La Grand Place (Grote Markt in Dutch, Great Square in English) is the central, geographic and historic heart of Brussels, as well as one of the most memorable squares in Europe. This lively cobbled square is part of the most beautiful seventeenth-century architectural ensemble in Belgium.
In 1695 the French army bombarded Brussels and destroyed most buildings housed in La Grand Place. They were all rebuilt except the Town Hall.
Remarkable guild houses
Brussels’ main square is made up by numerous impressive guild houses, leaving tourists speechless.
The following buildings are the most relevant and beautiful:
- Hotel de Ville (Town Hall): Located on the southeast of the La Grand Place, Brussel’s Town Hall is the Brabantine Gothic architectural masterpiece of the whole square and is the oldest building. Constructed during the fifteenth century, it has a tower standing 96 m tall with a statue of the archangel Michael at the top located in the centre of the Town Hall’s façade. The ceiling is decorated with a seemingly infinite number of chandeliers. It is possible to take a guided tour of the building on Tuesday and Wednesday in the afternoon, in Dutch at 1:45 pm, in French at 2:30 pm and in English 3:15 pm.
- Maison du Roi: The King’s House was finished in 1536 and was remodelled in 1873. It was owned by the Duke of Brabant or Charles V, ruler of the Spanish Empire and the Holy Roman Empire. Presently, it houses the Museum of the City of Brussels (Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles) that features paintings from the sixteenth century, tapestries and small suits which form part of the Mannekin Pis’ wardrobe.
- Maison des Ducs de Brabant: Under one large façade is a neo-classical ensemble of seven houses.
- Le Pigeon: Le Pigeon (meaning pigeon in English) is the house where Victor Hugo lived during his exile in Belgium in 1852.
- Le Renard, Le Cornet and Le Roy d’Espagne: The same building houses the fabric traders guild Maison du Renard Renard (Fox House) from 1690 and Le Cornet (boatman's guild) from 1697. Le Roy d’Espagne - once the baker's guild - is La Grand Place’s most popular bar, which offers (apart from great Belgian beer) stunning views of the main square. On the building’s façade, there is a bust of Charles II of Spain, King of Belgium during the seventeenth century.
Just off La Grand Place is the bronze statue of Everard t’Serclaes, which is famous for bringing good luck to those who touch its arm. Everard was Lord of Kruikenburg and was killed during the fifteenth century while defending Brussels.
The best of Brussels
La Grand Place is the heart of Brussels and the most visited and photographed place in the city. Having a refreshing Belgian beer on one of its terraces surrounded by so much history is something we highly recommend.