The Grand Place, also called ‘La Grande’ is a reflection of an eclectic and highly successful blend of architectural and artistic styles of the Flemish. The quality of the work done on La Grande is a classic example of evolution of architectural designs of a mercantile city in Northern Europe at its height of prosperity.
The earliest reference to the La Grande comes in form of the Nedermarckt (Lower Market), as the place was known in 1174. The present name was adopted in the 18th century.
La Grande is located on a marshland on the right banks of River Senne. A defensive castle was built here in 977 by Charles of France who was the Dule of Lower Lotharingia. The marshland would be drained in the 12th century so as the present rectangular for of La Grande would be developed. Over the centuries, it saw successive enlargements, but it was not until 1695 that it took a definitive form.
In the 15th century, the houses that had been formerly built on the southern side were replaced with the East and West Wings of the City Hall and its bell tower. In the year 1405, a Bread Hall was built on the northern side of the hall. Unfortunately, the Bread Hall would be demolished in 1512 and then replaced with a larger building called La Maison du roi (the King’s House). In August of 1695, the French king, Louis XIV ordered bombardment of the city in reprisal for the destruction of the French Coastal Towns by the English and Dutch War Ships whom the Flemish supported. Despite the destruction suffered, the town rebuilt quickly and in 1697, the city was promulgated by the City magistrate.
La Grande is covered by the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) on the southern side. Facing the city hall is the King’s House. Other notable buildings in the place include:
- Les Ducs de Brabant
- Le Roi de l'Espagne
- Le Cornet
- Le Cygne
- Maison des Brasseurs
Although the degree of preservation in these buildings is varied, you will have a lot of fun exploring them. Some of them have been converted into cafes, restaurants and shops. Have your tea on sunset as you watch the Belgians go about their business in this ancient town.
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