The Grand Place in Brussels, also name the Grote Markt, is described in multiple sites and travel guides as a must-see place in Brussels but, even with my little European tourist experience at the time, I remember that it lacked a “je ne sais quoi”.
The Grand Place, as its name suggests, occupies an impressive space and is framed by tall buildings that give us a stiff neck admiring them. It is very monochromic gray with some golden adornments and gilding. There are beautiful gold accents that have been accentuated over the years to add richness to the place. Some buildings lead us to believe that their beauty is only in front with a jagged gable which is almost the only distinction with a green or red awning but get closer to the door overhead where features indicate the role of some places in the early days. The Town Hall and the Maison du Roi are the imposing buildings on the square. Note that there is no place of worship on this square which is a rare concept at this time.
Trade has taken place there since its beginnings. In the 15th century, and today, choosing to have a bite here means higher pricing justified by having the opportunity to contemplate an architectural ensemble recognized by UNESCO.
The importance of this place to the population was certainly the source of choice for the few public executions before being the target of a terrible bombardment in 1693 by the French regime. It was known to be at the heart of flourishing activities and destroying it would certainly hurt the economy, its people and the municipal management. Nevertheless, the community recovered and rebuilt, keeping the same original setting, a place of exchange with the merchant houses that surround it, the Town Hall which has managed to partially survive and the Maison du Roi.
Its past is significant but on a visit here without context, it is difficult to understand all aspects and appreciate its earlier historical “beauty”. Its monotonous, gray and repetitive facades give a cloudy image lacking color. Perhaps that is why flower beds are exposed every other year and the multi-colored light shows in the evening are relied upon to bring some pigmented life to the square.
Even though our visit was a few years ago, it seems the same. The place is crowded with visitors and it does not have the merchants’ old-time energy of the people here but a tourist image.
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