Stage 1

The birth of Brussels


Head to Anneessens Tower on Boulevard de l'Empereur, between numbers 34 and 36. This is one of the incredibly well-preserved remains of Brussels’ first city wall. These ramparts, built at the beginning of the 13th century, extended over 4km, with seven gates and an incredible 50 towers. For another relic of the original wall which protected Brussels, head to Rue de Villers where a curtain wall and another sandstone tower, the Villers tower, have been preserved.

Then make your way to the Bourse, where you’ll find Bruxella 1238, the archaeological remains of the Franciscan convent established in Brussels in 1238. The site is home to the tomb of John I, Duke of Brabant, who died in 1294. Unfortunately, the site is currently closed for archaeological works (which are said to have exhumed remains dating from the 11th century!). It is scheduled to reopen on 1 July 2023. In the meantime, a small part of it can still be seen from the glass roof on Rue de la Bourse. 

(For a little glimpse of the past, admire the magnificent Bourse, an eclectic building influenced by the neo-Renaissance, inaugurated in 1873 and designed by architects Léon-Pierre Suys and Jules Brunfaut (and which will house Belgian Beer World, the beer museum, from 1 July 2023).


Behind the Bourse, you’ll find Saint-Nicholas’ church, one of the city’s first four churches. The original Romanesque building dating back to the 12th century has disappeared, but the chancel, from 1381, still stands. The facade was rebuilt in 1956 following extensive damage.

Other sites that might interest you: The Black Tower, which is located behind Saint Catherine church and was part of Brussels’ first city wall; and the remains of Coudenberg Palace on Place des Palais (a square you will also discover later if you follow this itinerary). The palace, which dates back to the 11th century, was destroyed by a fire in 1731. However, you can see the remains of the kitchens, the cellars of the main building and the foundations of the famous Aula Magna ceremonial hall, where Charles V (1500-1558) abdicated in 1555.