Manneken Pis: Brussels’ Underwhelming Icon

Many people love to see silly landmarks, just for the entertainment value. If you’re one of them, don’t miss the famous statue of Brussels, the Manneken Pis. It’s often said to be the icon or the most photographed monument of the city. It’s definitely one of the city’s top tourist attractions, and probably the world’s most famous statue of a urinating boy. Hey, if it’s very famous, it can’t be that bad, right? Perhaps it’s decorative, perhaps it’s quite big, at least bigger than its replicas around the world, right? Well, prepared to be disappointed: It’s none of those things! Whatever you’re imagining, even after what we’ve said, it’s probably even smaller and duller than that.

So, let me try to describe exactly what it looks like. It’s a bronze statue of a naked little boy, urinating merrily. Of course the boy is doing it appropriately by holding “it” with his left hand, to avoid making a mess. It’s only 61 cm tall (about 2 feet). For a famous monument, this is not just small. It’s tiny!

The fountain runs non stop. Poor little Julien, as French call him, must have drunk an awful lot of water to be able to make such an everlasting stream of urine. If you are lucky enough, he is connected to a keg of beer and the realistically yellow beer-urine will be caught in cups and given to you. If that was the case when we were there, it would’ve been my highlight of Brussels!

Another good time to visit the bronze boy if when he wears some seasonal costumes – he has hundreds of them – such as Count Draculla or Santa Claus costumes. Imagine the indignity of Count Dracula urinating in public. With that many costumes from around the world, guess which costume we got to see? None! It was the butt naked Julien! Maybe I should consider us lucky because we got to see the statue in its original state.

Manneken Pis, Brussels

To give credit to the Manneken Pis, it does have some historical value. To start with, this age-defying boy is almost 400 years old. Jerome Duquesnoy created the boy in 1619, and probably you want to be there in the year 2019 to see how Bruxellois celebrate his quad-centennial. There are several legends around the boy: in my favorite version, the boy is actually a two year old lord that at one point urinated over his enemies who were so demoralised they lost the battle.

If you love the urinating boy, you might want to see his female equal: Jeanneke Pis. She’s a statue of a little girl with pigtails, squatting, and guess what? Urinating! Duh! In her 20s, Jeanneke is much younger than Julien.

Manneken Pis chocolate, Brussels

Want to bring home a Manneken Pis in more delicious format? Why not grab a full size chocolate statue of Manneken Pis. He even comes in various gaudy colors! I’m not sure the chocolate replicas come with the urinating hose, but even if not, I think you can modify it yourself with your favorite liquid to enjoy!

It was pretty disappointing, but we had a lot of fun joking about this little fellow and in the end we’re glad we went. Have you seen an overrated tourist attraction? Something that’s so silly it’s fun? Share your experiences in the comments!

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34 Responses to “Manneken Pis: Brussels’ Underwhelming Icon”

  1. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World
    1 February 2011 at 11:36 am #

    I remember seeing that boy. Also in his butt-naked glory. Would love to see him in a Count Drakula costume, that would be something — a peeing Count Drakula.
    Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World´s last post…Between Now And Then

    • Dina
      1 February 2011 at 1:29 pm #

      Exactly!

  2. Zablon
    1 February 2011 at 11:50 am #

    that boy has been peeing for 400 years!!1

    • Dina
      1 February 2011 at 1:30 pm #

      “almost” 400 years. Good thing the government didn’t attempt to put diapers on him, that will be too expensive, 400 years of diapers supply.

  3. Heather
    1 February 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    I think it would be a little weird eating a candy version of the statue! Ha!
    Heather´s last post…Sydney- The Inner West is Best

    • Dina
      1 February 2011 at 9:05 pm #

      Haha, never thought it that way before, but you are right! I think I will chomp the head off first (always do that to gummy bears)

  4. Nancie
    1 February 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    I saw him many years ago. He never ages…haha. Looks like you had fun!

    • Dina
      1 February 2011 at 9:05 pm #

      Too bad that he’s frozen as 2 years old. Most people (especially girls) will choose to be around 20s :)

  5. Amy
    1 February 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    It is very underwhelming, but it can be funnier to look back at all the tourists taking photos of their friends with Manneken Pis in the background! A very strange city icon….
    Amy´s last post…Props to the Barefoot Pilgrims!

    • Dina
      3 February 2011 at 3:32 am #

      very strange… and the statue looks so small in the picture…

  6. Andrea
    1 February 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    How quirky! Especially the costumes and edible versions…will have to check it out if we go to Brussels…we skipped it last time because we had to get to Paris quickly from Bruges.
    Andrea´s last post…Franz Josef vs Fox Glacier- Which Glacier Hike Should I Choose

    • Dina
      3 February 2011 at 3:33 am #

      Haha! I hope next time you can drink beer from it!

  7. Maria Pavel
    1 February 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    Hi Dina,

    Seems like you had a lot of fun. Brusells is a great city, I like it too, that Manneken Pis is having prostate problems, LOOOL. Funny joke that one about diapers, hehe.

    Have you seen an overrated tourist attraction?
    – Nope, I don’t think so… Every tourist attraction I’ve saw impressed me in a way or another and wasn’t overrated.

    Something that’s so silly it’s fun?
    – This Manneken Pis is the ultimate silly and funny statue, hehehe.

    Thank you very much for sharing this great article! Keep up the good work!

    Best regards,

    Maria
    Maria Pavel´s last post…How To Become A CNA Instructor

    • Dina
      3 February 2011 at 3:34 am #

      It’s very silly, isn’t it!

  8. Alison
    2 February 2011 at 5:16 am #

    Ah poor little Manneken Pis… :) You can actually go and see all of his hundreds of costumes the the city museum (The Maison du Roi in Grand Place). They take up an entire floor and have been donated by countries and celebrities around the world. He also pees beer for special occasions :)

    • Dina
      3 February 2011 at 3:36 am #

      Yea, I realized that in the end of our stay there, and we didn’t have the change to visit the wardrobe, too bad! I’m curious now!

  9. Sabina
    2 February 2011 at 9:14 am #

    Very, very cute colorful little statues. And I love your scarf!! I’ve only been to Oostende, Belgium, although I did have a layover in Brussels last year. I didn’t leave the airport because we got in at like 5:00 a.m. and were leaving again about 9:00. Oh, well.

    • Dina
      3 February 2011 at 3:38 am #

      Yea, the timing sounds tight!
      Thanks for the compliment in the scarf! I bought it for myself because it was my birthday. It was very cheap, a few euro only. It has the texture that always get caught in something and fray!

  10. Chris - The Aussie Nomad
    2 February 2011 at 9:49 am #

    I went and got a look at him last year. At the time he was getting an outfit change which was quite the popular attraction.

    You can also checkout some of his old outfits at the City Museum and I have to say, that boy has one fine looking wardrobe.

    • Dina
      3 February 2011 at 3:40 am #

      You definitely were there in the more exciting time that ours! Too bad we missed out the wardrobe, didn’t realize it until too late. So if there’s a next time in Brussels, I have at least 1 thing I must do!

  11. Andrew
    2 February 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    I understand why you mentioned Manneken Pis on my Pissing Statues post. :)

    When we went, it was a great time. Step 1, go first to the pub in the main square. Drink 4-5 beers. Step 2, have your drunk group leader try to get every single group of tourists to let him be in their pictures of them in front of the statue. Add 20 drunken college students and mix. It was a pretty fun time.
    Andrew´s last post…Peeing in Winter

    • Dina
      6 February 2011 at 8:13 pm #

      Haha, that must be so fun to watch! I like the idea your group leader is in many photos of Manneken Pis with people from all over the world.
      And it’s nice we have the same post theme, peeing ;)

  12. Doc@Spokane Chiropractor
    2 February 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    I agree, it is far overrated, honestly the best tourist spots are far from the insane tourist trap vendors and in the heart of smaller cities overseas.

    • Dina
      6 February 2011 at 8:14 pm #

      We found so many great stuff indeed off beaten path!

  13. ciki
    4 February 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    hi guys! we are back.. and great blog you’ve got here. We just linked ya:)

  14. Erica
    5 February 2011 at 4:44 am #

    I think it is totally fun to go and see overrated touristy spots. I mean, you can make your own adventure out of something millions have done!
    Erica´s last post…Seduced by British Columbia

    • Dina
      6 February 2011 at 8:15 pm #

      Agree with you!

  15. Suzy
    6 February 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    I had the same feelings you did when I saw Brussels’ most famous resident. I remember coming up to it and asking my friend why all these people were standing around. You couldn’t even see him he was so small. I would definitely not want a candy replica. Sounds disgusting ha!
    Suzy´s last post…Antigua- Guatemala Wishes You Were Here

    • Dina
      6 February 2011 at 8:16 pm #

      Too bad, I bet they (the candy replicas) come in your favourite color or even pattern!!

  16. Cheryl Howard
    6 February 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    Ba ha ha! This is hilarious. I could never have imagined that a statue of a peeing boy could become so famous. I too would be underwhelmed by the sight of the little urinatinating little guy. :)

    • Dina
      6 February 2011 at 8:17 pm #

      I know, it’s the most wanted boy in Brussels!

  17. Aloys Jacobs
    8 February 2011 at 4:29 am #

    Did you know the statue standing there in the plaza is not the original one? The real guy sits together with his outfits in that Maison du Roi museum. They put him there for safekeeping, he had been vandalized many times. Sounds like an important little fellow :)

    • Dina
      8 February 2011 at 11:31 am #

      Yeah, we know that later on, but not when we were there. He is indeed a very special little fellow!

  18. peter reynders
    6 January 2012 at 3:05 am #

    Manneken Pis is far frorm silly landmark, though it’s free world and opnions are free too. It is a piece of real art history, with a whole list of underlying explanations regarding the history or myths that may have given rise to it. It replaced another such statue placed in Brussels in the 14th century that had been stolen in 1618.
    Rembrandt is likely to have been inspired by its story, in painting in 1635 his “Ganemade”,a painting of the little Troyan Prince stolen by an eagle to be come the calamite of Jupiter.
    He shows the infant screaming and urinating (hence the likely MP inspiration) on the mythic glorification of pederasty but also to irrigate the earth, hinting at the other legend of Ganemade becoming the constellation of Aquarius.

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