Richly decorated guildhalls
Display of power on the square
During the first half of the 15th century, the City Hall was built on the south side of the square, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. The interior has an elaborate mix of styles including the Louis XIV style from the early 18th century. The building has a tower 96 metres in height, topped with a 3-metre tall statue of the archangel Michael killing a dragon. This show of strength incited the envy of the Duke of Brabant, who promptly had the former Broodhuis (Breadhouse) on the other side of the square extravagantly decorated. He renamed it ‘Maison du Roi’ – House of the King.
In 1695, the Grand Place suffered extensive destruction during heavy bombing by Louis XIV’s troops. The French Sun King wanted to expand his territory during the Nine-Year War, which ravaged Brussels as well. But the city recovered quickly, thanks in part to the guilds. The centre was rapidly rebuilt and, after a relatively short period, the Grand Place was returned to its former glory.
The Broodhuis, also known as ‘Maison du Roi’
The many faces of the Broodhuis
One of the most ornately decorated buildings on the Grand Place is the Broodhuis, the ‘Maison du Roi’. It has undergone renovations on numerous occasions throughout the centuries. Bread was sold here in the 13th century, and in the early 15th century, the building was occupied by the Duke of Brabant. It was still a wooden construction at the time but was replaced by a stone building in 1405. A Gothic façade with flamboyant details was added under Emperor Charles and, in the mid-19th century, the building was once again demolished and rebuilt in Neo-Gothic style. Nowadays, the Broodhuis houses a museum with a valuable collection of paintings, wall tapestries, sculptures, silverware and porcelain. It is definitely worth a visit, as the collection provides a fabulous overview of the city’s history.
From stone square to sea of flowers
Flower carpet on the square
Every 2 years in August, the Grand Place square is covered with an enormous flower carpet. About 120 volunteers spend four hours covering a surface area of 1,800 square metres with 800,000 colourful begonias in beautiful patterns. The first flower carpet, made in 1971, was such a success that a tradition was born. The event always attracts thousands of tourists. It is an impressive site to see a stone square transformed into a sea of flowers for an entire week.