Grand Place

Address: Grand Place, Brussels, 1000, Belgium

- Free


The historic heart of Brussels and Europe’s finest square.

It’s impossible not to be impressed by the gilded beauty of the UNESCO-listed Grand-Place. The area has served as a market place since the 12th century. As the wealth of the various guilds — butchers, bakers, tanners etc — grew, they built lavish townhouses to demonstrate their might. These first versions were made of wood but all, save the Hôtel de Ville exterior, were destroyed in 1695 when King Louis VIV of France bombarded the city. The buildings you see today are 17th-century rebuilds. However, their facades are no less glamorous and the intricate carvings indicating which house belonged to which guild are fascinating. For instance, the building now used by Le Roi d’Espagne café once belonged to the wealthy Guild of the Bakers and you can see statues of six Greek gods involved with the production of wheat atop the flat roof and from left to right these are: Hercules (god of strength), Ceres (god of wheat and summer), Eoie (god of wind), Vulcan (god of fire), Neptune (god of water), Wisdom, and Fame blowing her horn.

Be sure to visit the Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles inside the Maison du Roi which, among other treasures, contains a collection of Mannekin Pis costumes gifted by various world leaders. Tours of the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), across the way, are also available and underneath its colonnade you’ll find a tourist information kiosk.


Value for money

Price advice

Entry to Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles (open: Tues—Sun 10am—5pm) costs 4 euros per adult, 2 euros per child; free with Brussels Card — see [node:174676].

Guided tours of the Hôtel de Ville are available April–September Tues and Wed at 3.15pm, Sun 12.15pm; October—March Tues 3.15pm; admission 3 euros.

House No 10. contains the overpriced and rather dull Belgian Brewers Museum (open: Mon—Sun 10am—5pm); admission 6 euros, free with Brussels Card.


Expert tips

For a bird’s eye view of the square, pop into Le Roi d’Espagne and have a beer by the window on the second floor.

The square gets incredibly busy during Easter and summer; it’s best to visit early in the morning or later in the afternoon (around 6pm), when the coach tours have left. Happily, these times also offer the best light/photo opportunities, with the sun glinting off the gold-leaf inlays.

Recommended for

  • Backpackers / Students
  • Culture vultures
  • Families with teenagers
  • First-time travellers
  • Stag / hen parties
  • Great views / scenery
  • Nightlife
  • People watching
  • Sightseeing
  • Design and architecture