Manneken Pis & Maison du Roi: Meeting Brussels’ Most Famous Resident
CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER LIDOWSKI
When planning a trip, most of us spend some time researching what we should budget time to see and do. We discover some hidden gems earlier travelers came across that we may not have stumbled upon on our own or learn about a famous, must-see site that every tourist pencils in on an agenda.
Like everyone else, I took some time to plan what I wanted to see while visiting Brussels, Belgium. I shared the to-do and must-see lists with my kids, who quickly began to giggle. It turns out that a top site to visit in Brussels is a fountain featuring a little boy peeing. Thus, the giggles began.
The Manneken Pis, which roughly translates to Little Man Peeing, stands at the corner of Rue de l’Étuve/Stoofstraat and Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat. References to the fountain date back to 1452 when it was part of Brussels’ elaborate drinking water distribution system. The original fountain was replaced in 1619 with the famous figure that visitors now flock to see (a replica of the 1619 Manneken Pis is now on display so that the original sculpture can be preserved).
No one knows exactly why the fountain features a nude little boy relieving himself, but my kids were pretty sure that whoever it was modeled after must have been pretty embarrassed when the fountain went up in the middle of town. Many people love to offer stories to explain how the Manneken Pis became so famous. Some say that he is based on a little boy who put out a fire (you can guess how) before it could engulf the heart of Brussels. Others say that a wealthy merchant commissioned the fountain after locals searched the streets of Brussels to find his lost little boy, who was found safe urinating behind a building.
To hear a seemingly endless supply of tales surrounding Brussels’ most famous resident, a visit to the Manneken Pis should be followed by a trip to the Maison du Roi, or the Museum of the City of Brussels.
The museum is just a few blocks away from the fountain in Brussels’ famous Grand-Place. The Grand-Place, or Grote Markt, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is Brussels’ central square, which gained prominence in the 14th century as a center of commerce. Its grandeur grew during the 15th and 16th century as guildhalls and municipal buildings were constructed. The square and its towering structures were reconstructed after a 1695 fire begun by a French bombardment damaged much of the area. A second reconstruction period in the late 19th century restored the Grand-Place to its original glory. The museum is housed in a prominent Neo-Gothic building that faces the equally impressive city hall.
The museum allows visitors to browse exhibits featuring the art and history of the city. But, many visitors come to catch a sight of the original Manneken Pis and his costumes. The boy in the fountain is reported to have over 900 outfits. The outfits celebrate cultures and countries from around the world, holidays, and famous figures. Throughout the year, the Manneken Pis gets to dress up in some of his costumes.
The museum has an entire wing dedicated to displaying about 100 of the costumes at a time. If visitors want to search for or see a specific outfit, computer kiosks are available where key words can be typed in and matching images pop up. The Manneken Pis seems to have made the Maison du Roi his personal closet, but visitors should not overlook the stunningly beautiful displays of religious artwork, tapestries, and porcelain found in the museum.
My kids may have giggled when they first heard about the Manneken Pis, but they were pretty excited to visit him in person and see that, yes, a little boy peeing is the most famous resident of Brussels. I’m guessing that other travelers will have similar reactions when they plan out their visits to Brussels. The fountain and the museum deserve places on your “must see” list.
The Manneken Pis is a five minute walk southwest of the Grand-Place at the corner of Rue de l’Étuve/Stoofstraat and Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat. The Maison du Roi is located in Brussels’ Grand-Place at 1000 Brussels. It is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Closing time is extended to 8:00 PM on Thursdays. It is closed Mondays and on January 1st, 5th, and 11th, November 11th, and December 25th. Tickets cost 4 Euro for adults, 3 Euro for seniors and students, and 2 Euro for children. Children under the age of 18 are free on weekends. More information can be found at the museum website or by calling 02 279 43 50.
Tips for Your Trip:
Manneken Pis website (Yes, this small statue has it’s own website!)
Rue du Chêne 2
1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
How to find it:
At the junction of Rue de l’Étuve/Stoofstraat and Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat. To find it, one takes the left lane next to the Brussels Town Hall from the famous Grand Place and walks a few hundred metres southwest via Rue Charles Buls/Karel Bulsstraat.
Maison du Roi
Grand Place 29
1000 Brussels, Brussels, Belgium
How to find it:
This is the center of the city and there are many signs pointing you here.
Tuesday – Sunday: 1000 – 1700
Closing time is extended to 2000 on Thursdays.
Closed in observance of: January 1st, 5th, and 11th, November 11th, and December 25th
Seniors & Students: €3.00
Children under the age of 18 are free on weekends
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