I lived in Brussels until 1999 and at the time that I left it, it suffered from quite a lot of dereliction. I was back there in Decemer 2012 and it was still, in many respects, quite grey. The fact that it was winter probably didn’t hugely help there though.
However, I was there last week and obviously, in summer, the sun was shining and it was a bright and dressed up city. Quite a lot of the dereliction has been cleaned up; they have retained a lot of the building frontage so that renovated buildings still retain what are often beautiful art deco exteriors. I’d forgotten some of the more beautiful parts of town as well.
One building which really is worth a trip – particularly if you are a musician – is the Museum of Musical Instruments. The collection has been building up over time; there is a very fine collection of traditional instruments from across the world, including sets of pipes which I did not know existed, for example. They have a phenomenal collection of European stringed instruments and every variety of a violin which you did not know existed. When I was there, they also had a significant exhibition of the instruments of Adolph Sax.
The building it is housed in was completely derelict when I left Brussels. It was built at the end of the 19th century for a chain of department stories called Old England. I’m not fully au fait with the commercial history of the company but the shop was long past to history by the time I arrived in Brussels more than 15 years ago. It was an iron built building.
The interior has a lot in common with multistory department stories of the time (the old Samaritaine building Paris was not dissimilar for example) and there is, in addition to the musical instrument collection a rather interesting exhibition on the subject of the building as well.
All in all, I really enjoyed the trip in there so am glad to have gone and I would recommend it pretty much to anyone in the vicinity.