The Grand Place in Brussels at Night

As first-timers in Brussels, one of the first things we saw was the city’s main square, the Grand Place. The square, actually more of a rectangle, served as a market for the city of Brussels from the late 11th century until the mid-1900’s. Now, the only things you’ll find for sale here are cheap knick-knacks and souvenirs, but the appeal of this area is not in what you can buy, it’s in what you can see.

Destroyed and rebuilt at least twice since its first recorded origins, the Grand Place is now surrounded on all four sides by absolutely stunning 17th century architecture. The combination of Gothic and Baroque styles are beautiful when seen by day, but it’s at night when the square is softly lit by lamps on the surrounding buildings that the Grand Place really comes to life.

The Grand Place In Brussels At Night

On our last evening in Brussels, disappointed by the fact that I had no photos from our trip where the skies weren’t overcast and somewhat drab, we were sitting at our hotel watching a gorgeous sunset over the city when I realized that if we left right then, I’d be able to capture some photos of the city in that just-after-sunset light I love so much. Naturally, we went straight to the place that symbolizes Brussels best – the Grand Place.

The Grand Place In Brussels At Night

The Grand Place In Brussels At Night

The Grand Place In Brussels At Night

The square that by day had been filled with vendors and buskers and other tourists like ourselves, was now filling up with people relaxing on blankets spread out over the cobblestones, their bottles of wine and picnic dinners spread out around them. Seeing the Grand Place at this time of day reminded me a lot of Dam Square in Amsterdam – that same buzzing, happy vibe was in the air as everyone, whether visitors to the city or locals, began to unwind for the evening.

Arguably, the most striking building among those surrounding the square is the Town Hall. With its tall steeple, I mistook it for a cathedral at first. The city’s archives and art collection were stored here until 1695 when the French attacked and nearly the entire building was brought down. The Town Hall was quickly rebuilt and now contains a large collection of paintings, sculptures, and tapestries.

On either side of the Town Hall are sets of guild houses built by wealthy merchants and guilds as meeting places for their particular crafts. When we visited, one entire stretch of guildhalls was under restoration and wrapped in a scaffolding cover meant to recreate the facade of the houses. While I appreciate the effort to minimize the out-of-place look that scaffolding lends to such a famous historic sight, those covers aren’t fooling anyone. I see these everywhere in Europe and they crack me up every time. I find it easier just to crop out as much of the eyesore as possible than to pretend that a printed image looks anything like the real thing!

The Grand Place In Brussels At Night

The Grand Place In Brussels At Night

The Grand Place In Brussels At Night

The Grand Place In Brussels At Night

Facing the Town Hall on the opposite side of the square is the Maison du Roi, or King’s House, although no king ever lived there. In Dutch, this building is called the Broodhuis, or Breadhouse, which makes a little more sense seeing as it was built on the site where a bread market once stood. Now it houses the Museum of Brussels, a collection of art and artifacts showcasing the city’s diverse personality. You’ll find things inside ranging from religious altarpieces to the extensive wardrobe of the Mannekin Pis. I love a city that makes sure even its statues are fashionable.

If I could do this trip over again, I’d plan it for just a few weeks after the weekend we went. Then our trip would have coincided with the bi-annual Grand Place Flower Carpet, when close to a million begonias “carpet” the square over Assumption Day weekend. The design and theme differs for every carpet, but each one is meticulously planned a year in advance and then put together in just four hours in the square. I would have loved to see this year’s carpet in person. I suppose that gives us a reason to return in 2016!

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The Grand Place In Brussels At Night

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  • Nicole @ Treasure Tromp
    September 21, 2014 at 1:42 AM

    oh my goodness, this is beyond gorgeous!

  • Jo
    September 19, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    I’m going there on Sunday …. It is car free day in Brussels and I have a girls lunch planned with Noreen and the girls for their almost forgotten birthday.

    • Sarah Shumate
      September 20, 2014 at 4:02 PM

      That sounds really nice! I may have asked you this before – but what is car-free day? Just a day where everyone takes public transport instead?

      • Jo
        September 22, 2014 at 7:27 PM

        No car day is one Sunday a year, always in September when no cars are allowed to drive between 7-7. Public transport is free and some taxi are available. They also arrange all kinds of free activities all over town. Great family day.

        • Sarah Shumate
          September 23, 2014 at 1:29 PM

          That sounds like a REALLY cool day. I doubt something like that would ever catch on in London. I’m always amused by how many people drive when it’s so much easier just to take the tube.

  • rorybore
    September 19, 2014 at 5:08 PM

    Ah sunset… my favourite colour! Gorgeous pictures. I really have to stop thinking that only the daytime holds photographic treasures. That palace is just gorgeous lit up at night – it really highlights the grand architecture.

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    September 18, 2014 at 9:23 PM

    Lovely photos capturing that beautiful time of evening!

    • Sarah Shumate
      September 19, 2014 at 12:46 PM

      Thanks, Tina! :) By the way, are you going to the next London Blogger’s Tea? I’ve decided to go – I hope you’ll be there, too!

      • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
        September 19, 2014 at 9:10 PM

        Last minute (like last night!) I decided to go when I saw there was still room. So glad I’ll get to see you!!

  • Betty J. Ogburn
    September 18, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    …FANTASTIC!!…Dusk/twilight/evening is my favorite time of the day, so I LOVE photos that show cities at night–they seem to have a certain magic that they don’t have by daylight, :-)…

  • Emmymom
    September 17, 2014 at 8:42 PM

    BEAUTIFUL pictures! Seriously, great nigh captures and that sunset- amazing!

  • Katrin
    September 16, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    I love that the Mannekin Pis is so fashionable. :) Beautiful pictures, thanks so much for sharing! Hope you will be able to go back to see the flower carpet!

  • Miwa
    September 15, 2014 at 10:13 PM

    Wow! Beautiful photos, Sarah! I’m glad you guys decided to head out when you did ;)

  • Gianni Washington
    September 15, 2014 at 8:56 PM

    Beautiful photos! Adding the Grand-Place to my list of sights to see :D

  • Robert
    September 15, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    Oh wow, Brussels looks amazing! That sunset is incredible. I’d love to visit myself someday.

  • T. Lennie
    September 15, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    Wow, it looks so beautiful!

  • Sammy @ Days Like This
    September 15, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    That sunset! Wowza!!

  • Amanda @ Positively Amanda
    September 15, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    such a pretty area!