If the actual port of Brussels finds itself today in the confines of an outer region, the city owes its rapid expansion to water. It was around the Senne that everything happened before any development had rendered Brussels a port within walls (intra-muros).
The ancient port of Brussels
It was in the 16th century that the first basins were dug having been reopened under the authority of Charles Buls and Joseph Poelaert (yes him again..). Today several street names remind us of the previous eras, for example : quai du Commerce, quai aux Briques, quai du Bois à brûler, quai aux Pierres de Taille...The Black Tower, one of the last vestiges of a period that brought Brussels to life (today taken over by a hotel), is still standing tall at number 29 Saint Catherine square...
The Fish Market (and restaurants)
The port of Brussels has basically disappeared, but the Saint Catherine Church still retains its style maintaining history in its own way. The square never forgot its past being the location of the covered fish market. Still today, fish reigns supreme on the menus at the restaurants in the area.
The area and the neighboring streets (rue de Flandre, Rue du Marché aux Porcs...) have become a sort of 'place to be' for amateurs of seafood. A glass of white wine and oysters can be found just nearby outside on the sidewalk, on the terrace or even for a moonlit dinner. For insatiable carnivores a great number of restaurants exist in the area for them as well. If you're looking to be seated at a reasonable time, don't forget to factor some extra time to find a parking space in the sometimes congested area. For those amateurs of the genre will note that the metro can have you within the heart of Sainte Catherine quite speedily and that several Villo stations (bike system) are around the square as well. Finally, you could always reserve a table at a restaurant with a valet service: le Jaloa, for example.
Tradition and modernity
Just nearby this pillar of cullinary greatness, the area maintains its proper identity as a historical centre especially where it meets rue Dansaert just near its end. In practice, this adds an art center set up in the first electrical power station (The Central Electric), a herbalist's shop (Desmecht) where naturalists can buy 100% natural products. It's also popular with restaurants owners looking for new flavors, a seductive show house (La Bellone) with its glassed back yard and its baroque façade. And following this further strain of bourgois ambiance, it's here that the students come (Madame de la Casquette) to find the cap, the coat of arms and other pieces that make up Belgian student group folklore. And finally, in winter, the square area always puts on its best lights for "Les Plaisirs d'Hiver" (Winter Wonders Festival). Lights, merry-go-rounds, chalets and hot wine take over the the area surrounding the ice skating rink in the heart of the city.