Brussels is a European city with one of the most impressive central sqaures: Grand Place. This UNESCO World Heritage site is also known as the “Grote Markt” in Flemish; “The earliest written reference to the Nedermarckt (Lower Market), as it was originally known, dates from 1174. The present name came into use in the last quarter of the 18th century.”
What most people stand in front of to take dozens of photos is the Hotel de Ville (City Hall).
Facing Hotel de Ville across the square is the other main feature of Grand Place, the Maison du Roi (King’s House), which is now home to the hundreds of costumes for Mannekin Pis (a small statue of a boy urinating – the symbol of the city).
The Grand Place in summertime is full of people taking photos, enjoying the patios and just gazing at the 360 views of architectural beauty. Tourists can find flowers for sale in the center and the various artwork and take home a small painting of the Grand Place’s buildings. Every two years, if you plan it right, you can visit the Grand Place and see the flower carpet. Most of the square is covered in flowers designed in patterns and appearing as a gigantic carpet. The view of the carpet can be seen from the balconies of the buildings surrounding Grand Place for a fee. This view is probably the best a person can get because on the ground, the flower carpet isn’t seen in its full form. Having a close up of the underlying grass and the wilted flower petals doesn’t give the same picture as a full floral design. The flower carpet is an amazing sight to see, but you may also consider planning your visit so that you can see Grand Place in its full glory: full of people.
After taking in the views of Grand Place, many people make their way over the the crowd standing to the left of Hotel de Ville. They will all be at the ready to dive in front of the bronze statue to rub it like everyone else. What most tourists don’t know about the statue of Everard ‘t Serclaes is that he drove the Flemish out of Brussels after they disputed the succession of Joanna and her husband Wenceslaus to the Brabantine throne in 1355. This enabled the royals to enter this city and he was made alderman of the city. Everard was commemorated in a monument and locals say that the statue brings luck to those who touch it. And Voila! You have dozens of tourists crowded around the worn-down statue to rub their way to some luck.
You can then walk down the street towards the infamous Mannekin Pis. On the way, the you might be tempted to walk right past Hotel Amigo, which used to serve as a prison, but its worth a stop to take a look. Along the way to the Manneken Pis, there are many lace shops. Rose’s Lace Boutique is recommendable for affordable souvenirs, you may consider a wine bottle jacket. The Dandoy biscuiterie is a great place for a sweet stop. You can sit upstairs and enjoy a treat like a coffee with Dandoy’s famous biscuits made since 1829, a Liege waffle or ice cream.
The Manneken Pis statue has many legends surrounding it. Manneken Pis literally translates to “Little Man Pee” in a Dutch dialet spoken in Brussels. Designed by Jerome Duquesnoy and was put in place around 1618. By tradition the Manneken Pis is dressed up in different costumes throughout the year from one representing the national dress of visiting nations to Brussels to assorted trades and professions to civil and military service outfits.
Most people’s reaction when setting eyes on the statue in person is: its so small. Another fun fact about the Manneken Pis, is that it also has a lesser-known female counterpart: the Jeanneke Pis, which is also located in the Grand Place area. Walking back to Grand Place (Grote Markt) square, take the street with the Godiva chocolate shop on the corner and continue on Rue de la Colline (english translation: Hill Street), take a right onto Rue du Marché aux Herbes (Herb Market Street). Then you enter Galerie de la Reine (Queen’s Gallery), here you can stop in the chocolate shops, clothing stores and other gift shops.
When you come to the “light at the end of the tunnel”/first part of the Gallery, take left onto Rue des Bouchers where you will walk by all of the restaurants with their big displays of seafood outside and restaurant hosts trying to convince you to come in. If you give into the temptation/persuasion, its advisable not to go for their special menus: an appetizer, main course and dessert for 12-18 Euros. These meals are…..cheap. Yes, they fill you up, but some of the appetizers may come from a can (shrimp or soup) and the dessert (Belgian waffle) is most likely purchased from the grocery store. So its better to go for one dish for the same price, but know that you are getting something prepared in house. Although, the special menus are good for budget travelers.
After enjoying a meal or fighting your way past the restaurant hosts, you take right onto Impasse de la Fidélité (Fidelity/Reliabilities dead-end). On this little street you can let loose as the street name implies and have a few Belgian beers at Delirium Cafe. More of a dark smoky pub than a cafe you can find over 2,000 beers (Belgian and international brands).
After trying a few different flavors of Belgian beer or brands from another country, you can step out of the pub and find Jeanneke Pis behind red bars to the left. Having downed a couple, makes it the statue seem humorous rather than a sad or distasteful.
These are only some of the highlights of spots to see around the Grand Place area. There are many beautiful Cathedrals and shopping areas to explore as well, but these are the places and monuments that everyone talks about so its good to check them off the list to know what all the hype is about.
I hope you enjoyed this highlights tour of Brussels Grand Place. What’s your favorite attraction? Or is there another must-see spot in Grand Place that wasn’t shown here?