The Grand Place (French also used in English) or Grote Markt (Dutch) is the central square of Brussels. It is surrounded by guildhalls, the city's Town Hall, and the Breadhouse (French: Maison du Roi, Dutch: Broodhuis). The square is the most important tourist destination and most memorable landmark in Brussels, along with the Atomium and Manneken Pis. It measures 68 by 110 metres (223 by 360 ft), and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At the beginning of the 13th century, three indoor markets were built on the northern edge of the Grand Place; a meat market, a bread market and a cloth market. These buildings, which belonged to the Duke of Brabant, allowed the wares to be showcased even in bad weather, but also allowed the Dukes to keep track of the storage and sale of goods, in order to collect taxes. Other buildings, made of wood or stone, enclosed the Grand Place.
The Grand Place continued to serve as a market until November 19, 1959, and it is still called the Grote Markt or Great Market in Dutch. Neighbouring streets still reflect the area's origins, named after the sellers of butter, cheese, herring, coal and so on. The Grand Place was named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1998. One of the houses was owned by the brewers' guild, and is now the home of a brewers' museum.
Brussels Grand-Place has recently been voted the most beautiful square in Europe. A survey by a Dutch website (stedentripper.com) asked its users to rate different squares across Europe. Moscow’s Red Square and the Place Stanislas in Nancy, France, took second and third place.
Every two years in August, an enormous "flower carpet" is set up in the Grand Place for a few days. A million colourful begonias are set up in patterns, and the display covers a full 24 by 77 metres (79 by 253 ft), for area total of 1,800 square metres (19,000 sq ft). The first flower carpet was made in 1971, and due to its popularity, the tradition continued, with the flower carpet attracting a large number of tourists.
In popular culture
- The second and third series of the BBC television series Secret Army were filmed here in 1978 and 1979, specifically around the building that is now Maxim's restaurant.
- In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the protagonist, Marlow, refers to the Grand Place as a "white sepulchre."