The Grote Markt (Dutch) or Grand Place (French) is the central market square of Brussels. It is surrounded by guild houses, the city's Town Hall and the Bread House (Dutch: Broodhuis, French: Maison du Roi). The Grand Place was named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1998.
The Grand Place was first laid out after the construction of the town hall, at the centre of the city's commercial district. Neighboring streets still reflect the area's origins, named after the sellers of butter, cheese, herring, coal and so on. The original Grand Place was a medley of buildings constructed between the 15th and 17th centuries in a variety of styles.
The Town Hall (French: Hôtel de Ville, Dutch: Stadhuis) was constructed between 1402 and 1455. The original architect was probably Jacob van Thienen. The 96-meter-high tower in Brabantine Gothic style emerged from the plans of Jan van Ruysbroek, the court architect of Philip the Good. Atop the spire stands a 5-meter-high gilt metal statue of the archangel Michael, patron saint of Brussels, slaying a dragon or devil. The tower, its front archway and the main building facade are conspicuously off-center relative to one another. According to legend, the architect upon discovering this "error" leapt to his death from the tower. The facade is decorated with numerous statues representing nobles, saints, and allegorical figures.
In the 13th century the predecessor of the Bread House was a wooden building where bakers sold their bread in a covered market. Its Dutch name Broodhuis recalls this function. It was replaced in the 15th century by a stone building for the administration of the duke of Brabant. When the duchy fell to the Habsburgs, the Maison du Duc (Duke's house) became the Maison du Roi (King's house), the latter being the current French name of the building. Charles V rebuilt the building in a late Gothic style during his reign in the 16th century, similar to its appearance today. In 1873, the city entrusted architect Victor Jamaer to restore the battered structure in neo-gothic style.
Grand Place Wikipedia Entry
Brussels Town Hall Wikipedia Entry