Brussels is a good tourist spot. It is a mix of the old and the new. Some of the areas exude old age charm. The cobbled streets, the quaint shops, cafes and restaurants really make you feel like staying there for more days. The most famous tourist spot within the city is the Grand Place which is a central market square. It has the Town Hall (Hôtel de ville), the Guild houses and the Breadhouse (King’s House). Each of these are magnificent. It was between 1402 and 1455 that the Town Hall was constructed. It has a beautiful Gothic Tower, on which there is a statue of St. Michael considered the patron of Brussels. Before the present structure of the Breadhouse, it was a wooden building in the 13th century where bakers sold their produce. It was converted to a stone structure in the 15th century and later into the Neo-Gothic style edifice in the 19th century.
This is just across the Hôtel de ville and is also known as the Maison du Roi (or King’s House). It did not belong to the king ever but the King’s instructions were usually read from here. Hence the nomenclature. The Grand Place came under attack in the 17th century war with France. It was almost razed to the ground. But the square was rebuilt by the Guilds under planned supervision. Hence the new layout has an organized look though the styles vary from Gothic to Baroque to Louis XIV. In 1998 UNESCO named the Grand Place as a World Heritage Site.
The Guild halls have facades conforming to the relevant occupations or the original occupants. The Swan guildhall housed butchers, the Pigeon guildhall housed painters, the Brewer House the inevitable!. Today these guild houses have restaurants, hotels and shops.
A flower market is held here every Sunday morning. Every even year in August the centre of the Square is covered in flowers. It is called the Tapis des Fleurs. The Square is a good place to hang out in. There are small eateries and good restaurants here where one can sit outside and enjoy the food and the place. This is also a place where musical performances take place at times. It gives a very festive, jovial feel to the place. It is a tourist favorite, so be sure to encounter large number of people in the square. The that adds to the charm.
There are a number of small streets leading from the square. They have a variety of shops and eateries. The most famous of them are the small shops selling Belgium Waffles. One must try these Waffles – they come with a number of toppings – cream and banana, strawberries, nuts et al.
How to get to Grand Place (Grote Markt)-
The Central Station (Gare Central) is close by. You can also take the metro to De Brouckére or Parc. It is walking distance from these places. You can also take Taxi or car. You can check out the details of getting around in Brussels and other Tourist info here.
More details about means of transport at the official site.
Picture on the left: A waffle shop on Rue de l’Etuve
Picture on the right: Mmmm…a Belgium Waffle.
Picture below: A street in Brussels