If there’s one landmark you should definitely see in Brussels, Belgium, it should be Manneken Pis, the small statue of a peeing boy. It has a lot of interesting stories behind it, this so-called symbol of the rebellious spirit of Brussels.
Manneken Pis, made by sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy in 1388, is a small bronze fountain sculpture, less than three feet high, urinating into a basin. He has a lot of costumes, replaced every now and then to fit the season and event.
When I saw him (okay, I know I should call him “it” but I identify him as a boy!), he was fully dressed in red, with no pee in sight, as it was winter.
There are a lot of stories about Manneken Pis; a common thread running along them is that the boy used his pee to defeat Belgium’s enemy, either by urinating on the attacking soldiers, causing an explosion with his urine, or putting out a fire by peeing on it, thereby saving the kingdom.
Visiting Manneken Pis is definitely one of the best things to do in Belgium. Most tourists coming from the Brussels Town Hall and the Grand Place automatically go to him afterwards. The street leading up to his fountain is lined with chocolate stores and waffle shops. Loved my very touristy waffle with a lot of cream on top (5 euros!).
Did you know though that Manneken Pis also has a “sister”? The statue of Jeanneke Pis was made only in the mid 1980s to provide a counterpart to Manneken Pis. It depicts a small girl-child in pigtails, squatting to pee, seemingly happy and content with what she’s doing.
Almost nobody visits Jeanneke Pis, though. She’s located in a narrow alley off Rue des Bouchers, a street full of restaurants. The statue is also enclosed in iron bars for protection against vandals, making it hard to appreciate her.
Still, Jeanneke Pis is relatively young, compared to her centuries-old “brother.” So when you go to Brussels, do her a favor and visit her. Throw a coin into her fountain and make a wish, for it is said that whoever does so will have their wish come true.
Finally, go visit Manneke and Jeanneke’s peeing dog, Zinneke Pis. Zinneke is not close to the Grand Place, but the walk to its location in Rue des Chartreux is very doable.
Unlike the children, though, Zinneke is not a fountain but an art installation. Created by Tom Frantzen in 1998, Zinneke (the Flemish word for “mongrel”) was modeled after the artist’s own dog.
Belgium does have its share of unique and quirky statues (like the fat man in the town of Pamel) and fountains. Check some out when you’re there!