Understand Brussels to better defend it!
Since 1977, ARAU has been a pioneer of urban tourism in Brussels and has offered unconventional guided tours that raise awareness of urban democracy and the role of residents in the development of their city. Over the decades, ARAU has also developed an expert knowledge of the city’s architectural and planning history, which it has passed on through its programme of guided tours that continue to play an essential role in the defence of the heritage buildings of Brussels. To learn more about the city’s best features, while at the same time developing a critical view of past and planned developments, join us!
Our programme of guided tours is divided into four main themes: “Must-sees”, “Architecture”, “Brussels in districts”, “The city in transformation”, “Summer trails“, “The Brussels House Through Time” , “Brussels, City of Trams” and “Social Brussels.
On request, ARAU can tailor all of its guided tours to the particular requirements of your group, throughout the year.
The buildings around the Grand’Place of Brussels, described as a “marvel” by the French writer Victor Hugo, have just undergone a comprehensive renovation that has restored all their splendour. Art Nouveau, a style conceived in the minds of a handful of genius designers, reminds us that Brussels was at the forefront of the artistic avant-garde at the end of the nineteenth century. The European district is home to some of the most important EU institutions: the Commission, the Council of Ministers, the Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee, placing it at the beating heart of the EU. These three unmissable guided tours examine each of these themes in depth.
Brussels has an extraordinarily rich and diverse architectural heritage. The gilded Baroque style of the buildings around the Grand’Place reminds us of the city’s glorious past. The Royal District is one of the most beautiful Neo-Classical ensembles ever built. Brussels is the “Capital of Art Nouveau” due to its many buildings in this distinctive style designed by Victor Horta, Paul Hankar and their disciples. In the inter-war years (1918-1939) Brussels did not miss out on the new Art Deco style, and is home to several iconic buildings in this style that are well worth a detour. Our “Architectures” guided tours reveal extraordinary buildings in every district of the city and place them in their historical contexts.
Brussels in districts
The development of the city and region of Brussels cannot be dissociated from that of the 19 communes and their hundred-or-so districts. From villages that have expanded from their centres, to planned new suburbs, these districts developed in a wide variety of heritage contexts, which ARAU will help you appreciate, along with their urban planning and architectural specificities. And, as thriving urban democracies all begin at a local level, these guided tours will include time for discussion about current proposals with the local residents who will be affected by them. An opportunity to understand our heritage environment and also the urban-planning processes, so as to be better equipped to take action in our own districts and for the city!
The city in transformation
ARAU has built on its analyses of urban development projects over more than 50 years to create these politically engaged and well-documented guided tours, that offer opportunities to critically unpick current urban planning projects, ranging from (re)conversion to (re)construction, and including debates on types of use for buildings and their impacts on the daily lives of residents. The routes followed show participants the issues around renovation projects and question their impacts on the city as a place to live. The guided tours travel around buildings or public spaces with outstanding heritage value. They aim to enrich the debate about the urban development of Brussels and offer an engaged reading of the city’s ever-evolving history.
ARAU now offers a new programme of short guided tours to make the most of long summer evenings in Brussels. Our guides have prepared ten new guided tours of areas off the beaten track in French and in English. These concentrated guided tours offer opportunities to discover less-well-known places and unusual themes: to be enjoyed without restraint the whole summer long!
The Brussels House Through Time
The model Brussels house of the nineteenth century, with its series of linked reception rooms, its lateral stairwell and its kitchen in the cellar is very specific. Many variations were built based on this model, offering a huge variety of homes in an equally large variety of decorative styles, making each house an individual masterpiece. The layout of homes would change significantly during the twentieth century, to adapt to lifestyle changes. This series of guided tours allows participants to explore a representative range of diverse interiors, each with its own story to tell, including details of its occupants, its street or its district, which have ceaselessly changed and been enriched, just like the city. Each guided tour includes public spaces that form the hub of a districts that are well worth a detour.
Brussels, City of Trams
The tram was and remains a major tool for urban expansion and provides an excellent means of exploring cities. While trams have disappeared from many European capitals, Brussels retains a dense tram network that contributes to the city’s identity. ARAU celebrates the city’s trams in several of its guided tours. Participants are equipped with earpieces into which the guide murmurs everything you always wanted to know as you cross the city and watch its buildings and landmarks pass by. The history of the city, its architecture and urban mobility blend along the tram tracks as we travel along the iconic routes of its tram network. A truly immersive guided tour.
The garden suburbs of Brussels celebrate their centenary in 2022: an excellent opportunity to immerse yourselves in the long story of the fight for accessible and decent housing in Brussels and to wander across the whole region to explore the huge amount of architectural and town-planning creativity that accompanied and supported the demand for social housing. From nineteenth-century workers’ housing to contemporary social housing via the garden suburbs, which form an unmissable part of the rich and proud Brussels cityscape, ARAU has devised a series of varied itineraries on foot or by bike!
Guided tours for individuals or groups
Guided tours for individuals
Don’t wait a moment longer to explore the next guided tours of the season! Our programme includes: guided tours about the history and architectural heritage of Brussels, guided tours of districts which end by meeting people who live there, and our new “City in transformation” tours which explore current projects that are in the news and that raise new questions in the debate about urban development.
Guided tours for groups
Would you like to follow a guided tour of Brussels with your family, friends, or as part of a team building or a school outing?
ARAU can arrange guided tours for groups in addition to its public programme throughout the year. You can tailor these tours to your specific requirements regarding date, time, duration and language (French, English, Dutch, German, Spanish or Italian).