Grand Place, the main and most iconic square in Brussels, stands proud at the confluence of some of the city’s main paved arteries which meander into Brussels’ striking core. Considered one of the world’s most eye-catching urban scenes and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, this open square is surrounded by impressive architecture and a history dating back as far as the 15th century. The Hotel de Ville is one such example, built in stages between 1401 and 1452, this example of Gothic architecture stands an impressive 96 metres tall. The King’s House (Maison du Roi), now the City Museum, is another sight well worth taking in. Ironically, no king has ever actually lived here, however, it was intended to stand as a symbol of power when it was built in the 16th century and still looks just as impressive today.
Surrounding the square you can also see a number of buildings which served as homes to wealthy merchants and guilds of Brussels: these included craftsmen, cabinetmakers, painters and brewers of Belgium’s famous beer. Check out the crests on the front of the buildings to see which trades made a home there.
Other sights well worth taking in are the Musée du Costume et de la Dentelle (4 rue de la Violette, tel: +32(0)213 44 50 - see Google map below) and Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat at the end of the square. Both offer excellent opportunities to see some of Brussels’ most impressive crafts – lace and Belgium chocolate!
Head to the corner of Rue de l’Etuve and Rue du Chêne, and you’ll find the symbol of freedom and the impertinence of Brussels: the Manneken Pis.This bronze statue is surrounded by many a tale but the most common concerns a two year old lord who urinated on the troops of Berthouts, who later lost their battle. The statue has an extensive wardrobe and parades his attire a couple of times a week. Check the schedule to see what he’ll be wearing – and don’t forget your camera…
Another ‘must’ on any visit to Grand Place is a wander down to Place de la Vieille Halle aux Bles where you should check out the Musée Jacques Brel. After a cultural immersion you should then make your way along the pedestrianised street of ‘Rollebeek’ where there are an array of beautiful houses, galleries and restaurants to soak up before you reach les Sablons.
This delightful region is home to the church of Notre-Dame-du-Sablon, a gothic building which begs to be noticed, as well as the charming garden of Le Petit Sablon. A great place to have some rest and for contemplating the impressive façade of the church.
Finally, if you hanker after even more culture, make a note of the Musées du Mont des Arts. This is THE place to be for museums. Not less than 6 museums are located in this area, from Antique Art Museum to Modern Art, not to forget the magical MIM, for Musée des Instruments de Musique (Museum for Musical Instruments) and the world famous museum of the pope of surrealism, the Magritte Museum.
PS: and don't forget to explore Old Brussels, the Marolles District should satisfy your cultural carving...