Our tradition is restored with a real Christmas tree on the Grand Place.
Last year the traditional Christmas tree had been replaced by a metallic structure with lights.
This launched a strong protest against what was considered by a majority as an esthetic horror but also an aggression towards our Christmas traditions. See my No Christmas tree on the Grand Place this year .
This December the tradition is restored with an "Epicea" spruce of 17 m high coming from the "Hautes-Fagnes" a part of the Belgian Ardennes in the north-east of the country.
Bystanders and shopkeepers are relieved to see again a 100% natural tree planted on one of the most beautiful places in the world.
To explain the uproar of last year I have to say that we undergo in Belgium and in many countries of the EU actions by some ideologues to destroy our ancestral traditions based on our Christian historical culture. Strong reactions of the autochthones to preserve their cultural identity are now more and more observed.
Recently a campaign originated in the Netherlands by some of these anti-tradition ideologues to prohibit "Zwarte Piet" the black helper of "SinterKlaas" (Santa Klaus) because he is supposed to be a symbol of colonialism according to some members of the UN!
As a child I thought Zwarte Piet was black because he went through the chimney to bring me toys on December 6th. I was wrong!
Work in Progress 9/02/13- Walking into the Grand Place or La Grand Palace my first reaction was the size. The second was the extraordinary architectural detail on so many of the buildings. I also noted that there are a total of seven streets that all meet in the Grand Palace. So standing to observe for a few moments I finally proceeded in a clock wise movement around each of the buildings in the square. Amazing to think that there has been a market, formerly known as the Nedermarckt (Lower Market) since the late 12th century. Although apparently the current form of the square didn't really unfold like it can be seen today until the late 17th century.
The Grand Place was the city's market place back in the 13th century, and is today a very beautiful square in the centre of Brussels. A gathering place for concerts, the carpet of flowers in August (in even years), and many other events... Or packed with tourists looking at the impressive buildings that surrounds the cobbled square...
Most of the buildings are from the early 18th century, built after the French bombardment of Brussels in 1695... The Maison du Roi (the King's House, also known as the Broodhuis (the Bread House)), the Hotel de Ville (the Town Hall) with its 96 meter high tower, La Maison des Ducs de Brabant, Le Roi de l'Espagne, and many more... Some of the buildings are now museums, shops, or restaurants - but I didn't visit any of them... Just stood in the middle of the square for a while and admired the Grand Place; amazing architecture, and facades with numerous statues and decorations...
I'll give you the not so usual ..
What I love about Brussels is off the tourist trail ...
Tell me what you're into ....
And if you're witihin my range of wackiness ...
I'll tell you where to go .. literally :-)
Actually on my travels to Brussels, each time more charming for me is not the Grand Place itself, but all the norrow streets leading to all directions around the Place ...
So many hidden gems on those streets, little cafes, handcraft shops, special beer houses and so on ... What I suggest to u is not to stuck on that classic souvenir shops and 24/7 crowded cafes at the Place Square, but make some walks to those narrow streets to explore .... I assure u that u wont regret ... :)
So, concerning the Place itself, The Grand Place continued to serve as a market until November 19, 1959, and it is still called the Grote Markt or Great Market in Dutch. Neighbouring streets still reflect the area's origins, named after the sellers of butter, cheese, herring, coal and so on.
The Grand Place was named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1998. One of the houses was owned by the brewers' guild, and is now the home of a brewers' museum.
Every two years in August, an enormous "flower carpet" is set up in the Grand Place for a few days. A million colourful begonias are set up in patterns and the display covers a full 24 by 77 metres for area total of 1,800 square metres The first flower carpet was made in 1971 and due to its popularity, the tradition continued w the flower carpet attracting a large number of tourists.
Brussels' Market Square is one of the most impressive in Europe. As gaudy as it can get, it belongs rather in a fabled city than in the quite dull (in comparison) surroundings for which Brussels in known. No wonder this is the liveliest spot in Brussels and has a unique atmosphere.
Any moment of the day or night is good for a visit to the square, since this is the main stage in the city and it is likely that something of interest for the tourist will be happening. Be it a rock concert, a modern art performance, a music and light show, the famous flower carpets or a small artists market, it is never boring on the Grand Place. Even just before dawn, when hardly a soul will be on sight can be a perfect moment to investigate in solitude the many magical references that the constructors of the square left in their buildings. This is indeed one of these extraordinary places where the Earth's inner energy and magnetism can be experienced at its best.
The entire Grand-Place has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, understanding that it provides a vivid illustration of the eclectic and highly successful blending of architectural and artistic styles that characterizes the culture and society of this region. Additionally, through the quality of its architecture, the Grand-Place epitomizes the achievements of a highly successful mercantile city of northern Europe at the height of its prosperity.
The archeries of the Star House - smallest house on the Market Square - guard two artistic bas-reliefs in memory of two of the city's mayors (or bourgmestres, as mayors are called in Brussels).
The most famous of these bas-reliefs depicts a moribund Everard T'Serclaes, who defended the city's liberties from the attacks of the Medieval aristocracy. While repelling the attack or the Lord of Gaasbeek, he was made prisoner and tortured to the agony. He was then brought back to the Star House, where he died. According to a popular superstition, touching the arm of T'Serclaes will bring you luck, and this has become one of the favourite rituals for tourists visiting the Grand Place .
Next to it, the other memorial honours Charles Buls, a Bourgmestres of Brussels in the late 19th century, to whom we owe the present look of the Grand Place, for he commissioned the renovation works of the Market Square that took place at the time, including the reconstruction of the King's House.
Close to Grand Place there's a statue of Everhard't Serclaes, a local hero from the 14th century. Tradition says that rubbing his elbow brings good fortune, and everybody does it. Why not us, of course?
In my recent visit the statue was removed to maintenance, I don't know until when, but it seems that a copy was placed in location.
As the traditional Christmas tree has been replaced by a metallic structure with lights a petition with already 20.000 signatures was launched to protest against what is considered by a majority as an esthetic horror but also an aggression towards our Christmas traditions. The Christmas market is not called Marché de Noël anymore but "Plaisirs d'Hiver" = winter pleasures.
In this petition and on forums - the matter has been widely discussed in the media - anger went so far that the Brussels' authorities were accused of "christianophobia"! For details type "Brussels bans christmas tree" on Google.
All this might sound strange for the tourists but it is an expression of an increasing cultural and identity dissatisfaction from the "autochthones".
This being said about this internal Brussels' socio-political question the metallic structure is annoying for the tourists because situated between the Gothic Hôtel de Ville and the Maison du Roi it prevents taking photos from the entire Hôtel de Ville.
What I found especially sad on my recent visit on a Sunday evening was the absence of lighting of the Hotel de Ville and other buildings on the Grand Place. It was all dark except the cafés and shops; a pity for the many tourists.
My Grand Place was so disappointing that I didn't take any photo except that of the café "Au Roi d'Espagne", formerly the "Maison des Boulangers" the corporate house of the bakers, where I used to go when I was a student. Presently it is very cosy and touristic.
NEW. That thing costing 40000 € is so ugly that it will be dismounted already on 28th December!
According to the Brussels' authorities the negative reactions result from the islamophobia of the inhabitants!
After that St-Michael on top of the Hotel de Ville, Manneken Pis, Everard t' Serclaes, the 25% Muslims and the 75% Non-Muslims living in the Brussels agglomeration wonder what that esthetic disaster has to do with religion?!
Every second year there is an astonishing Flower carpet created on the Grand Place, covering nearly the whole open area as the size of the carpet is 77x24 metres.
+/- 700.000 flowers are used, mostly begonias, 300 per square meter, to build up the pattern.
The first one was created in 1971 by a landscape architect named E. Stautemans.
From 1986 on the carpet is created years ending with an even digit.
The very best well known building in the whole of Belgium, the impressing Hotel de Ville was begun in 1402 and completed in 1448, built in Gothic style. The tower is 96 metres high. We can not climb it, but taking a guided tour we can see parts of the magnificent rooms.
If you visit Brussels as a tourist this is probably your starting point. Grand Place/Grote Markt was historically the commercial heart of Brussels and still is with so numerous stores around. The Tourist Information is also here to provide you with the useful maps, advises etc
So, what can you do here on this lovely cobblestone square? There are some places to visit like the City Museum (interesting if you have some extra time) but above all to check the architecture, there are some beautiful buildings that overlook the square, the most impressive is Hotel de vile (pic 1) which is the Town Hall of Brussels. It was built completed in 1455 represending Brussels as a major trading centre of that era. It occupies the entire southwest side of the square with an impressive spire that goes up to 96 meters. But don’t miss the beautiful details everywhere around the building (pic 2) and on the spire too. There are tours if you want to see the interior, it houses a museum that is open tuesday to Sunday 10.00-17.00.
It was the same period when the traders started to build separated guildhouses (until then the square was famous for its open air market). As everywhere in Lower Town the area was also damaged by the French bombardment in 1695 so most of the facades just destroyed. Everything was rebuild in the same style so today we can enjoy all these Flemish baroque structures. There are some expensive café/restaurants on the square (pic 3) where you can watch the people passing by but we preferred to walk around the square and check every building trying to find small details (pic 4).
Le Renard (1699) was the guildhouse of haberdashers standing side by side with Le Cornet (1697 boatmen’s guildhouse) and Le Roi d’Espagne that houses the café/pub that we preferred to skip. Maison du Roi was built in 1536 and houses the Musee de la Ville(the city museum), Le Pigeon next to Maisom du Roi was Victor Hugo’s home, La Maison des Dus de Brabat(pic 5) is a group of 6 guildhouses.
The square every 2 years turn into a huge flower carpet (!) with thousands of flower placed on the square and creating an amazing carpet, we weren’t lucky enough just saw this on pictures. So, we just kept taking pictures from different angles, there are so many photo opportunites here and then we visited the City Museum. Leaving the square don’t miss monument Everard t Serclaes that was made by Julien Dillens (1849-1904) in 1092. It’s a brass relief that meant to black as originally designed but the polychromy of the monument has changed with time due to various types of damage. It suppose to bring luck for those who touch it :)
French poet and playwright Jean Cocteau declared the Brussels Grand Place to be "the most beautiful theatre in the world ( le plus beau théâtre du monde"). I think I'm inclined to agree that it is certainly one of the most beautiful.
Naturally the UNESCO- listed square is usually full of coach loads of tourists but this doesn't necessarily diminish the effect of the square. There is usually something going on here. During my last visit they were just preparing the ground to lay the famous flower carpet in front of the Town Hall. Obviously I timed my visit wrong as the flowers didn't go in to place until the day after I returned home.
The square is lined with guild houses that remind us that this place started life as a marketplace (along with the names of the surrounding streets (Rue au Buerre - Butter Street, Rue Char et Pain - Street of Meat and Bread). Most of the buildings around the square were the homes of the powerful guilds, such as the Bakers at numbers 1 and 2 (now called the Roi d'Espagne (King of Spain) in honour of Charles II whose bust adorns the upper facade), the Tallow merchants at no 3, Joiners and Coopers at no 4, Archers at no 5 etc etc etc.
Other important buildings on the square are the Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville) and the Maison du Roi (Broodhuis in Flemish, Kings House in English).
The medieval marketplace dated back to the 12th century, but on 13th August 1695 the Duke of Villeroy, on the orders of French King Louis XIV, fired an unrelenting canon and mortar bombardment against the city in retribution for the attack on the French controlled city of Namur. At the end of this attack only fragments of a few of the guildhouses remained and the Maison du Roi was a burnt out shell. Amazingly the Hôtel de Ville facade remained more or less intact! The Grand Place that is seen today was rebuilt from the ruins of that conflict.
I spent a week close to Grand Place, and that made me identify Brussels with this beautiful square, with the other images vanishing in my mind. When many years later I took my sons to Brussels, Grand Place and Athomium were, again, almost the exclusive atractions that we saw. But I like this square, and dislike the general city.
In August there's a festivity where the square is covered with flowers. Terrific job, but its beaty reaches the top then.
Unexpected visit to Brussels allowed me to verify that the square buildings are being cleaned, and the beauty of the square is now shining. Excellent!
... and I had the opportunity to make some more decent pictures and to change my general impression about the city...
“Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.”
— Rene Magritte (1898-1967) Belgian Surrealist artist
The fascinating details of the guildhall buildings that surround Grand-Place deserve close attention for their symbolism, art, and history. Here are five examples.
Photo #1 — Charles, Duke of Lorraine rides his horse on the top Maison des Brasseurs, which is still owned by the Brewers’ Guild. A small Musée de la Brasserie can be found here on the ground floor; it is opened daily from 10 am to 5pm.
Photo #2 — Built in 1697, the Boatmen’s Guild sports a medallion with a profile portrait of Charles II of Spain, flanked by allegories of the four winds and two sailors.
Photo #3 — La Brouette (The Wheelbarrow), at #2 & 3 of Grand-Place, belonged to the Guild of Grease Makers, stood up relatively well to the 1695 French bombardment and was rebuilt by Jean Cosyn, a sculptor. It is in the Flemish style, heavily influenced by the Italian style. The figure of Saint Gilles, in the niche at the top, was put added in 1912. Nation Saint-Gilles, which is made up of several guilds, used the house for its meetings.
Photo #4 — In the triangular pediment of Archers’ Guild’s headquarters, Maison de la Louve, a muscular archer is shown. It is one of the few buildings that survived the 1695 French shelling of the city. Circular medallions beneath the pediment bare the likenesses of four Roman Emperors, set above allegorical motifs indicating their attributes: Trajan, above the Sun, a symbol of Truth; Tiberius, above a net and cage, representing Falsehood; Augustus, above the globe of Peace, and Julius Caesar, above a bleeding heart representing Disunity.
Photo #5 — Maison des Tailleurs, Tailors’ Guild, now houses a popular café/restaurant, The Golden Carnaval (La Chaloupe d’Or Tavern, in French and Den Gulden Boot in Dutch). Built by G. De Bruyn, Saint Homobonus, patron saint of business people and tailors, stands at the top with an outstretched arm; he once held a pair of scissors in his hand. The current building is a reconstruction from 1697 after the 1695 bombardment of Brussels ordered by Lois XIV.