Grand Place - Grote Markt, Brussels
As the traditional Christmas tree has been replaced by a metallic structure with lights a petition with already 20.000 signatures was launched to protest against what is considered by a majority as an esthetic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?!
Nowadays, the Grand-Place is the main tourist attraction of the City of Brussels. You can hear from visitors very often, " It's the best single place to get a feeling of Old Europe," but the tourists are not alone in their admiration:
Archduchess Isabella, daughter of Filip of Spain wrote about the square during her visit to Brussels: " Never have I seen something so beautiful and exquisite as the town square ....."
The most "striking" building with innumerable sculptures like the prophets is the richly decorated, seven storey high gothic Town Hall.
The neo gothic house of bakers guild being created from bluish granite with the bust of Roman emperor Charles II on the facade faces exactly and is a reconstruction of the Gothic building of predecessors.
At the southeast side falls the view of the front of the Maison of The Dukes of Brabant arranged uniformly by flat wall columns. This building of splendour reminding of an Italian Palazzo is actually a group of 7 houses, each with a different name.
The houses on the northeast side are beautiful examples of the Flemish architecture of 17th Century.
In the Middle Ages the houses have not got numbers, but names which are often indicated by a little statue or some part of the decoration. For example the house of bakers guild is named the King of Spain because of the bust of emperor Charles on the facade.
The millers had The Windmill, where the writer of the "Hunchback of Notre-Dame“ and of "Les miserable", Victor Hugo lived in emigration, now the house is home to the Old Brussels Lace Shop.
The Swan - This is where German philosopher Marx spent much of his time in exile. Today gourmets can be spoiled in the restaurant, over whose entrance the stone swan spreads proudly its wings.
The guildhalls now mostly house restaurants, cafés, hotels, and shops. Worth noting are the famous chocolatier: exquisite Godiva at Grand Place 22. and the traditional Belgian restaurant liked very much by both tourists and locals, 't Kelderke, in the cellar at Grand Place 15.
The Grand Place is the main tourist attraction of Brussels.
It is a large medieval market square, surrounded by grand buildings, bars and restaurants.
The Grand Place is home to a weekly bird market and an annual Flower Carpet - when the square is covered in a floral display
From Grand Place is easy to get to Rue Blaes a street full of antiques' shops. Big stores of history and stories ... a bit of the Brussels you can not see any more in the streets ...
Walking down this street you will get to Place Du Jeu De Balle, a place where you will find a market of second hand things, especialy interesting at Sundays.
Paralel to Rue Blaes there is Rue Haute, another street of antiques's shops and furniture shops.
Every two years for a couple of days in August there is a monumental flower carpet on the Grote Markt. I wouldn't especially come to Brussels just to see that, but when you're in town, it's definitely worth seeing.
Next time is in 2008.
The Grand Place is probably the most beautiful thing I saw in Brussels. It's huge and full of character, surrounded by traditional restaurants.
French-speakers refer to it as the 'Grand-Place', whereas in Dutch it is called 'de grote Markt'.
There you can see the charm of the market square with its beautiful set of Guild houses dominated by the Town hall and the King's house.
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
If the Grand Place is stunning by day, it is even more so by night, and we spent some time trying to capture its beauty on camera. We didn’t really succeed but I think these photos give you some sense of what to expect. If you’d like to do better than we did I recommend you take a tripod and a good camera, and be prepared to wait for a moment when no other tourists are blocking your view!
All east part of the square consists of six houses. This ensemble is called "Dukes of Brabant» as their portraits are available on facades. Each house has a name. The most left - "Glory" as the statue playing on a pipe is installed on a facade. Following houses are called "Hermitage", "Fate", "Windmill", "the Tin jug", "Hill" and "Stock exchange". Sideways from a town hall there was a house "Swan" - a unique building in classical style. Houses of the Big area represent guilds, crafts and corporations of the city.
The Grand-Place is the central square of Brussels. Through the nature and quality of its architecture and of its outstanding quality as a public open space, it illustrates in an exceptional way the evolution and achievements of a highly successful mercantile city of northern Europe at the height of its prosperity.
The earliest written reference to the Nedermarckt (Lower Market), as it was originally known, dates from 1174. The present name came into use in the last quarter of the 18th century.
It is located on former marshland on the right bank of the River Senne, to the east of the castellum, a defensive outwork of the castle built around 977 by Charles of France, Duke of Lower Lotharingia. The marsh was drained in the 12th century. The present rectangular outline of the Grand'Place has developed over the centuries as a result of successive enlargements and other modifications, and did not take up its definitive form until after 1695. It has, however, always had seven streets running into it. In the 13th and 14th centuries the market-place was surrounded by haphazardly disposed steenen (the stone-built Cloth, Bread, and Meat Halls or Markets) and timber-framed houses, separated by yards, gardens, or ambiti (passages serving as fire-breaks). During the 15th century the houses on the south side were replaced by the east and west wings of the City Hall (1401-44) and its bell tower (1449). A new Bread Hall was built on the north side in 1405.
The Bread Hall was demolished in 1512-13 and replaced by a large building that was given the name 'the King's House' (La Maison du Roi). During the course of the 16th century many of the houses were rebuilt with new facades in Renaissance or Baroque style. On 14 August 1695 Louis XIV of France ordered Marshal Villeroy to bombard the city as a reprisal following the destruction of French coastal towns and ports by Dutch and English warships. Despite the severity of the bombardment, reconstruction was rapid, thanks to the action taken by the City authorities and the generous support of other towns and provinces. In a remarkable ordinance promulgated in 1697 by the City Magistrate, all proposals for the reconstruction of facades had to be submitted to the authorities for approval, so as to preserve the harmony of the square. In four years the Grand-Place had been completely restored to its original layout and appearance..
The Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), which covers most of the south side of the Grand'Place, consists of a group of buildings around a rectangular internal courtyard. The part facing on to the square is from the 15th century, consisting of two L-shaped buildings. The entire facade is decorated with statues dating from the 19th century. The southern part of the complex is a restrained classical building that closes the U-shaped plan of the Gothic structures, built in the 18th century. Facing the City Hall across the square is its other main feature, the Maison du Roi (King's House), now used as the City Museum. In 1873 the City Council decided that its state of conservation was so bad that it should be demolished and rebuilt. The reconstruction was based on the original. The result is a three-storey brick building with an arcaded facade, saddleback roof and centrally placed tower with lantern.
Each of the houses around the Grand'Place, which vary considerably in size, has its own name: Les Ducs de Brabant, Le Roi de l'Espagne, Le Cornet, Le Cygne, the Maison des Brasseurs, Le Cerf, La Maison des Tailleurs. The degree of conservation of original features inside the houses around the Grand'Place is somewhat variable. In some cases almost no changes have been made since the early 18th century, whereas in others there has been radical conversion and modernization. In a number of cases the ground floors have been converted for use as shops, restaurants, or cafes.
Brussels has a wonderful central market square, also known as Grote Markt (Dutch) or Grand Place (French).
We had our kids with us and did not have any difficulty finding it as we walked from the central train station of Brussels. We had our 3-year old twins in strollers as we navigated our way with a map, passing through nice little stores with "discount sales".
Then, when you see the nice Square you will be in awe because it does look more magnificent when you see it in real life (better than pictures!). I did see this on Samantha Brown's Brussels episode, and she was dead-on in describing the different architectural styles present in this one special Square.
It is surrounded by guild houses, the city's Town Hall and the Bread House (Dutch: Broodhuis, French: Maison du Roi). This collection is the most important tourist destination and most memorable landmark in Brussels next to the Atomium and Manneken Pis.
The Grand Place was named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1998.
Stated as the most beautiful square in europe, I have to agree. The Grand Place is definitely a showpeice of Gothic Medieval Architecture at its best. The various guildhouses are where the different tradesmen met during the Middle Ages and Rennaisance (12th-16th Centuries). One side is dominated by the ornate Hotel de Ville, the town hall. This magnificent building dates to the 13th and 15th Century and is topped by a gorgeous spire.
Grote-Markt as this square is called in flamandian, is the greatest square of Bruxelles. At the origin of the city there was a bottom market which was the center of activity of a developing small town. After centuries, everyone become richer than a building, testifying that the city becomes the second capital of Brabant. The present form - almost correct rectangular, the Great Square is obliged to Lui XIV.
Marshal Vilrod in 1695 fired at Bruxelles within three days incendiary shells. As a result all the center of Bruxelles was destroyed, but the Town hall and walls of houses of craft corporations were resisted only. In some years the square was built up in such a manner that buildings began to represent harmonious ensemble.
You can watch my 2 min 50 sec Video Brussels part 2 out of my Youtube channel.
I read the declaration of the Grand Place as the "most beautiful central square" in Europe in a travel guide and all I can say is after visiting about sixteen European countries (including principalities) I think the Grand Place/Grote Markt is the most impressive 'square' I've seen.
Brussels in the center has a charm and is very well worth a visit! Whether you come for the chocolate, the museums, the beer, (or maybe the waffles) you can leave impressed by all of these.
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 :)
The central market square in Brussels, the Grand Place, is one of the most beautiful town squares we ever saw.
The market square has a beautiful set of Guild houses and is dominated by the Town Hall and the King's house.
In the 12th century Brussels had become a commercial crossroads between Bruges, Cologne, and France. English wool, French wines and German beer were sold on the market.
During the early Middle Ages there were small wooden houses around the market, from the 14th century the rich and powerful patrician families built stone mansions here. The market turned into the main commercial and administrative centre of the city.
In 1402 the construction of the town hall started (completed around 1455).
The square had also become the political centre where meetings were held, executions took place and royals where officially received.
In the following centuries most wooden houses where replaced by decorated stone ones, mostly owned by the Brussels guilds.
On August the 13th 1695, the prestigious square was bombed to ruins by order of Louis XIV of France. He destroyed Brussels in reprisal of a lost battle in Namur.
Between 1695 and 1700 the guilds rebuilt all the houses. The townhall was also entirely reconstructed.
In the 18th and 19th centuries most of the houses became private property. But they must be kept as original as possible.