More Than Just a Pretty Face

For over a thousand years, this was Brussels’ bustling marketplace. Imagine farmers peddling their wares, merchants striking deals, and yes, public executions – it was the Middle Ages after all. The Grand Place has also been the backdrop for grand feasts, royal processions and jousting tournaments. Between 1945 and 1977 it was, uhm, a car park.

A Feast for the Eyes

Today, the Grand Place is a stunning collection of architectural treasures. The star attraction is the majestic Town Hall, a medieval masterpiece that miraculously survived a French bombing in 1695. Its towering spire, topped with a statue of St. Michael (Brussels’ guardian angel), is the perfect photo op.

Opposite the Town Hall, the grand Maison du Roi (King’s House) now houses the Brussels City Museum. This building has quite the resume, starting as a bread market 800 years ago and later serving as a regional hub for the Habsburg Empire.

But the real charm of the Grand Place lies in its smaller buildings – the former guild houses. These beautifully decorated structures, now home to shops and restaurants, were once the headquarters of powerful merchant and craftsman guilds. Their leaders gathered here to wheel and deal, make rules, and basically run the city. After the bombing, they rebuilt their houses with a flourish, flaunting their wealth and determination.

Guild House Highlights: