The Grand Place in Brussels

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The Grand Place, Brussels’ central square and a UNESCO World Heritage site, is dominated by the fifteenth-century Town Hall. This imposing structure, with its tall spire and detailed exterior, is surrounded by beautiful former Guild Halls. Each represents a different profession, heavily gilded. The Swan, one of the most beautiful, is the former butchers’ Guild Hall, and is now a famous restaurant. Others built by bakers, sailors, merchants and brewers have left a wonderful legacy to their occupations. The Grand Place was bombed to ruins in 1695 by order of Louis XIV of France. The buildings were all rebuilt between 1695 and 1700.

The King's House, housing the city museum, is across from the Town Hall.  Built in the sixteenth century by local Dukes showing off their wealth and power it is imposing. The Belgian flag graces its entrance, but the eye is drawn to the symmetry of its neo-gothic exterior. The King's House, also called the Breadhouse, never housed a King: only Dukes.

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Just off the square are other interesting sites. The most visited is the Mannequin Piz: a small statute of a boy ‘making water’. This landmark is costumed on various holidays e.g. a Santa Claus suit for Christmas. During my visit he was naked and surrounded by tourists. Sometimes watching the tourists is as much fun as visiting the landmarks.  A shrine to the Evrard 't Serclaes, who gave his life to protect Brussels from attack in the fourteenth century, is supposed to bring good luck to all who rub the statue's wrist. You can see where visitors have rubbed the patina away. 

After buying a Belgian waffle sprinkled with powdered sugar and trying to keep the fine particles from my camera, I went back into the square to get a closer look at the wonderful details on the Town Hall. It is one of the most interesting buildings I have ever seen. I was fascinated with the variety of the carvings from knights with shields, lions, and gargoyles to the Archangel Michael slaying a demon on the facade of the arched doorway. Another golden Archangel Michael atop the grand spire reaches for the heavens. You could spend hours just gazing at all the different carvings, statues, and decorations on the buildings in this square.

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The square is large and so crowded with buildings that even with a wide-angle lens you cannot fit most of the square into one shot. I took a series to combine into one image of the square. I especially like the open-air art stand selling modern renditions of the centuries-old buildings. ??I have had the good fortune to visit some grand squares over the years: Venice's St. Mark's, Rome’s St. Peter's, New York’s Times Square. The Grand Place in Brussels is well worth a visit. I hope my images lure you to Brussels.

Editor's Note

See larger versions of the thumbnails by clicking them. See more images in Jim Chamberlain's album "".

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