2019 will be the 11th time that Brussels welcomes the Tour de France. It’ll also be, after 1958, the second Grand Départ staged in the Belgian capital. Capital of Belgium but also headquarters of the European Union, the City of Brussels (180 000 inhabitants) is located in the heart of the Brussels- Capital region that counts close to 1 200 000 inhabitants and includes 18 communs.
The City of Brussels is divided into several different areas:
- The Pentagon that owes its name to its geographical shape is the historical centre. It’s full of surprises and hidden areas to explore. With the Grand-Place, Manneken-Pis, Atomium, all manner of parades, Winter Wonders chalets, Brussels Beach during the summer and lively festivals, there’s always something new to see and do in central Brussels.
- To the north are the old villages of Laeken, Haren and Neder-Over-Heembeek, which merged with the city in 1921. These three areas have their own identity and show another side to Brussels.
- ... Not forgetting the Quartier des Squares, European Quarter, the Northern Quarter, the Avenue Louise and the stunning Bois de la Cambre.
Brussels also has many innovative projects: sustainable development, local regeneration, participatory budgeting, community initiatives, a rich and varied cultural and sporting programme… It’s not for nothing that the city was destined to welcome the Grand Départ of the 2019 Tour de France.
BRUSSELS, MORE THAN JUST A CAPITAL
Capital of Belgium and seat of the European Union, the City of Brussels is located in the heart of the Brussels-Capital region and surrounded by independent suburbs.
The City of Brussels is divided into several different areas:
The Pentagon. An historic centre with ancient walls, it takes its name from its five-sided shape. It’s full of surprises and hidden areas to explore. With the Grand-Place, Manneken-Pis, Atomium, all manner of parades, Winter Wonders chalets, Brussels Beach and lively festivals, there’s always something new to see and do in central Brussels.
To the north are the old villages of Laeken, Haren and Neder-Over-Heembeek, which merged with the city in 1921. These three areas of Brussels have their own identity and show another side to the city.
Not forgetting the Northern Quarter, Quartier des Squares, European Quarter, Quartier Louise and the stunning Bois de la Cambre.
Brussels also has many innovative projects: sustainable development, local regeneration, participatory budgeting, community initiatives, a rich and varied cultural and sporting programme… It’s not for nothing that the city has been chosen to host the Grand Départ of the 2019 Tour de France.
BRUSSELS AND THE TOUR DE FRANCE
In 2019, it will be the 11th time that Brussels welcomes the Tour de France. After 1958, it will also be the second Grand Départ taking place in the capital of Belgium. And of course it’ll be the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx’s first victory on la Grande Boucle.
1947. The first time the Tour de France stops in Brussels. Stage victory going to Frenchman René Vietto.
1949. Double success for Belgian Roger Lambrecht, stage winner and yellow jersey.
1958. Atomium, Universal Exhibition and Grand Départ of the Tour. Brussels is the place to be.
1979. The time-trial competed in the streets of the Belgian capital is conquered by Bernard Hinault.
2010. Last visit of the Tour. Italian Alessandro Petacchi wins after a bunched sprint.
« I WASN’T EXPECTING SUCH AN OVATION »
Eddy Merckx, the Yellow Jersey and Brussels have a common history punctuated by (almost) improvised meetings. Sport meets a city, a nation… and even a king.
Faites Attention Eddy Merckx Arrive (Beware Eddy Merckx is arriving), a sentence used by the smart followers of the Tour as a reference to the letters of his FAEMA team, an Italian coffee brand presenting the most anticipated team of the 1969 Tour. Whether by chance or coincidence, after the start in Roubaix, the race would include on its course Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, the common where the Merckx family had its grocery store. The sprint of the first half-stage was claimed by Marino Basso, but Merckx took command of the general classification in the after-noon after the team timetrial. At home, in front of his fans. “My entire family and all my friends were there. I had also won the Giro the year before and everyone had been waiting for 30 years to see a Belgian win the Tour de France* again.”
To start his Tour life in yellow could have satisfied the young conqueror who was already focused on the future after that dream day: “I’ve reached my first goal, to capture the Yellow Jersey at home. Now the other goal is to bring it back there. But the Tour has only just started”, he immediately told L’Équipe. The race plan was respected when he carried the Jersey during 140kms on a solo breakaway to Mourenx while he had already won the race. “Madness”, he analysed in retrospect. His mission was accomplished on the Velodrome de La Cipale. And destiny that year saw the race finish on the eve of the Belgian National Day… a perfect calendar as the national hero returned on home soil: ”We were welcomed by King Baudouin and then here was a reception at the City Hall. The Grand Place of Brussels was packed with people. I wasn’t expecting such an ovation, it was incredible, very moving. I realised that I had won the Tour de France and that was already a childhood dream. It really was a day like no other!”
*The last Belgian winner was Sylvère Maes in 1939
Wednesday, July 3
Opening of the headquarters and press centre at Brussels Expo
Thursday, July 4
Tour de France 2019 teams presentation in Grand-Place
Saturday, July 6
1st stage, Bruxelles > Charleroi > Brussels
Sunday, July 7
2nd stage, Bruxelles Palais Royal > Brussel Atomium (Team TT)
Les Ateliers du Tour
Thursday, July 4: 2pm – 8pm
Friday, July 5: 10am – 7pm
Saturday, July 6: 10am – 7pm
Sunday, July 7: 11am – 6pm
De Brouckère Square, located in the city centre of Brussels.
Brussels Airport is 12km from Brussels city centre, while Brussels South Charleroi Airport is 45km from the city centre
Thalys offers numerous daily departures from Paris
Trip length: 1.5 hours
310km from Paris to Brussels via the highway