Grand Place. Plaza in Brussels, Belgium

Grand Place

Plaza in Brussels, Belgium

Belgique - Bruxelles - Grand-Place - Tapis de Fleurs 2014 Photo © Antonio Ponte

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Grand Place

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Belgique - Bruxelles - 2010 Tapis de Fleurs Grand-Place - Grand Place
Belgique - Bruxelles - 2010 Tapis de Fleurs Grand-Place - Grand Place. Photo by Antonio Ponte
The Grand Place, or Grote Markt in Dutch, is a square in the heart of Brussels, Belgium. It is renowned around the world for its decorative and aesthetic wealth. The square consists of architecture from three different eras. There are Baroque, Gothic, and Louis XIV-style buildings, adding to the square’s grandeur. This eclectic mix of architectural styles and downright gorgeous buildings has earned the Grand Place in Brussels a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The square is surrounded by wealthy guildhalls and houses, as well as two larger structures. The first is the Maison du Roi (French), Broodhuis (Dutch) or Breadhouse, which now houses the City Museum and many historic artifacts. The one major landmark and highlight, though, is the magnificent Brussels Town Hall. Always packed with people, tourists, school groups, and locals, the Grand Place is the most-visited destination in Brussels and is often regarded as one of the most beautiful town squares in the world.

Belgique - Bruxelles - Grand-Place - Tapis de
	Fleurs 2012 - Grand Place
Belgique - Bruxelles - Grand-Place - Tapis de Fleurs 2012 - Grand Place. Photo by Antonio Ponte

History

Grand'Place - Grand
	Place
Grand'Place - Grand Place. Photo by Javier Medina
Brussels was founded in the 900s as a fort on Saint-Géry Island (Wikipedia Article), which was the furthest inland point where the River Senne was navigable, by Charles the Duke of Lower Lorraine. At the end of the 11th century, a marketplace was established on a dried-up bog near the fort. This market was known as the Nedermerckt (Old Dutch) or Lower Market in modern English. The market developed along with the growth of Brussels as a commercial town. A document dating from 1174 talks about a lower market that is located a short distance from the port on the River Senne. An addition to a location near the port, the market was also situated along the Steenweg, or Causeway, a major commercial road that connected the cities in the Rhineland with the County of Flanders.

Brussels Town Hall
Brussels Town Hall
Three indoor markets were built along the northern side in the beginning of the 13th century: a cloth market, meat market, and bread market. Other wooden and stone buildings enclosed the market, which had now become a square. The Grand Place was improved continuously from the 14th century, marking the increasing importance of merchants and traders. The Brussels Town Hall was built between 1402 and 1422, making the square the seat of municipal power. About a hundred years later, between 1504 and 1536, the Duke of Brabant countered this building of municipal power by constructing another large building adjacent to it, as a symbol of ducal power. It was built on the former site of the three indoor markets and became known as the King’s House. That building is now still known as the Maison du Roi in French, but as Broodhuis or Breadhouse in Dutch, after the market which was formerly situated there. Wealthy merchants and powerful guilds began building houses around the square as well.

Brussels, a virtually defenseless city, was heavily bombarded by the massive French army of the Duke of Villeroy in 1695. Cannons and mortars fell down on the city and in about a day, the city was destroyed, including most of the Grand Place. However, the walls of the Town Hall survived, among only a few parts of other buildings, which was ironic as the Town Hall was the main target of the artillery strikes. The city guilds rebuilt the square in the course of the next several years, regulated by the city councilors and Governor of Brussels. This created an extraordinarily harmonious collection of new buildings, albeit in different architectural styles.

The Grand Place has been used as a marketplace until 1959 and is still called Grote Markt in Dutch, meaning “Great Market” in English. Neighboring streets are still named after professions and occupations or the products they made. Examples are butter, cheese, butcher, herring, coal, etcetera. One of the guild houses used to belong to the brewers’ guild and is now a brewery museum.

Belgique - Bruxelles - Grand-Place - Tapis de
	Fleurs 2014 - Grand Place
Belgique - Bruxelles - Grand-Place - Tapis de Fleurs 2014 - Grand Place. Photo by Antonio Ponte

Visiting the Grand Place

Without question, the best time to visit the Grand Place is in August. Every two years in August the square is home to a huge flower carpet, consisting of a million begonias in all kinds of color set up in patterns. This flower spectacle attracts large numbers of tourists every other year.

The Grand Place is located in the center of Brussels and can be reached on foot. Metro stops nearby are Centrale, Bourse, and De Broukere. The area is surrounded by cobblestone alleys and streets, lined with stores, shops, chocolatiers, pubs, restaurants, and historic buildings.

Similar Landmarks

Other landmarks in Brussels are the Royal Palace, the Atomium, and Manneken Pis which is located a short distance from the Grand Place, the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudule, and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts.

Other great city squares elsewhere in the world are Plaza Mayor (Wikipedia Article) in Madrid, Trafalgar Square in London, Times Square in New York City, Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City, and Red Square in Moscow.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Nov 30, 2014

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