Results 11-20of 23 Reviews
April 27, 2005
From journal Walk Around Brussels in a Day
April 7, 2005
Several of the buildings here are former Guild Houses, and it's possible to tell which ones are which depending on how they are decorated architecturally from the outside. An example of this: you can tell which building used to be the guild house of the shipbuilders because there are marine symbols on the building. If you are interested in this particular type of history, I would suggest taking a tour, because you will be able to learn more with a guide than simply by reading the pamphlets.
In addition to the guild houses, one of the buildings was the former residence of Victor Hugo. For those of you who may have forgotten history/literature, he is the individual who wrote both The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables. He actually described La Grande Place as the most beautiful square in the world. You should take a look and see for yourself.
The city hall was built in the 15th century, and you can tell the distinct difference in the building styles from this building and the guild houses. This is the building with the dominant bell tower that will be a focal point of several of your pictures. Here also is the lion’s staircase, always a good place to snap a few photographs. I would also suggest this as a meeting place if you are trying to gather a group, because simply saying La Grande Place does not narrow it down enough. Also, if you are lucky, you may catch a couple getting married, since everyone in Belgium is required to have a civil ceremony and many go to the Town Hall to perform this observance.
Opposite the Town Hall is the Maison du Roi (even though not a single King lived here). The majority of this building was rebuild in the 19th century; it is ornate and large and houses a museum inside.
In addition to simply the buildings, there are many bars/pubs/restaurants on La Grande Place. I would strongly suggest coming here at night for a drink (have a Belgian beer), sitting by the window, and simply enjoying the view. Between the people, the architecture, and the setting, it will be an experience you won’t forget.
My final bit of advice is to visit La Grande place twice. I know you are probably busy on your whirlwind tour of Brussels, but you won’t regret it. Visit La Grande Place the first time during the day and the second time at night. There will be a remarkable change in what you are seeing.
From journal Sensory Delight: Brussels, Belgium
June 17, 2004
The original Grand’Place was destroyed by king of France Louis XIV during the war against the Spanish, but the people of Brussels were quick to rebuild in a mix of Flemish Renaissance and gothic style. The most distinguishable building is the City Hall. It is the crown jewel of the square. If you look at it, you’ll see it is not symmetric. The legend says that when the building was finished and the architect came to see it, he felt so humiliated he climbed on top of the spire and jumped. The building is filled with statues gargoyles, soldiers, ladies, monks…
You can visit the City Hall. The other remarkable building is the Maison du Roi (or King's house), on the other side of the Grand'Place, where in fact the king has nothing to do with it. It takes its name from the chimney-sculpted figures of Charles V, King of Spain who was the ruler at the time. The building hosts the museum of the City of Brussels and that's where Manneken Pis has his wardrobe. It is not the original building. Most of it has been rebuilt in the 19th century.
Another noteworthy building: Le Cygne, The Swan house, with its beautiful Swan figure, is now a restaurant. In the 19th century, it was a tavern where exiles Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote their "Manifesto" .The Maison des Brasseurs (Brewers House) where the Brewey Museum is (you can visit and the price of a degustation is included). At the number 16, the" Windwill", French writer Victor Hugo lived for a month, when he was not making his researches in Waterloo for "Les Misérables". "Le Roy d'Espagne", King of Spain, has a great medieval-looking cafe-restaurant. And on the right side of the Square, there is the huge "Maison des Ducs de Brabant", house of Brabant Dukes.
From journal Must-See Brussels
April 20, 2004
There is the annual Brussels Jazz Marathon in May, featuring musicians at various venues across the city. There is a temporary stage at the Grand Place for free featured musical acts along with food and beer available for purchase. The weather can be miserable, but the skies do not seem so gray with a waffle, a cherry beer, and mellow jazz music wafting in the confines of the plaza.
The annual Ommegang procession is based on a magnificent parade attended by Emperor Charles V in 1549. The origins actually can be traced back to 1359 after a special statue of the Virgin Mary was transported from Antwerp to the Eglise Notre-Dame-du-Sablon. Originally more somber and religious in nature, the Ommegang is now more of a mini-carnival with a procession of guilds, locals dressed up in velvety medieval period costumes, and performers balanced on precariously tall stilts. There are 3000 reserved seats on temporary bleachers within the Grand Place. If you do not have tickets, try to watch the flag processions and horse parades on one of the side streets leading towards the square. Otherwise you can get some free peeks here and there. This memorable event usually takes place on the first Thursday in July.
The famous Carpet of Flowers covers almost the entire Grand Place only once every two years, although the way the scene is depicted on every postcard rack in the city would lead you to believe that this horticultural spectacle takes place every day. The floral carpet, which includes over 700,000 begonias, usually lasts for only three days and is held the second weekend of every even-year August (in 2004 it is scheduled for August 13 to 15). The design of these amazing temporary floral tapestries is different every two years.
The Grand Place supports a European Christmas Market in December, featuring food, drink, music and chilly yuletide cheer. You may witness a "crib" with live animals stationed here. As winter continues, there is a public skating rink in the plaza.
From journal Bill in Belgium - BRUSSELS
The unity of appearance within the Grand Place is no accident. Brussels was pummeled by the French in 1695, and somehow much of the City Hall (also called the Hotel de Ville in French and the Stadhuis in Flemish) was not destroyed. This allowed for architects a unique opportunity to create a work of urban design that is remarkably refined and cohesive. Most of the guildhalls were constructed with Italian-Flemish Baroque facades from 1695 to 1700 to complement the Gothic City Hall, although they have been thoroughly renovated since then. The rectangular plaza (about 360 feet long and 225 feet wide) does not follow the compass points exactly, but we will call the longer sides the “northern” and “southern” sides.
The largest building of the Grand Place is the City Hall, which was begun in 1402 and occupies most of the southern side of the square. The Lions’ Staircase, a good spot to take some photos, was the former main entrance. The majestic tower (315 feet high) was added in 1455 by architect Jan Van Ruysbroeck. It is topped by a statue of St. Michael, the patron saint of Brussels. The facade looks asymmetrical due to the location of the tower, but it is composed of a certain number of bays, and the effect is that the design of the building defers to the overall appearance of the square. A fabricated legend has it that the architect had jumped off the top of the tower when he realized the supposedly erroneous spotting of the tower. The local tourism office is located here if you want to pick up some free brochures.
The counterpoint on the northern side is the King’s House (Maison du Roi), although no king has actually resided here. It was rebuilt and completed in 1895 based after its earlier appearance of 1515. The Musee de la Ville de Bruxelles is located here, including the collection of delicate and bizarre outfits of the Manneken Pis. The House of the Dukes of Brabant (1698) occupies the eastern side of the square. It actually contains six separate guildhalls, although it looks like one large and unified elevation. The rest of the square is filled in with the skinny and decorated facades of the guildhalls. The various buildings house shops, restaurants, as well as museums dedicated to brewing and chocolates. No one facade stands out, but they put forth a team effort and a beautiful visual whole is the grand result.
New York, New York
January 29, 2004
From journal Eight Hours in Brussels, Belgium
July 17, 2003
From journal Brussels, melting pot in the middle of Europe
by Linda Kaye
San Antonio, Texas
January 12, 2003
The Grand’ Place is hard to describe. It reminded me of San Marco's Square in Venice, Italy, only more ornate. All the buildings face the center of the large square, which is restricted to pedestrian-only traffic, and house at least 14 café/restaurant establishments, candy shops, chic clothing stores, banks, and other businesses. Today the Grand’ Place is less of a market and more of a gathering place.
What I found unique about the Grand’ Place was that each of the magnificent buildings around the Square was individually named. Here are a few examples:
Le Cygne (The Swan) was my favorite, with a breathtaking swan sculpture over the main door. It was originally built as a private residence, later became the Butchers’ Guild House, and later still used by Karl Marx for meetings of the German Workers’ Union when he was writing the Communist Manifesto. Today, it is an elegant and expensive restaurant.
L’Etoile (The Star) was destroyed and rebuilt in 1850. One of the city’s heroes, Evrard ‘t Serclaes, was brought to the original building after a rebellion, and died there.
Le Pigeon (The Pigeon), also known as the Painters' Guild House, was once the home of the 19th-century writer, Victor Hugo, who gave the world Les Miserables and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Le Cornet (The Horn), the Boatmen’s Guild House, is decorated with marine symbols.
Le Renard (The Fox), was the Haberdasher’s Guild House and has an elaborate carving of a fox.
La Louve (The She-Wolf) so named because of the statue at the entrance of Romulus and Remus suckling a wolf. It is now a bank.
One of the most spectacular events held at the Grand’ Place is the Tapis des Fleurs (flower carpet) held bi-annually in mid-August (on even-numbered years). Unfortunately, we missed it by one month. The show consists of a magnificent and intricate design using fresh flowers that covers the entire center of this large square. To be in Brussels and see the Tapis des Fleurs is a rare and unforgettable treat for visitors.
From journal Beguiling Brussels
April 25, 2001
We have seen been to most countries in Europe and back to Brussels many times but we still think that the Grand'Place is the most beautiful square with its majestic Town Hall dating back to the 15th century and the intricate Gothic Guild Houses. Come to the square and spend some time admiring all the details on the gilded facades of the houses.
There is a flower market in the square every morning and a bird market on Sunday morning. In the summer, there is a light show there at dusk where the different buildings are highlighted. Every other year, in the later part of August, a flower tapestry 110m long and 68 m wide covers the square.
From journal A weekend in Brussels
Northern Va Suburbs of DC, Virginia
January 15, 2001
From journal Brussels-The place for the best Beer and Chocolate.