The Grand Place is a UNESCO World heritage site due to the amazing baroque architecture and the historical importance. It takes on a very different feel at different times of day, so try and visit more at once, including at night – everything is magically illuminated.
In the surrounding area you have the city’s famous glass-covered shopping arcades and the Manneken Pis statue to explore, as well as a host of museums, shops and bars. Here’s our guide to the best things to do, see, eat, drink and shop in the city of Brussels’ Grand Place.
Grand Place place of Brussels facts
- The Grand Place in Brussels is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the city’s most visited attractions. The square is surrounded by the city’s Baroque guildhalls, Brussel’s Town Hall, and the City Museum.
- The square has several notable features, including the famous Manneken Pis statue, located just a few blocks away from the Grand Place. The statue, which depicts a small boy urinating into a fountain, is a symbol of the city and is often dressed up in different costumes for special occasions.
- The Grand Place is also home to several notable buildings, including Le Pigeon, Le Renard, The Broodhuis, and Le Cornet. These buildings are characterized by their gables and facades, which feature intricate carvings and decorations.
- In addition to its architectural achievements, the Grand Place is also known for its Belgian beer. The square is home to several bars and cafes where visitors can sample the local brews.
- Throughout history, the Grand Place has been a hub of activity for merchants and traders. Today, it remains a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, who come to admire the square’s beauty and soak up its vibrant atmosphere.
History of the Grand Place Brussels
The history of the Grand Place in Brussels dates back to 979 when a fort was erected on Saint-Gery Island, marking the establishment of a new city. The location was strategically chosen as it was the furthest inland that the Senne river could be navigated by boat. Over time, the city grew and developed into a bustling trading town, becoming an important hub for commerce in Europe.
In the 12th century the Grand Place had become a bustling marketplace. Even today, the names of the surrounding lanes still evoke the products that were once sold there, such as herbs, cheese, and poultry. For example, there is the Rue du Marché aux Herbes (Herbs Market Street), Rue du Marché aux Fromages (Cheeses Market Street), and Rue au Beurre (Butter Street). In addition to the outdoor marketplace, there were also three indoor markets on the northern edge of the Grand Place. However, as the demand for cloth grew in the 14th century, a much larger building was constructed to serve as a dedicated cloth market.
In the 15th century, most of the market structures were demolished to make way for the grand public buildings that can be seen today. During this time, the boundaries of the Grand Place were formalized, and the iconic Brussels city hall was constructed. By the 16th century, the square was brimming with buildings from the city’s main commercial guilds.
However, tragedy struck in 1695 when the square was heavily bombarded by Louis XIV’s troops, resulting in the near-complete destruction of the Grand Place. Determined to restore their beloved square, the people of Brussels undertook extensive renovations and rebuilding efforts over the following centuries. The final touches were added in the 19th century, giving the Grand Place its current appearance as a stunning example of Gothic and Baroque architecture. Today, the Grand Place continues to be a bustling hub of activity, drawing tourists and locals alike to its historic charm and vibrant atmosphere.
Getting to the Grand Place
The central area can be easily reached by metro stations De Brouckère, Gare Centrale and Rogier.
It’s a dense by compact area, so it’s easy to walk from sight to sight once you’re there.
Main buildings and sights in and around the Grand Place
When you visit, there’s a lot you can do just in the Grand Place square. You’ll immediately be able to appreciate the ornate decor on the building facades and the beautiful architecture.
Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville)
The Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville) is the tallest spire in the Grand Place and is the centerpiece of the square. Standing at an impressive 100 metres tall, it is a remarkable sight to behold. However, gaining admission into the Town Hall is only possible through a one hour English tour, which not only covers the history of the city but also showcases the building’s beautiful tapestries. It is advisable to book your tour slot at least a few days in advance, as availability is very limited.
The Town Hall holds a significant historical significance as it was the only building to escape the French bombardment in 1695. Its stone facade is adorned with intricate Gothic gargoyles, adding to its architectural charm. At the top of the towering structure, visitors can find a gilded statue of St Michel, the patron saint of Brussels.
Times: English tours offered Wed at 14:00, Sun at 10:00, 15:00, and 16:00
Tickets: Available at www.visit.brussels (search for “Hôtel de Ville”) or in the TI shop on Grand Place
Maison du Roi / City Museum (Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles)
The Maison du Roi, also known as the City Museum, is located inside the King’s House building on the Grand Place in Brussels. Originally built in the 16th century as a bakery, it now houses various exhibits showcasing the city’s history.
While mildly interesting, it’s not for everyone – the museum features displays of old tapestries, altarpieces, and paintings, as well as the original MannekinPis statue. Info sheets in English are available for visitors, making them accessible for non-French speakers.
The museum is included in the Brussels City Card, which provides access to numerous attractions in the city. If you are specifically interested in the history of Brussels, then the Maison du Roi is worth a visit, otherwise we’d say give it a miss.
Cost: €10, ticket also valid for GardeRobe MannekenPis
Times: Tue-Sun 10:00-17:00, closed Mon
Tickets: Available at www.brusselscitymuseum.brussels
Galeries St-Hubert, opened in 1847 by King Léopold I, holds the distinction of being Europe’s first shopping arcade. This glorious establishment is a haven for shopaholics and food enthusiasts alike. The arcade is filled with an array of shops offering a wide range of products, from high-end fashion boutiques to artisanal craft stores. You’ll also find charming cafes where you can take a break from your shopping spree and grab a coffee and cake.
The architecture of the arcade is a sight to behold, with its neoclassical glassed-in arches that are flanked by elegant marble pilasters.
Situated on Rue Charles Buls, which is known as Brussels’ most touristy street filled with chocolate and trinket shops, is the famous Mannekin Pis. This peculiar fountain statue depicts a little boy taking a leak, making it one of the city’s most iconic and unusual attractions. Despite its small size, Mannekin Pis holds great significance and is considered somewhat of a national symbol. Throughout the year, the statue is frequently dressed up in various costumes related to national holidays or events. This tradition of dressing up the statue began in the 17th century and has continued to be a cherished practice that adds a touch of whimsy to the Brussels experience.
Created by the artist Denis-Adrien Debouvrie, Jeanneke Pis is a small companion to the famous Manneken Pis. Jeanneke Pis depicts a young girl squatting and urinating, unveiled in 1985, and it quickly became a popular tourist attraction. It is believed to bring good luck, and visitors can often be seen rubbing the statue for prosperity.
Choco Story (Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat)
Choco Story, also known as the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, is a museum that takes you on a journey through the history of chocolate in Europe. As you explore the exhibits, you are taken on a sensory adventure, learning about the origins of cocoa, the intricate process of chocolate making, and the cultural significance of chocolate throughout the years. Along the way, you are treated to a couple of small treats.
For those who want to take their passion for chocolate to the next level, Choco Story offers praline making courses, allowing you to learn the art of chocolate-making from the experts themselves.
Cost: €11—book online in advance in peak season to avoid the ticket line
Times: 10:00-18:00, last entry one hour before closing
Tickets: Available at https://choco-story-brussels.be.
Rue des Bouchers
Rue des Bouchers is a lively and vibrant street, known for its colorful ambiance. This narrow alley is lined with charming pavement tables, showcasing pyramids of lemons and displays of fresh fish on ice. However, despite its appeal, we would advise not eating here as food standards are generally low.
Nevertheless, the picturesque setting of the street makes it a great place for a leisurely stroll, taking in the charming sights and capturing some stunning photographs.
Eating in the Historical Center
Around the Grand Place there are plenty of places to sample Belgium’s culinary specialties. You can get pretty much everything here you’d want to try – mussels, Belgian style fries, local beers, waffles… just have a seat at a cafe and watch the world go by.
Most of the cafes are casual and have reasonable prices – just sit down and a waiter will come over. Most are owned by breweries so won’t have a huge selection of beers.
Dandoy is Brussels’ most famous biscuiterie, known for their delicious baked goods since 1829. Located in the heart of Brussels, Dandoy not only offers a wide variety of mouth-watering biscuits but also has an attached tea room for visitors to enjoy. As soon as you enter Dandoy, you are greeted by the captivating sights and irresistible smells of fresh, crunchy biscuits being baked to perfection. Their selection of biscuits comes beautifully packaged, making them an ideal gift for friends and family.
One must-try at Dandoy is the Speculoos, a spicy and crunchy gingerbread cookie that is loved by locals and tourists alike. However, Dandoy’s culinary delights are not just limited to biscuits. Their tea room is known for serving some of the best waffles in Belgium, making it a perfect spot to indulge in a sweet treat.
Opening hours: 9.30am-7pm Mon-Sat, from 10.30am Sun
Address: Rue au Beurre 31, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Chez Leon is the classic place to try mussels in Brussels. Located in the heart of the city, the restaurant has been serving this beloved Belgian dish since 1893. The menu offers a wide variety of mussels preparations, cooked in different broths and served with crispy golden fries. However, it is important to note that the portions at Chez Leon are small by Belgian standards. Despite this, the quality and taste of the mussels are exceptional, making it a popular spot among locals and tourists alike. The restaurant is comprised of several gabled houses, creating a charming and cozy atmosphere. Each room has its own unique character, adding to the overall dining experience.
Opening hours: daily 12:00-23:00
Address: Rue des Bouchers 18, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Arcadi is a charming café located on the edge of Galeries St-Hubert in the heart of the city. Known for its jars of preserves, beautiful cakes, and fruit tarts, this café never fails to entice plenty of residents and visitors. The sight of these delectable treats alone is enough to make your mouth water. But it’s not just the desserts that make Arcadi a popular spot. The café also offers a selection of well-priced meals, including classic dishes such as lasagne and steak. Whether you’re in need of a quick snack or a full meal, Arcadi has something to satisfy every craving. Additionally, the café boasts a nice location, making it the perfect place to stop for a coffee or an indulgent hot chocolate.
Opening hours: 8am-11.45pm Tue-Fri, from 7.30am Sat, from 9am Sun
Address: Rue d’Arenberg 1B, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Wolf Sharing Food Market
The Wolf Sharing Food Market is a unique dining experience that fills a former bank building with a diverse selection of 18 eateries. Satisfy your taste buds with a wide range of cuisines, including Vietnamese, frites, dim sum, fish, vegetarian options, waffles, and Ethiopian delicacies, among others. The market offers a one-stop destination for food enthusiasts looking to explore different flavors and culinary traditions.
The concept of sharing food is strongly emphasized, allowing guests to order a meal from any of the eateries and then grab a drink and find a seat anywhere in the market.
Opening hours: daily 12:00-22:00
Address: Rue du Fossé aux Loups 50, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
L’Ogenblik is a timeless bistro located in the heart of town that has been serving up French classics for over 30 years. This quaint restaurant offers a cozy and warm atmosphere, making it the perfect spot for a special meal. As soon as you step inside, you are greeted by the friendly staff and a resident cat, adding to the charm of the place. The menu at L’Ogenblik is filled with delicious options, but one dish that stands out is the sea bass with risotto and truffle oil. The combination of perfectly cooked fish, creamy risotto, and the earthy flavor of the truffle oil is simply mouthwatering.
Opening hours: Tue-Sat 12:00-14:30 & 18:30-24:00, closed Sun-Mon
Address: Galerie des Princes 1, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Mokafé is a charming old fashioned cafe nestled under the famous Galeries St-Hubert in Brussels. With its vintage decor and friendly atmosphere, it offers a unique experience for visitors looking to immerse themselves in the city’s history. One of the highlights of Mokafé is its outdoor seating area, where wicker chairs line the arcade. This spot is not only perfect for enjoying a cup of coffee or a delicious treat, but also for people watching. Mokafé is known for its mouthwatering waffles, which are a must-try for any visitor.
Opening hours: 7.30am-11.30pm
Address: Galerie du Roi 9, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
Drinking in the Historical Center
Goupil le Fol
Goupil le Fol is a unique and eccentric bar. As soon as you step inside, you are immediately hit with a sensory overload of rambling passageways, old sofas, and peculiar decorations.
The beverages served at Goupil le Fol have an emphasis on fruit-flavored wines rather than the traditional beer selection. The atmosphere is laid-back and relaxed, allowing visitors to unwind and enjoy the eccentricities that surround them.
Opening hours: 4pm-2am
Address: Rue de la Violette 22, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
l’Imaige de Nostre-Dame
l’Imaige de Nostre-Dame is a hidden gem tucked away in a narrow alley. With its medieval architecture and cozy atmosphere, this charming place exudes a local vibe. It is the perfect spot for those seeking a glimpse into the past and a taste of the authenticity the city has to offer.
Opening hours: noon-midnight Mon-Fri, 3pm-1am Sat, 4-10.30pm Sun
Address: Rue du Marché aux Herbes 8, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
Toone is a charming bar located in Brussels’ classic puppet theatre. Nestled within a quaint and cosy timber-framed building, it offers a unique and nostalgic atmosphere. Visitors can enjoy a variety of beers and indulge in basic snacks while immersing themselves in the vibrant cultural ambiance.
Opening hours: noon-midnight Tue-Sun
Address: Petite Rue des Bouchers, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
Le Cirio is an iconic 1886 grand café that perfectly captures the essence of Belgian café culture. Known for its polished brasswork and aproned waiters, the café exudes a timeless charm and elegance. One of the wonderful aspects of Le Cirio is that the prices are affordable, so you can indulge in a delicious meal or a refreshing drink without breaking the bank.
Opening hours: 10am-midnight
Address: Rue de la Bourse 18, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
Au Bon Vieux Temps
Au Bon Vieux Temps is a hidden gem located in Brussels. As you duck under the statue of the bishop, you enter a panelled building dating back to 1695. The interior of this place is absolutely stunning, with lavish fireplaces and a charming historic ambiance. But what truly sets Au Bon Vieux Temps apart is its legendary selection of beers. This establishment is a must-visit for beer enthusiasts and history buffs alike.
Opening hours: 11am-midnight
Address: Impasse St-Nicolas, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
À la Mort Subite
À la Mort Subite is a classic establishment that has remained unchanged since 1928. With its wooden tables and mirror panels, the place exudes a vintage charm. But what attracts people the most is their great selection of beers. Whether you prefer lagers or ales, they have something to satisfy every beer lover’s taste. It’s also a great spot for a simple meal if you’re looking for something quick and filling. So if you’re in the mood for a classic experience with great brews, À la Mort Subite is the place to be.
Opening hours: 11am-1am Mon-Sat, noon-midnight Sun
Address: Rue Montagne aux Herbes Potagères 7, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
Entertainment around the Grand Place and Historical Center
Tours leave from the Grand Place tourist office daily – choose from a 10am bike tour or a 3pm city walking tour.
There’s a flower market at the Grand Place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings
Belgian Comic Strip Center (Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée)
The Belgian Comic Strip Center, also known as the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée, is a national comic strip center that offers a fascinating insight into the evolution of comics. Located in a beautiful light-filled glass and steel textile warehouse designed by Victor Horta, the center showcases the rich history of Belgian comic strips through its extensive collections and interactive displays. Visitors can explore the main art nouveau hallway and even enjoy a coffee at the attached cafe without having to pay an entrance fee. The cafe is highly recommended and worth a stop for its charming atmosphere and delightful refreshments.
Cost: adult/concession €10/7
Tickets: Available at www.comicscenter.net
Musée Mode & Dentelle
Musée Mode & Dentelle showcases the rich history of lace making, which has been one of Flanders’ main crafts since the 16th century. The museum not only exhibits the various applications of lace throughout the centuries but also displays other luxury textiles in beautiful exhibitions. Visitors can explore the intricate designs and delicate craftsmanship that have been passed down through generations. Additionally, the museum focuses on Belgium’s fashion industry by hosting changing exhibitions of contemporary textiles, highlighting the country’s contribution to the world of fashion. Musée Mode & Dentelle offers a fascinating glimpse into the artistry and innovation behind these timeless textiles.
Times: Tue-Sun 10:00-17:00, closed Mon
Tickets: Available at www.fashionandlacemuseum.brussels.
St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral
The Cathédrale des Sts-Michel & Gudule, also known as the Church of St. Michael and St. Gudula, is a twin towered cathedral located in Brussels, Belgium. This magnificent cathedral has hosted numerous coronations and royal weddings throughout history. Its construction spanned an impressive 300 years, with different architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Renaissance. The interior of the Cathédrale des Sts-Michel & Gudule is adorned with beautiful stained glass windows, which flood the space with an ethereal glow. One of the notable features of this cathedral is the enormous wooden pulpit, which depicts the biblical scene of Adam and Eve being driven out of Eden by skeletons.
Cost: admission free, treasury €1, crypt €3
Times: 7.30am-6pm Mon-Fri, 3.30am-3.30pm Sat, 2-6pm Sun
Located in Brussels, L’Archiduc is a legendary split-level art deco bar that has been enchanting patrons with its jazz music since 1937. Stepping into this packed circular space, you are immediately immersed in its classic atmosphere and the rhythms of live jazz. One of the best venues in Brussels for jazz, L’Archiduc offers free concerts on Saturdays after 5pm, showcasing local talent. On Sundays, international artists take the stage and there may be a small fee to enjoy their performances. With a well-stocked bar and great cocktails, L’Archiduc is a haven for jazz lovers. Just press the buzzer by the door to be allowed entry into this mesmerizing jazz oasis.
Opening hours: 4pm-5am
Address: Rue Antoine Dansaert 6, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
Cinéma Galeries is an art deco cinema in Brussels that offers a unique movie experience. It specializes in showcasing foreign and art house films, providing a platform for independent and lesser-known directors from around the world. With its carefully curated selection of films, Cinéma Galeries is a must-visit destination for cinephiles seeking a diverse and enriching cinematic experience.
The Music Village
The Music Village is a charming 100-seat jazz venue housed in two beautifully restored 17th century buildings. Located in the heart of the city, it offers a delightful atmosphere where guests can enjoy world-class jazz performances. Alongside the incredible music, The Music Village also offers the option to dine while enjoying the concert. Concerts usually start at 8.30pm, making for a perfect evening in Brussels. Due to its popularity, it is highly recommended to make a booking in advance to secure your seat.
Opening hours: from 7.30pm Wed-Sat
Address: Rue des Pierres 50, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
Cabaret Mademoiselle is a beloved burlesque bar in Belgium that offers a unique and dazzling entertainment experience. Known for its electrifying performances that seamlessly blend drag, circus acts, and comedy, Cabaret Mademoiselle has a reputation for keeping its audience entertained throughout the night. The bar also boasts a good selection of Belgian beers.
Opening hours: 7pm-late Wed-Sat
Address: Rue du Marché au Charbon 53, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
The Palace Cinema holds a rich history, dating back to 1905 when it originally started as a cinema and music hall. The building itself is a beautiful example of fine art nouveau architecture, with intricate details and stunning craftsmanship. Over the years, the Palace Cinema has undergone various transformations, at one point serving as a popular nightclub. Today, it has been converted into a modern cinema with four screens that showcase a diverse range of films. From arthouse to mainstream movies, this cinema provides something for everyone.
Address: Blvd Anspach 85, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
Shopping in Grand Place and Historical Center
The best chocolate shops are on the north side of the square, starting with Godiva. Each shop has a beautiful display case of chocolates and you’ll be able to get a mix of 6 pieces for around €9.
Godiva is synonymous with Belgian chocolate, even though it’s now owned by a Turkish company. The original factory still stands in Belgium. This store at Grand Place 21, was Godiva’s first.
Opening hours: 10am-8pm Monday-Sunday
Address: Grand Place 21/22, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
At Grand Place 23 is Mary, founded in 1919 by the first woman chocolatier. The royal family loved her chocolates and she shot to stardom, and the treats offered today are true to her original designs.
Opening hours: 10am-8pm Monday-Thursday, 10am-10pm Friday-Sunday
Address: Grand Place 23, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Around since 1857, Neuhaus claims to have invented the praline. Their main shop is in the Galeries Royales St.Hubert but their Grand Place 27 shop still has a nice selection.
Opening hours: 10am-8pm Monday-Thursday, 10am-9pm Friday-Sunday
Address: Grand Place 27, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Galler is just off the square at Rue au Beurre 44, and created mainly dark chocolate. The top end choice is 85% pure chocolate and is worth a sample. The products here are well described in English.
Opening hours: 11am-8pm Monday-Friday, 10am-7pm Saturday-Sunday
Address: 1000, Rue au Beurre 44, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Four doors down from Galler, Leonidas is more cost conscious and has machine made chocolate. They specialise in white chocolate.
Opening hours: 10am-0pm Monday-Friday, 10am-10pm Saturday-Sunday
Address: Rue au Beurre 34, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
This stylish bookshop is hidden down an alley, and regularly hosts literary events, often in English.
Opening hours: 11am-7pm Tue-Sat, noon-6pm Sun
Address: Rue Antoine Dansaert 46, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
It’s in the name, this shop is a temple to beer. They stock over 700 brews, along with matching glasses and souvenirs.
Opening hours: 9.30am-7pm
Address: Rue du Marché Aux Herbes 56, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
This cute comic shop is dedicated to Tintin, selling albums and merchandise.
Opening hours: 10am-6pm Mon-Sat, 11am-5pm Sun
Address: Rue de la Colline 13, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Gold wreathed columns and a gilded ceiling make this the prettiest bookshop in the city.
Opening hours: 11am-6.30pm Mon, 10am-6.30pm Tue-Thu, 10am-7.30pm Fri, 10.30am-7pm Sat, 1.30-6.30pm Sun
Address: 11 Galerie des Princes, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the history of the Grand-Place in Brussels?
The Grand-Place in Brussels has a rich history that dates back to the 11th century. Originally, it was a marketplace for traders to sell their goods. Over time, it became a central location for political and social events. In the 15th century, the Town Hall was built and many of the buildings surrounding the square were constructed in the 17th century. The Grand-Place has survived natural disasters, wars, and fires, and has been beautifully restored to its former glory.
What is the significance of the Grand-Place Brussels?
The Grand-Place in Brussels is considered one of the most beautiful public squares in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to many significant buildings, including the Town Hall, the Breadhouse, and the King’s House. The Grand-Place is also a popular location for festivals, concerts, and events throughout the year.
What are the opening hours of the Grand-Place Brussels?
The Grand-Place in Brussels is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, the opening hours of the buildings surrounding the square vary. The Town Hall is open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. The Museum of the City of Brussels is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and is closed on Mondays.
Where can I find directions to the Grand-Place Brussels?
The Grand-Place in Brussels is located in the heart of the city and is easily accessible by public transport. Visitors can take the metro to the Central Station or the Bourse, or take a tram or bus to the nearby stops. The Grand-Place is also within walking distance of many other popular attractions in Brussels.
What are some recommended restaurants near Grand Place Brussels?
There are many excellent restaurants near the Grand-Place in Brussels, offering a variety of cuisines and price points. Some popular options include Chez Leon for traditional Belgian mussels and fries, La Maison du Cygne for fine dining and stunning views of the Grand-Place, and Le Pain Quotidien for a casual breakfast or lunch.
What is the Royal Palace of Brussels and how does it relate to the Grand-Place?
The Royal Palace of Brussels is the official residence of the King and Queen of Belgium. It is located just a short distance from the Grand-Place and is open to visitors during the summer months. The Palace is an important symbol of Belgian history and culture, and its proximity to the Grand-Place highlights the significance of the square in the city’s heritage.