEESSENS, vestige of the first medieval wall around Brussels, further on you notice the EGLISE NOTRE DAME DE LA CHAPELLE, which main feature inside is a memorial to Pieter Breughel the Elder (1525-1569), who got married in this church, and realized by his son, Jan Breughel.
Continue in the rue Haute, lined with shops and houses without character, replaced by more elegant restaurants around the rue de l'Epée and the place Pieter Brueghel, where he lived at no.132, now transformed into a museum.
Make now a right into the rue des Renards up to the place du Jeu de Balle where a very famous OLD MARKET, the biggest flea market of the city is held every morning from 7.00 to 13.00 and particularly animated on weekends. It is possible to discover some bargains, but you have to have a fine nose. And lie all good amateurs of brocante and knick-knacks, you can have a rest and a drink, and why not, a bite, in one of the surrounding small cafes and restaurants. Take the rue Haute again until the boulevard du Midi, make a left and climb up the boulevard up to the Place Louise (or Porte Louise), where it is a whole different world that waits you.
Very animated, with all the high fashion names, shops lined next to each other. Chanel, Prada, Dior…name it, it is there. Galerie Louise and Galerie de la Toison d'Or are the modern versions of the galleries Saint-Hubert (see my post in the lower city), The Hilton hotel shows off with its ugly high-rise profile.
This very commercial artery (avenue de la Toison d'Or and boulevard de Waterloo)) has the advantage of a pedestrian, very large sidewalk, where cafes, terraces flourish in these nice days and the queues in front of the movie theatres.
Next pots will lead us to one of Brussels' highlights!! The Horta house and the history of Art Nouveau building in Brussels.
"Guide illustré de Bruxelles "by D.des Marez (Brussels 1979), " Gids " voor Vlaanderen (Vlaamse Toeristenbond), "Brussel, groei van een hoofdstad, by Jean Stengers (Antwerp, 1979), Guides du Routard (ed.Hachette 1979)"Vlaanderen's roem", by Guido Peeters (Brussels 1975), "Bruxelles au Moyen Age", by A. Joris ( Paris 1987),"Brussels : Fin De Siecle", by Philippe Roberts-Jones(Evergreen Series),"Brussels : The Art of Living", by Piet Swimberghe(1998)