Grand Place

Brussels Travel Blog

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The most amazing tower on the Grand Place. Here in a fabulous light on a beautiful Sunday afternoon

Grand-Place also known in Dutch as Grote Markt is a square in Brussels.  Grote Markt is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Belgium, the square is very beautiful and homogeny and surrounded by both private and public buildings, which mainly are from the end of the 16th century, due to a French bombardment had destroyed the original square in 1695. The houses were rebuilt during only five years with money from the cities rich guild. The result is a unique blend of renaissance and baroque and on top of this also south- and north European building traditions. The architecture reflects the rich social and cultural life of that period in this important cultural and political centre.   


The harmonic picture and the many detailed decorations on the facades secures that the square has special atmosphere, especially in the summers when all the cafés and restaurants are filled with people.

The Head quarter of the Belgian Post Group
Nowadays, the Grand-Place is the main tourist attraction of the City of Brussels. All through the year it is visited by thousands who like to spend some time wandering around and admiring the beautiful buildings, or sitting down on one of the many terraces having a good Belgian beer. Concerts and musical happenings are organized all through the year on the square. The most famous events that take place here are the annual Ommegang (an historical procession at the beginning of July) and the biennial flower carpet.


Grand-Place/Grote Markt is on UNESCO’s list and the landmark is without a doubt the late gothic city hall from the 14th century.

 "One of the most beautiful town squares in Europe, if not in the world", is a phrase often heard when visitors in Brussels try to describe the beauty of the central market square.

The site street where I work from until they have finalized refurbishing our floor
French-speakers refer to it as the 'Grand-Place', whereas in Dutch it is called 'de grote Markt'. The tourists of the 20th century are not alone in their admiration. Archduchess Isabella, daughter of Filip II of Spain wrote about the square during her visit to Brussels on September the 5th 1599:  "Never have I seen something so beautiful and exquisite as the town square of the city where the town hall rises up into the sky. The decoration of the houses is most remarkable ".


The origins of the Grand-Place, however, are humble. The site still formed a sand-bank between two brooks which ran downhill to the river Senne. Once the sand-bank was reclaimed it turned into the "Niedermerckt", or 'lower market'. Already in the 12th century Brussels had become a commercial crossroads between Bruges (in Flanders) , Cologne , and France.

Inside one of the old restaurants on Grand Place
English wool, French wines and German beer were sold in the harbour and on the market.


During the early middle Ages small wooden houses were scattered around the market, but as from the 14th century the rich and powerful patrician families built stone mansions. Gradually the market turned into the main commercial and administrative centre of the city. In 1402 the construction of the town hall started (which would eventually be completed around 1455). The square had by then already become the political centre where meetings were held, where executions took place and where dukes, kings and emperors where officially received. In the following centuries most wooden houses where replaced with beautifully decorated stone ones, mostly owned by the Brussels guilds.


On August the 13th 1695, however, the prestigious square was bombed to ruins by Field Marshal DE VILLEROY. By order of Louis XIV of France he had Brussels destroyed in reprisal of a lost Battle in Namur (south Belgium).Between 1695 and 1700 the guilds rebuilt all the houses. Also the heavily damaged town hall was entirely reconstructed. In the 18th and 19th centuries most of the houses became private property. After attempts of several owners to modernize the facades of their houses, which would have resulted in a mutilation of the unity of style, the mayor of Brussels, Karel Buls, decided that the houses of the Grand-Place had to be preserved as much as possible in their original style. Since that year the owners of the houses are bound by servitude.

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The most amazing tower on the Gran…
The most amazing tower on the Gra…
The Head quarter of the Belgian Po…
The Head quarter of the Belgian P…
The site street where I work from …
The site street where I work from…
Inside one of the old restaurants …
Inside one of the old restaurants…
photo by: Vlindeke