The Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium: A Historic Landmark

When the Grand Place of the capital of Belgium was destroyed in 1695 by French artillery, the bourgeois of Brussels, proud of this commercial nerve center, instead of rebuilding it in a contemporary style, preferred to rebuild it in its former state and styles. It is interesting to note that it is one of the few main squares of a European city that does not house any church or other place of worship, which reaffirms its administrative and mercantile function.

The Town Hall, which preserves its Gothic and 18th-century components intact and well visible, occupies most of the south side of the large square and consists of a group of buildings that are organized around an inner rectangular courtyard. Although it remained standing despite the bombardment of 1695, the building was restored immediately afterward, undergoing further modification in the 19th century.

Opposite the Town Hall, on the other side of the square is the second large main building of this architectural complex, the King's House, today converted into a town museum. The original building was built between 1515 and 1536 by the order of Charles V, from which it takes its name. The house "The Dukes of Brabant" gives the impression of being the largest of the other houses surrounding the large square but in reality, it is a monumental facade of classical baroque style built by order of the City Council in 1695. This building encompasses seven individual houses that originally housed the guilds of different trades and craftsmen's associations.

The King's House now contains the town museum

Each of the houses surrounding the large square has its own name. The size varies greatly from one to another, as does the state of preservation of the interior. Some have hardly changed at all since the beginning of the 18th century, while others have undergone a radical transformation and modernization. But in all cases, the lower floors have been converted into restaurants, cafes, or stores. The house "King of Spain", on the corner of Beurre street, at the northwest corner of the square, was built in 1696 on the site occupied by former houses demolished by order of the bakers' guild. On the same side of the square is The Cornet, former home of the corporation of bakers, a building with a narrow baroque facade that has some features of the early rococo period.

Opposite the Town Hall, on the other side of Charles Buls Street, on the south side of the large square, stands the house known as "The Swan", so named because of the relief that adorns its facade. It was originally an inn but after the reconstruction of the 17th century the butchers' corporation bought it and embellished it profusely thanks to the income obtained from a wool sale, as an inscription on the top of the façade proudly announces. Next to it is located "The Brewers' House," with a striking baroque façade that includes an inscription proclaiming its main function as the home of the brewers' corporation. 

The Brewer's House in Grand-Place

One of the narrowest facades of the complex is that of the Deer House, in the corner of Colline street, in the northeast corner of the square. It is only the width of two windows and has a sober white stone façade.

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