UNESCO World Heritage

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Grand-Place of Brussels © Eric Danhier

The Grand-Place of Brussels is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

History of the Grand-Place

Dates and periods which marked the development of the Grand-Place of Brussels:

  • 1174: first written mention of the 'Nedermarckt', the Grand-Place of Brussels occupies the place of a swamp dried up on the right bank of the Senne river
  • 13th and 14th century: the square is surrounded by some stone patrician houses ('steenen')
  • 15th century: construction in the course of the century of the wings of the City Hall, in 1449 construction of the bell tower of the City Hall
  • 1515-1531: construction of the Maison du Roi (King's House or Broodhuis) on the Grand-Place
  • 16th century: construction of the houses of the Grand-Place in Renaissance or Baroque style
  • 13 till 15 August 1695: bombardment of Brussels by the troops of the Marshal de Villeroi on order of the French king Louis XIV, only some facades remain of which the Maison du Roi and the City Hall and its tower-belfry
  • 1697-1698: reconstruction of the houses of the Grand-Place that had been destroyed in 1695
  • 1873: beginning of the demolition and reconstruction of the Maison du Roi

More information on the Grand-Place of Brussels.

What is UNESCO World Heritage?

The World Heritage List is established by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), which is part of the United Nations (UNO).

An international agreement fixes the administrative and financial frame for the protection of the 'cultural and natural world heritage'. The list includes 'monuments and sites having an exceptional universal value from the point of view of the history, the art or the science, and natural monuments with an exceptional value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view'.

Why the Grand-Place of Brussels?

Since 1998, the Grand-Place is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The square is recognized for its political, cultural and commercial value. The UNESCO based itself on 2 criterions to register the Grand-Place on the list of the World Heritage:

  • 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.

Town planning on the Grand-Place

The City of Brussels intends to protect this heritage for the future generations. A will which had already been strengthened in the second half of the 19th century: in 1883 the architecture of the Grand-Place was protected. By Royal Order of 19 April 1977, the houses of the Grand-Place were classified. Since the inscription in 1998 of the Grand-Place on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the inside of the houses of the Grand-Place got attention as well. Since 20 September 2001, the internal developments of the houses on the square have been protected.

Town planning in the surrounding streets

Since 2009, the square and the surrounding streets of the square (UNESCO zone) are subjected to specific rules in town planning. In this way, the City of Brussels wants to keep a harmonious balance between conservation of the site, tourism, trade and housing:

The whole project is being supervised by:

Management plan

The inscription of the Grand-Place on the World Heritage list involves a specific management of the site and the surrounding area, a requirement in the World Heritage Convention. In the guidelines of the UNESCO, the main objective of such management is being described as ensuring the sustainability of goods on the World Heritage List.

The City of Brussels worked out a methodology with all actions and projects around 5 strategic goals:

  • management of the goods
  • preservation of heritage which guarantees it as a whole and its authenticity
  • development of a functional mix, in particular between housing and trade
  • improving the living environment
  • raising awareness, promotion, exchange and tourism development

The plan was developed in cooperation with the various departments of the City and other partners and organizations working within the zone. The next management plan will be valid for 6 years (2016-2022).

Management plan 2012-2015

Management plan 2016-2022


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