www.ruesouveraine.com > The Grand-Place

A guided tour of one of Europe's most beautiful squares... Click on a picture to enlarge it.

Maison de la Brouette and Roi d'Espagne

La Maison de la Brouette, on the left, was the tallow makers' guildhouse. The figure at the top is St Gilles, the guild's patron saint.

On the right, the seventeenth-century building known as Roi d'Espagne was once the headquarters of the guild of bakers. It's named after the bust of Charles II on the facade, also adorned by allegorical statues of Energy, Fire, Water, Wind, Wheat and Prudence (meant to represent the elements necessary for baking the ideal loaf).
On the ground floor the building now holds the famous Roy d'Espagne, the most popular of the square's bars. The fine views of the Grand-Place from the rooms upstairs and the terrace mean it's often packed.

Maison des Ducs de Brabant

These seven guildhouses have been subsumed withing one grand facade whose slender symmetries are set off by a curved pediment and narrow pilasters, sporting nineteen busts of the dukes of Brabant.

Maison du Roi

The late nineteenth- century Maison du Roi is a fairly faithful reconstruction of the palatial Gothic structure commissioned by Charles V in 1515. He wanted to emphasise imperial power by erecting his own building directly opposite the magnificent Hôtel de Ville.
Despite its name, no sovereign ever lived here permanently, though this is where the Habsburgs sometimes stayed when they visited the city.
The building now holds the Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles.

Maisons de l'Arbre d'Or - Maison du Cygne - Maison de l'Etoile

La Maison de l'Arbre d'Or (third from the right) with the equestrian statue of Charles of Lorraine on top, is the only building on the GrandPlace still to be owned by a guild : the brewers'
There is a small Musée de la Brasserie on the ground floor (daily 10 am-5pm).

Second from the right, the Maison du Cygne takes its name from the swan on the facade. It once housed a bar where Karl Marx regularly met up with Engels during his exile in Belgium. (On a side note, it was in Brussels in 1848 that they wrote the Communist Manifesto, and were deported as political undesirables the following month). Appropriately enough, the Belgian Workers' Party was founded here in 1885.
Today, the building houses one of Brussels' most exclusive restaurants.

First on the right, this arcaded structure known as Maison de l'Etoile was the home of the city magistrate. The building was rebuilt in the nineteenth century.

Hôtel de Ville

The Gothic magnificence of the Hôtel de Ville...
The building dates from the beginning of the fifteenth-century when the town council decided to build itsfelf a mansion that adequately reflected its wealth and power.
Although the Tower is off-limit, tours will guide you through lavish official rooms and Council Chambres...

Reclining statue of 'T Serclaes

In 1356, the Count of Flanders attempted to seize power from the Duke of Brabant, occupying the magistrate's house (Maison de l'Etoile) and flying his standard from the roof. 'T Serclaes scaled the building, replaced Flanders' standard with that of the Duke of Brabant and went on to lead the recapturing of the city. These events are represented in bas-relief just above the reclining statue of 'T Serclaes, round the corner from the Maison de l'Etoile on rue Charles Buls.
The effigy of 'T Serclaes is polished smooth from the long-standing superstition that good luck will come to those who stroke it.

The Tower of the Hôtel de Ville

The 96 meter high tower is the work of Jan van Ruysbroeck, the leading spire specialist . He had the lower section built square to support the weight above, choosing a design that blended seamlessly with the elaborately carved facade on either side. Above the cornice protrudes an octagonal extension where the basic design of narrow windows flanked by pencil-thin columns and pinnacles is repeated up as far as the pyramid-shaped spire. It is surmounted by a gilded figure of St Michael, protector of Christians and sordiers

Maison du Renard

Named after the gilded fox that squats just above the door, the Maison du Renard was the house of the haberdashers'guild. It bears a statue of Justice, flanked by statues symbolizing the four continents.
On the top, the effigy of St Nicolas, patron saint of merchants.

Maison du Cornet

It was originally home to the boatmen's guild (the top of the edifice resembles the stern of a ship). Another likeness of Charles II can be seen on the medallion, flanked by representation of the four winds and a pair of sailors.

Maison de la Louve

The headquarters of the archers' guild, the Maison de la Louve is also one of the few buildings that survived the French artillery.
The pillastered facade is adorned by representations of concepts such as Peace and Discord. The medallions beneath the pediment carry the likenesses of four Roman Emperors set above allegorical motifs indicating their particular attributes : Trajan is above the Sun, a symbol of Thruth, Tiberius with a net and cage representing Falsehood, Augustus and the globe of Peace, and Julius Caesar with a bleeding heart representing Disunity.
Just above the door, the bas-relief represents the Roman she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus.

La Maison du Sac

This guildhouse, constructed for carpenters and coopers escaped the French bombardment of 1695.

La Maison des Tailleurs

The old headquarters of the tailors'guild. It bears a bust of St Barbara, their patron saint.

La Maison du Pigeon

Also known as the painters'guildhouse, la Maison du Pigeon is where Victor Hugo spent some time during his exile from France.