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La Grand-Place, Brussels

La Grand-Place, Brussels

La Grand-Place in Brussels is a remarkably homogeneous body of public and private buildings, dating mainly from the late 17th century. The architecture provides a vivid illustration of the level of social and cultural life of the period in this important political and commercial centre.

La Grand-Place de Bruxelles

La Grand-Place de Bruxelles est un ensemble remarquablement homogène de bâtiments publics et privés, datant principalement de la fin du XVIIe siècle, dont l’architecture résume et illustre de manière vivace la qualité sociale et culturelle de cet important centre politique et commercial.

الساحة الكبرى في بروكسل

تضم ساحة الغراند بلاس في بروكسل مجموعة متجانسة على نحو رائع من المباني العامة والخاصة التي ترقى بشكل رئيس إلى أواخر القرن السابع عشر وتتميّز بهندستها المعمارية التي تختصر وتجسّد بشكل حيوي النوعية الإجتماعية والثقافية الخاصة بهذا المركز السياسي والتجاري المهم.

source: UNESCO/ERI



source: UNESCO/ERI

Площадь Ла-Гранд-Плас в Брюсселе

Площадь Ла-Гранд-Плас в Брюсселе – это выдающийся целостный комплекс общественных и частных зданий, датируемых, главным образом, концом XVII в. Их архитектура ярко иллюстрирует уровень социальной и культурной жизни Брюсселя как важного политического и торгового центра Европы того времени.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Plaza Mayor de Bruselas

La Plaza Mayor de Bruselas es un conjunto extraordinariamente homogéneo de edificios públicos y privados que datan en su mayorí­a del siglo XVII. Su arquitectura es un excelente compendio y una viva ilustración del nivel alcanzado en este periodo por la vida social y cultural en este importante centro polí­tico y comercial.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Grote Markt in Brussel

De Grote Markt in Brussel is een opmerkelijk homogeen geheel van publieke en privégebouwen, grotendeels daterend uit de laat-17e eeuw. De gebouwen aan het plein laten een eclectische en zeer succesvolle vermenging zien van architecturale en artistieke stijlen. De eerste schriftelijke verwijzing naar de Nedermarckt – de oorspronkelijke naam – dateert uit 1174. De huidige naam kwam in gebruik in het laatste kwart van de 18e eeuw. De soort en kwaliteit van de architectuur rond de Grote Markt samen met de functie als publieke open ruimte, illustreren de ontwikkeling en prestaties van een zeer succesvolle Noord-Europese handelsstad op het hoogtepunt van haar welvaart.

Source: unesco.nl

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La Grand-Place, Brussels (Belgium) © M & G Therin-Weise
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Around a cobbled rectangular market square, La Grand-Place in Brussels, the earliest written reference to which dates back to the 12th century, features buildings emblematic of municipal and ducal powers, and the old houses of corporations. An architectural jewel, it stands as an exceptional and highly successful example of an eclectic blending of architectural and artistic styles of Western culture, which illustrates the vitality of this important political and commercial centre.

The Grand-Place testifies in particular to the success of Brussels, mercantile city of northern Europe that, at the height of its prosperity, rose from the terrible bombardment inflicted by the troops of Louis XIV in 1695. Destroyed in three days, the heart of the medieval city underwent a rebuilding campaign conducted under the supervision of the City Magistrate, which was spectacular not only by the speed of its implementation, but also by its ornamental wealth and architectural coherence. Today the Grand-Place remains the faithful reflection of the square destroyed by the French artillery and testifies to the symbolic intentions of the power and pride of the Brussels bourgeois who chose to restore their city to its former glory rather than rebuild in a contemporary style, a trend commonly observed elsewhere.

A pinnacle of Brabant Gothic, the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), accentuated by its bell tower, is the most famous landmark of the Grand-Place. Built in the early 15th century, the building partially escaped bombardments and underwent several transformations over time. Its ornamental programme is largely due to the restoration campaigns conducted in the late 19th century. Facing it, the King's House, rebuilt in the historicist vein, is perfectly integrated into the ensemble. Its elevation is in keeping with the Gothic style edifice prior to the bombardment and testifies remarkably to the ideals of the contextual conservation of monuments advocated in the 19th century. The King's House has been occupied for decades by the City Museum. On both sides of these monuments symbolic of public authority were houses occupied by powerful corporations. Each different but built over a very short time, they illustrate remarkably the Baroque architecture of the late 17th century, with a singular treatment of the gables and decorations, sometimes fretted, sometimes more classical. Each house has a name and specific attributes, heightened with gold, reminiscent of the status of its occupants. It is interesting to note that this is a rare example of a square without a church or any other place of worship, which emphasizes its mercantile and administrative nature.

Criterion (ii): The Grand-Place is an outstanding example of the eclectic and highly successful blending of architectural and artistic styles that characterizes the culture and society of this region.

Criterion (iv): Through the nature and quality of its architecture and of its outstanding quality as a public open space, the Grand-Place illustrates in an exceptional way the evolution and achievements of a highly successful mercantile city of northern Europe at the height of its prosperity.


The Grand-Place in Brussels meets the conditions of integrity in terms of location, size, and function, as well as with regard to architectural expression.

Over the centuries, the Place has retained its shape, coherence and the essentially Gothic and Baroque attributes which characterize it. It is still a reflection of the Lower Market as reconstructed in the late 17th century and testifies to the willingness of the authorities to preserve the harmony of the square during the rapid rebuilding campaign that followed the terrible bombardment of 1695 so that it could regain its former aspect and splendour. These were top priorities during the restoration campaigns organized by the City from 1840 in the historicist style and during more recent operations. The City Hall still houses a significant portion of municipal services. Embellished by its bell tower, it is the most emblematic element of the square, dominating the landscape of the Lower Town. The old guild houses, at least their façades, retain their specific architectural attributes of Renaissance or Baroque styles, although they have changed functions and have often been transformed into shops. The degree of conservation of the original structures inside the various houses varies greatly. In some cases, almost no changes have been made since the 18th century, while others have been more radically converted or modernized. The Grand-Place and its buildings all benefit from heritage protection measures that guarantee the maintenance of their integrity.

As the size of the Grand-Place is by definition limited, its immediate vicinity corresponding to the historic Lower Town has been included in the buffer zone. This perimeter, also called "sacred island", serves as an approach to the property. Its medieval morphology is partly preserved, however several islands were transformed in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some incorporate important monuments such as the Galleries Royales Saint Hubert (architect A. Cluysenaar, 1847), the Gallerie Bortier (architect A. Cluysenaar, 1848), the Brussels Stock Exchange (architect LP Suys) whose interior is contemporary with those of the central boulevards and vaulting campaigns of the Senne, and those for the sanitation and beautification of the city in 1870. This area is subject to strong commercial and tourism pressures and requires special attention so that its historic urban fabric and architectural features can be preserved.


The authenticity of the Grand-Place, the oldest references to which date back to the 12th century, is undeniable. Evolving over the centuries and rebuilt after the bombardment of 1695, the Grand-Place has retained its configuration over the last three centuries, virtually unchanged.

The authenticity of the City Hall, which preserves 18th-century Gothic components that are intact and highly visible, is established both in terms of materials, style and function. Most of the individual buildings around the square have retained their authenticity to a similar degree, although the interiors of some have been radically altered. Although the main period of reference of the square is the end of the 17th century, the notion of authenticity must also be examined in terms of historicist restoration campaigns initiated at the end of the 19th century which, based on historical documents, attempted to strengthen the coherence of the whole and its rich ornamentation. The statuary of the City Hall and its interior decor were reconstituted at that time. It is in this context that we must perceive the demolition and reconstruction of the King's House, which stands on the site of the former Bread Hall, and of several houses restored at this time based on historical documents and particularly on the engravings of F. J. Rons of 1737. Stone façades of Gobertange calcareous sandstone (or Bruxellian) or Euville stone, sculpted ornaments, and woodwork, were generally reproduced in this context, taking into account the original materials and shapes. Since inscription on the World Heritage List, morphological studies of each house have been conducted by the City, and additional protective measures have been taken to ensure the preservation of the structures and old interior parts of the buildings. The paved foundation of the Grand-Place also benefits from special legal protection.

Protection and management requirements

All the buildings of the Grand-Place are listed monuments. The protection measures and regular restoration campaigns initiated by the City and controlled by the Directorate of Monuments and Sites help maintain the integrity of the whole.

Following the morphological and heritage studies conducted since inscription on the World Heritage List, several decrees for the extension of protection measures covering the interiors of buildings bordering the Grand-Place were issued by the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region. The foundations of the Grand-Place have been listed as a site, and more than 150 buildings have been protected in the buffer zone, particularly in the streets leading to the square and along the Rue du Marché aux Herbes.

In the Brussels Region, the current legislation does not differentiate the management of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List from those of other protected properties. Interventions on these properties are monitored by the Directorate of Monuments and Sites in consultation with the architects of the Historic Heritage Unit of the City of Brussels and/or private owners and, barring exception, must follow a specific procedure in accordance with the procedures established by the Brussels Spatial Planning Code (COBAT). The Directorate of Monuments and Sites also manages the granting of regional subsidies to cover part of the restoration and maintenance costs of the property, which can amount to 80% of the cost of the work.

In addition to the specific measures for listed properties, specific measures for monitoring the property and the planning of the buffer zone are implemented at the initiative of the City of Brussels. In the buffer zone, which consists of 26 densely built islands subjected to commercial, real estate and tourism pressures, there are many challenges in preserving the traditional urban fabric and the specific characteristics of the historic structures. To meet these challenges, the City of Brussels adopted a Management Plan which aims to better coordinate the actions of various private and public actors in various domains in the fields of heritage, urbanism, road systems, mobility, tourism, appropriations, housing, and to add value to the property and its buffer zone. In this context, a general analysis of the property and the buffer zone was conducted, highlighting several issues: tourism pressure, economic pressure and commercial development, real estate pressure, administrative pressure, densification of the inner islands, loss of morphology, road congestion, accessibility, traffic and parking, occupancy and social mixing, problem of abandoned buildings and storeys, erosion/pollution, emergency interventions. Increased means, especially in terms of budget and personnel, would be desirable to carry out effectively all of these actions, in particular those related to the buffer zone.