When visiting European cities, it is common to walk through a crowded square, and the well-preserved ones would be surrounded by stylish historical buildings. Brussels Grand Plaza is one of the best examples of a historical square, and the buildings that surround the square makes the place very attractive to visitors which are a combination of Gothic and Neo-Classic style buildings.
I have been traveling to Belgium since I was sixteen and the centrum of Brussels is the most beautiful town square that I have encountered so far. The center is always lively day and night which makes me excited anytime I pass there. The old buildings are so attractive that I cannot take my eyes out of them. The buildings are so stylish, decorated with great sculptures and engravings that I am so impressed of the architects of these buildings. Brussels square became more interesting for me when I learned about the story behind them.
On my last visit, I wandered around the city center, examined each building and also the sculptures thoroughly as if I have encountered there for the first time in life. The places that mostly attracted my attention were Grand Plaza, Manneken Pis Statue, and Beurs Building.
Grand Plaza (Grand Palace – Grote Markt)
Grand Plaza or Grote Markt is the main city square of the city which is fully surrounded by historical buildings including the City Hall. Brussel’s Grand Plaza has always been an administrative center for the citizens and visitors where has witnessed many occasions throughout the history. Today, there are many occasional events happens all the time. For example every two August the square is ornate with a carpet decoration made out of millions of beautiful flowers. Click here to learn more about it.
Documents highlight that the square exists since the 12th century. Grand Plaza was bombarded on August 13, 1695 by the French Army and then all the buildings were renovated four years after the bombardment. All of the buildings on the Grand Plaza is in the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.
Below you will find some information about main buildings in Grand Plaza. After reading all this information, go back to the Grand Plaza (if possible) and take a look at all the buildings. I am sure you will see them with different eyes when learning about the story behind them because stories enriches everything and makes them more interesting and attractive.
Broodhuis -Maison du Roi: This building is known as the King’s House even though it was never used as a residential palace. The building is constructed in 1536 and renovated in 1873. Today there is a history and culture museum where items and paintings are exhibited. Inside, there is also a room devoted to the wardrobe of Mannekin Pis Statue which has a collection of more than 600 different outfits.
Stadhuis – Hotel de Ville: This building is used as city’s municipality building (Town Hall) and it was constructed between 1401 to 1455. Here is one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic Style building.
On the top of the Town Hall, there is a beautiful tower which was added as the last element to the building. The tower is crowned by the Statue of the Archangel and stands 96 meters above the ground. The entire building is surrounded by 150 states.
Inside valuable tapestry and painting artworks from 16th, 17th, and 18th century is being exhibited on the walls of the City Hall. The building had been restored a couple of times since its construction and the last one took place in 1995.
De Duif – Le Pigeon: Victor Hugo, the famous novelist, and poet of the 19th century was once a famous resident of the Grand Plaza. Hugo moved to Belgium by arranging a fake passport when he was banned from France by Louis Napoleon. Victor Hugo lived in “De Duif” house for a year (the Pidgeon) when he was banned from the French buildings. Those were the productive days for Hugo that he wrote: “L’Histoire d’un Crime” (The Story of a Crime) and “Napoleon-le-Petit” (Napoleon, the small) during his residency in Belgium.
Manneken Pis Statue
On the corner of Rue de l’Étuv and the Rue du Chêne, there sits a small bizarre statue, Mannekin Pis or the peeing boy. This statue is the most famous symbol of the city and was always important to Belgian Citizens that several replicas were made throughout the history.
The statue that we see today is also a replica from the 17th century. The original version is made out of stone and it was functioning as a city fountain. In 1747 soldiers from French army stole the statue and brought it to Luis XV as a satiric act. However, the king did not liked this action at all, and punished his soldiers severely and sent the statue back to Belgium.
There are several legends explaining the story behind statue. According to one belief, there were many tanners in the city and they were letting the children to pee on the leathers as a process to make them stronger. Mannekin Pis fountain-statue was sculpted as a homage to the tanners. The other legend is about a little boy rescued the city from fire by peeing on it and the city tributed this boy by constructing the Mannekin Pis.
Well it is not clear where Mannekin Pis statue came from but it is very clear that the statue is the most famous attraction of the city. There are always some tourists in front of the statue taking selfies with this little peeing boy. Manneken Pis has more than 600 outfits which are customarily made for the statue and they are preserved in Broodhuis building on the Grand Plaza.
Brussels has always been a finance center throughout the history and today the capital of European Union. Beurs Building, located in the city’s second major square was constructed as the stock market of the city.
Beurs is one of the most attractive buildings in the city which resembles a Greek Temple with having traces of neoclassical architecture style. The building was planned by Leon Surs and constructed between 1868 to 1873. The building represents wealthy 19th century times of the country.
In 1990, a large fire took over and destroyed the entire basement floor.Currently, the interior of Beurs building is under construction and it is planned to be opened in 2018 as Beer Temple. Click here to learn more about the Beer Temple plan.