Top 10 Facts about the Grand Place in Brussels


This magnificent Square is located in the centre of the City of Brussels. It is associated with Belgium’s seat of power; the opulent Brussels City Hall and the King’s House, known as Breadhouse.

Locals here refer to this Square as the Grand Market. The City Museum is found here too. This entire Square measure 223 by 361 feet.

The Grand Place is one of the places in the City that attracts several tourists and locals. It is a well-known landmark in Brussels.   

If you were to ask any of the locals or anyone who has been to this Square, they will tell you that this is among the most beautiful Squares in Europe.

It was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. Let’s now look at the top 10 facts about the Grand Place.

1. The Grand Place and a fairytale-like architecture

By Trougnouf – Wikimedia

The architecture of Grand Place something befitting a postcard. There is a row of shops that beautifully complete the look of the Square.

Another important building at the Square is the City Hall. It has been here since the 15th century. Just across it is the King’s House which ironically has never been home to any King.

The King’s House was built by the Duke of Brabant to represent his power in the city.

Although most of the shops found at the Grand Place were built at different times, their architecture seamlessly meshes into one another.

If you go to Brussels in August, be sure to check out the flower carpet that covers the Square every year. You will definitely love the colourful patterns of begonias.  

2. It started off as a market place

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Charles, Duke of Lower Lorraine constructed a fort on Saint-Géry Island in the 10th century. This was at the furthest inland point at the Seine river. At the end of the next century, an open-air marketplace was set up on the dried-up marsh near the fort.

This market was known as the lower market. It led to the development of an important road. The road connected the Rhineland and the County of Flanders.

More development was done in the 13th century when three more indoor markets were built. There was a meat market, bread market and a cloth market.

The buildings were owned by the Duke of Brabant. Through the trade that took place there, they were able to take stock and collect tax from the traders.  

3.  The 14th century was an excellent period for the tradesmen at the Grand Place

There was significant improvement done at the Square in the 14th century. More traders sold their wares at the market which saw the rise of their status too.

The Duke who owned the market ran short of money and handed the market to the local authority.

With new management, a larger indoor cloth market was constructed. It had a similar design to markets in the neighbouring cities.

The layout of the Square was still a miss with irregular buildings along its edges. These buildings were destroyed by the authorities who defined the edges of the Square.

4. The Grand Place has had its fair share of destruction

The Grand Place in flames during the bombardment of Brussels in 1695. Phot by Trougnouf (Benoit Brummer)- Wikimedia

The Grand Place has witnessed many tragic events since its construction. The first incident was in 1523 when two Christian martyrs were executed at the Square.

 Four decades later, the Counts of Egmont and Horn were beheaded in front of the King’s House. They had spoken against the policies of King Philip II.

This was followed by a bombardment of the City by an army of more than 70,000 French men in 1659. They were led by Marshal Francois de Neufville and Duc de Villeroy.  

The Grand Place and the city were set on fire and most of it flattened.

5. The reconstruction of the Square

After the destruction, the authorities took to reconstructing the Grand Place, it took four years.  

The construction was being supervised by the City councillors and the Governor of Brussels. Their plans were approved by the authorities.

This ensured that the plan of the Square was even despite the different architectural designs visible such as Gothic, Baroque and Louis XIV.

6. It has always been the meeting point for both locals and tourists

By Celuici – Wikimedia

The Grand Place is always full of people due to being a central location as well as being a national landmark.

One will find different groups of tourists and school groups no matter the time of day. It is a representation of the culture and history of Brussels.

This is usually the starting point of adventure around the City of Brussels. There are several fun activities to choose from such as bike tours, solo sightseeing or walking tours.

7. The streets around the Grand Place were named after food

As you know by now, the Grand Place used to be a where traders and citizens traded goods.

This inspired the names of the streets around the Square. One will notice that the streets have been named after foods.

Some of the street names are Rue au Beurre (Like butter), Rue du Marché aux Herbes (Herbs), and cheese (Rue du Marché aux Fromage).

8. There are private houses at the Grand Place

By Trougnouf – Wikimedia

The Grand Place is made up of a number of guild houses on either side. Among them are a few private houses.

These houses are part of the renovations that were done at the Square.

They have beautiful facades and sculptural decorations. Their designs are based on Italian Baroque and Flemish influences.

9. Baroque and Gothic architecture stand out

The Grand Place is an architectural wonder. Its tall tower makes the Square stand out as an exceptional example of a great mix of architectural styles.

It displays a beautiful blend of artistic styles of western cultures while illustrating the importance of the Square being a political and trading centre.

The old guild houses, that were turned into shops, retained their architectural attributes of Renaissance and Baroque styles.

10. It’s the centre for cultural events in the city

By Wouter Hagens – Wikimedia

Festivals and cultural events are regularly organised at Grand Place. Events such as the light and sound shows are held here during Christmas.

Summer concerts and the famous flower carpet happen at Grand Square too. They usually attract thousands of tourists.

The Ommegang of Brussels is held here twice a year. It is the re-enactment of the jubilant entry of Emperor Charles V and his son Philip II in Brussels in 1549.

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