The Grand Place in Brussels
The Grand Place or Main Square in Brussels was inscripted onto the World Heritage List in 1998. This is an absolutely stunning square and quite rightly is Brussels most visited tourist space. It started life as a market place in the 11th century and it continued to be used for this purpose up until 1959.
Dating mainly from the 17th century, the buildings are a mix of public and private structures. The main public buildings are the Town Hall, Guildhalls and the Breadhouse (or Kings House in French).
The Brussels City Hall is 96m high and has a 3ft high statue of St Michael slaying a demon crowning it. It covers most of the south side of the square and is a group of buildings around an inner rectangular courtyard. The buildings facing the square were built around the 15th century. This is still a working building despite its ornate structure and if you are in the square on a Saturday morning you will be able to see the couples coming to be married.
Standing opposite the City Hall is the Breadhouse or Kings House, which was built by the Duke of Brabant between the years 1504 and 1536. It was built on the sites of ancient cloth and bread markets but was actually constructed as a symbol of power against the town authorities. Ornately decorated it now houses the city’s museum.
The other buildings around the square are Guildhalls and many now house museums that reflect their history. When the sun shines off the gold on the buildings it really is a breath taking sight. Other buildings are shops, cafes and restaurants selling beautiful, handmade chocolates or snacks such as the famous waffle or moules frites.
The Grand Place by day is a place for tourists to stand and stare in awe at the architecture or sip a coffee or a beer and people watch. In August every other year, a million begonias are used to construct a flower carpet. The display lasts just a few days but covers an area of 24 by 77 metres.
At night the square takes on a completely different feel. Lit up by cleverly placed floodlighting, the restaurants are quickly filled with evening diners and it is a photographers dream. If you visit on a cooler, damp night the lights seem even brighter as it reflects off the bricks in the square.
See also : City Break Brussels