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. Through the nature and quality of its architecture and of its outstanding quality as a public open space, it 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 earliest written reference to the Nedermarckt (Lower Market), as it was originally known, dates from 1174. The present name came into use in the last quarter of the 18th century.
The Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), which covers most of the south side of the Grand'Place, consists of a group of buildings around a rectangular internal courtyard. The part facing on to the square is from the 15th century, consisting of two L-shaped buildings. The entire facade is decorated with statues dating from the 19th century.
The southern part of the complex is a restrained classical building that closes the U-shaped plan of the Gothic structures, built in the 18th century. F
acing the City Hall across the square is its other main feature, the Maison du Roi (King's House), now used as the City Museum. In 1873 the City Council decided that its state of conservation was so bad that it should be demolished and rebuilt. The reconstruction was based on the original. The result is a three-storey brick building with an arcaded facade, saddleback roof and centrally placed tower with lantern.
Each of the houses around the Grand'Place, which vary considerably in size, has its own name: Les Ducs de Brabant, Le Roi de l'Espagne, Le Cornet, Le Cygne, the Maison des Brasseurs, Le Cerf, La Maison des Tailleurs.
The degree of conservation of original features inside the houses around the Grand'Place is somewhat variable. In some cases almost no changes have been made since the early 18th century, whereas in others there has been radical conversion and modernization. In a number of cases the ground floors have been converted for use as shops, restaurants, or cafes.