For any Tintin fans out there, Brussels is a must.
We arrived at the Gare du Midi railway station on Saturday 28 September at 12.08 pm. We had taken the Eurostar from Kings Cross St Pancras which departed at 9.00 am and took 2 hours through Calais, Lille and then Brussels. As soon as we got off the train we headed for the tourist information in the station itself because I had read on the internet that you could buy a tourist map for 50 cents which highlighted a walk around the city of all the places that inspired Hergé or relevant shops pertinent to Tintin and his friends. The map itself is numbered so that you can do the walk in a chronological order but because of the location of our hotel we decided to visit the different spots in an order that suited us best.
In the Gare du Midi railway station is the first Tintin reference (reference number 5 on the map). A huge mural of ‘Tintin in America’ on the wall to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Hergé’s birth. Incredible to see what and how much this comic character means to the city of Brussels and this becomes more and more evident as you walk the Tintin trail. It is evident that Hergé is a huge national treasure and his artwork can be seen and referenced in many different ways as you tour around Brussels.
Next stop was the Editions du Lombard, Avenue Paul-Henri Spaak 7 (reference number 6 on the map). This is a listed building with a huge symbolic statute of the heads of Tintin and Snowy. The relevance of this building is that this is the publishing company who printed the ‘Tintin’ magazine for a number of years. We were so amazed by this statue that on our final day we took another look before leaving the city.
From there we walked to Rue Terre-Neuve 26 (reference number 7). This was Hergé’s grandmother’s house. It is said that Hergé often visited his grandmother and that she was a source for his inspiration, for Tintin’s address – Rue du Labrador 26.
Continuing with our walk on to Rue de l’Étuve (reference number 8). Just along from the Manneken Pis statue you can see another huge mural of Tintin along with Captain Haddock and Snowy. This is from ‘The Calculus Affair’ comic. It was quite funny because we were walking along trying to find this mural and couldn’t see it and couldn’t understand why we couldn’t see it because we had followed the map but it was nowhere to be seen. We turned around and there it was, it was huge, took up the whole side of a building from top to bottom. The picture doesn’t do it credit as you can’t appreciate how big it is from the image.
A little further on from the Grand Palace is the Boutique Tintin – Rue de la Colline 13 (reference number 9). A wonderful little shop with everything Tintin. Comics, prints, models, notepads you name it.
Next was the Galleries Saint-Hubert, Galerie du Roi 32 (reference number 10). This is where a one off play by Hergé called ‘Tintin aux Indes ou le Mystère du Diamant Bleu) was performed. The gallery is now full of exquisite shops selling anything from hats, gloves through to chocolate – which of course is a big seller in Brussels, Belgium chocolate.
La Monnaie, Place de la Monnaie was next (reference number 11). The interior of this theatre, The Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie was the inspiration for the Music Hall Palace in the ‘The Seven Crystal Balls’ comic. We didn’t get the opportunity to see inside this but were able to look through the windows and see some incredible candelabras in the foyer of the theatre.
A short walk on from the theatre was Hotel Métropole, Place de Brouckère 31 (reference number 12). Huge and impressive, in its appearance. This building was drawn as a background in ‘The Seven Crystal Balls’ comic. It is remarkable how Hergé took his inspiration for many of his drawings from the things he experienced on a daily basis and to be able to see and experience these things for ourselves is great.
From there we went to unpack at our hotel. We had been up since 6.00 am and hadn’t stopped, so needed to and wanted to take some time to relax. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, crikey what a treat, would highly recommend it. And what a breakfast, but I’ll tell you more about that on day 2 of our visit to Brussels.
So we unpacked and had a rest for a little while before heading out again. We decided to take a cab back to the city centre having spent all of the day walking around.
Opposite the park is the Place des Palais – Royal Palace (reference point 2). The palace is immaculate and pristine; we were told by the cab driver that this particular palace is the smaller of two palaces for the royal family in Brussels. In the comic book ‘King Ottokar’s Sceptre’, the Royal Palace of Muskar XII was based on the Place des Palais.
Then it was time for dinner. We had really enjoyed the ambience of the Grand-Place Grote Markt and its surrounding streets so we made our way back there and had a lovely meal in a quiet little restaurant away from the tourists. Struck me as more of a locals haunt, the food was great.
Breakfast, wow. What a way to start your day. The food was amazing and we definitely made the most of it. I had scrambled eggs, bacon (which was unreal), hash browns plus bread roll, then melon and grapes plus the obvious coffee.
That is what I choose but I could have had anything from cold meats, chesses, paella, waffles etc.
Something which cannot be missed if you are a Tintin fan is the Musée Hergé Museum. This museum is not on the Tintin walk around the city but suggested as a place of interest. We had both heard of this museum which opened only about 2 years ago so it was one of the main reasons for going to Brussels. The museum is slightly outside the city so you do need to allow plenty of time to spend travelling to it.
We caught a train from Brussel-Noord through to Ottignies and then changed onto a train to take us through to Louvain-La-Neuve Univ, probably took us about 45 minutes.
We felt it was quite an unusual place to have built the museum at because it was primarily a university town but having said that it meant the place wasn’t crowded with tourists.
The museum is incredible, three floors high and with its own restaurant and shop. There must have been over 800 exhibits all relating to Hergé with the main focus obviously on the Tintin comics but included other artwork from his other comic characters – Jo, Zette and Jocko and Quick & Flupke.
The original drawings and artwork for many of the Tintin comics was awesome, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. You learnt how Hergé originally drew the pictures in pencil, then Indian ink and gouache. Once the picture was completed it would be passed to the next person who was in charge of drawing the background in, then passing the picture on to have the colour added by the two ladies who worked for Hergé. Consistency of colour was paramount, throughout the comics.
Many of the original models used for the different comics were created and then used as a model to draw from. For example we saw the shark submarine model used for the ‘Red Rackham’s Treasure’ comic. Also a small but detailed model of the rocket used in the drawings for ‘Explorers On the Moon’ – really incredible.
The museum is really worth visiting. To get the opportunity to see some of the original artwork is such a treat and as any Tintin fan will know, the beauty is in the drawings.
Whilst I was at the museum I bought a limited edition print of a scene from ‘The Crab With The Golden Claws’. I am so thrilled with it because it was drawn in Indian ink and looks great at home now on my lounge wall.
On the way back from Louvain-La-Neuve-Univ we decided to head straight back into Gare du Midi railway station to continue on with a couple more points of interest for Tintin fans marked on the map.
We made our way to Rue des Sables 20, the Belgian Comic Strip Center (reference number 13). This is a lovely shop with wrought iron bars on the windows, which gives it an old fashioned and cultured appearance. From the outside it is not obvious that it is what it is, so you need to look fairly closely for this place. Inside I had my picture taken with a statute of Tintin, which can be seen in the main foyer. Again everything and anything Tintin can be seen and purchased here.
On your way to the next Tintin reference point, you walk past Cathédrale Kathedrall. A beautiful, surreal and inspirational place, this is well worth a visit. We were lucky enough to be there whilst a service was going on, so we could appreciate the ambience of the cathedral in all its beauty.
Boulevard de l’Impératrice 1, the Comic Strip House (reference number 14) was next. Another, lovely little shop – showcasing comic strip authors, old and new. If you love comics this is definitely the place to visit because it appeared to me, to cater for all.
Our last stop of the day was the Museum of Original Figurines (reference number 15). This museum was not as easy to find but worth the time taken to locate it. The museum has a unique collection of figurines from a number of different comics but my time in Brussels was all about Tintin, and without fail they were able to cater for this, as they had a huge amount based on Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock and his friends.
Breakfast as before was amazing.
We then took a cab to the Park of Brussels and from there walked down towards the Place Poelaert-Plein. To the right of this building there is a lift or you can walk down to the street level if you want below – Rue Haute.
Further along at Rue Haute 195 (reference number 3) there is a huge mural of Quick and Flupke on the side of a building. Isn’t it bizarre how you forget to look up, obviously not a natural instinct, luckily we did at the right moment otherwise we would have missed the mural. Quick and Flupke did appear briefly in ‘Tintin in the Congo’ and ‘The Shooting Star’ comics.
Our final visit was to the flea market, Place du Jeu de Balle (reference number 4). It was great to see and experience this market because this is where Tintin discovered the boat, La Licorne (Unicorn) right at the beginning of ‘The Secret of the Unicorn’ adventure.
So that is our Tintin and Hergé adventure around the city of Brussels. Definitely a great experience for all those Tintin fans out there and one I would positively recommend. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Tintin, Snowy and his friends and learnt loads.