Grand Place Walking Tour, Brussels (Self Guided)

Brussels is the capital of Belgium and also a top tourist destination in Europe. The city's main square is the Grand Place. The square is famous for its Baroque style buildings, such as the Town Hall, the King's House and other guildhalls, all of which make the Grand Place a busy tourist hotspot. Take this one-hour tour to visit the most popular tourist attractions situated in and around the Grand Place.
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Grand Place Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Grand Place Walking Tour
Guide Location: Belgium » Brussels (See other walking tours in Brussels)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.3 km
Author: audrey
Grand Place

1) Grand Place (must see)

Grand Place is one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, its fascinating 17th-century architecture never ceasing to amaze. Among architectural masterpieces, there are many stores selling authentic Belgian beer, delicious chocolate, lace and souvenirs. The square is the most important tourist destination and most memorable landmark in Brussels.

Every even-numbered year in August, an enormous "flower carpet" is set up in the Grand Place for a few days. A million colorful begonias are set up in patterns, and the display covers a full 24 by 77 meters, for area total of 1,800 square meters. The first flower carpet was made in 1971, and due to its popularity, the tradition continued, with the flower carpet attracting a large number of tourists.

Why You Should Visit:
Without any doubt, the heart of the city. Gorgeous and breathtaking even in terrible weather.

Go during the day to better appreciate the details on the façades and come back in the evening to see them lit.
If you're lucky there's a special sound & light show after dark (around 10:20 pm).
Sight description based on wikipedia
King's House / City Museum of Brussels

2) King's House / City Museum of Brussels (must see)

The King’s House, also known as Maison du Roi, is designed in a Neo-Gothic style incorporating many decorative statues. The Dutch name for the building is “Broodhuis”, which translates to “bread house”. This gives a clue to the early origins of the building. At the beginning of the 13th century, a wooden structure stood on this location and was used by bakers to sell their products. In the early 1400s, a stone structure was constructed to replace the original wooden building. In the 1500s bakers favored selling their bread door-to-door and the need for a bread selling house slowly diminished. Instead of letting the building sit empty, it began to be used as a government administrative building. Over the next couple of hundred years, the building declined to the point that it had to be rebuilt. In 1860 the city purchased the building and initiated a complete tear down/restoration. The neo-gothic architecture of the King’s House was inspired by the Oudenaard City town hall.

Today the building houses the City Museum of Brussels. The museum portrays the history of the City and features pieces of Brussels’ heritage including original statues of the town hall, wall tapestries, earthenware, silverware, paintings and other artifacts that speak volumes about the past of the Belgian capital.

Why You Should Visit:
Good way to familiarise yourself with the history of the city while on the run.
While the building itself is a sight to behold, its balcony gives a great view of the plaza.

There's an entire exhibit dedicated to the genuine 'Manneken Pis' on the top floor, which is unmissable.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

3) Pigeon

Pigeon is one of the most popular buildings of the Grand Place square. The Pigeon is famous because Victor Hugo spent part of his exile from France here. The Pigeon building originally housed the painters' guild.
Sight description based on wikipedia
House of the Dukes of Brabant

4) House of the Dukes of Brabant (must see)

The House of the Dukes of Brabant is an elegant building situated between the Town Hall and the King's House. The house features 7 departments, each of them having a name. The edifice is called the House of the Dukes of Brabant due to the statues of the dukes, which are on the first floor, under the windows.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Arbre d'Or

5) Arbre d'Or (must see)

Arbre d'Or is the only building on the Grand Place square which is still owned by a guild, the brewers'. The building features an equestrian statue of Charles of Lorraine on its top. Arbre d'Or houses a small Musée de la Brasserie on the ground floor.
Sight description based on wikipedia

6) Cygne

The Cygne building is called so, due to the swan on its facade. Cygne is famous for the bar where Karl Marx met up with Engels when the former was exiled in Belgium. Today the building is home to one of Brussels' most exclusive restaurants.
Sight description based on wikipedia

7) Etoile

Etoile is one of the oldest and the smallest buildings on the Grand Place square. Mentioned in the 13th century as the residence of the local chief justice, Etoile has been rebuilt several times. Today the building has a number of impressive bas-reliefs on it and a plaque which commemorates Everard Sercles, a famous son of Brussels.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Town Hall

8) Town Hall (must see)

Located on the Grand Place, the Town Hall is a lovely example of Gothic architecture. The oldest part of the Town Hall is the east wing and was constructed over an 18-year (1402 to 1420) period under the guidance of Jacob van Thienen. Subsequent wings were added in 1444 and 1452.

The dominant feature of the building is the 310-foot (96-meter) tall tower feature, the spire of which is topped by the Archangel Saint Michael. Upon careful inspection, you may notice the tower, the front archway, and the façade of the main building are off-center relative to one another. Legend has it that when the architect discovered the error he was so distraught that he climbed the tower and leaped to his death. The building façade includes many statues of nobles, saints and allegorical figures. The sculptures you see today are actually reproductions. The older ones are now housed in the city museum. The Town Hall was completely gutted by fire as the result of a 1695 bombardment of Brussels by the French. The fire destroyed the archives and art collection. The halls have since been refilled with tapestries, paintings and sculptures depicting key local and regional historical figures.

Why You Should Visit:
A most impressive building, which acts as a beacon wherever you are in the heart of Brussels – particularly spectacular at night.

Make sure to buy your guided tour tickets in the mornings to view the building from the inside – there are just a few tours each day and they do sell out. The information you receive from the tour guide is outstanding!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8:30am-5:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Le Renard & Le Cornet

9) Le Renard & Le Cornet (must see)

Le Renard and Le Cornet are two buildings that are part of a larger complex of guild houses occupying the northwest area of the Grand Place and opposite the King’s House. During the Middle Ages and later, many cities in Belgium had guilds which had a stake in the city administration. The guilds were very wealthy and had a lot of political power, thus their wealth position was often reflected in their ornate and impressive buildings. Their adjacency to the Town Hall is not surprising, given that they would regularly meet with town officials. The Guild buildings served as a meeting place for the artisans where they would discuss new rules or regulations that were specific to their trade. Le Renard, which translates to “the fox”, was built in 1690 and served as the guild house of shirt makers. The facade of Le Renard is rich in ornamentation and statues, including one of Saint Nicholas. Le Cornet, which translates to “the horn”, was the former boatmen’s guild and features a Flemish Italian style. Some say the facade of Le Cornet looks like a type of frigate or warship. Nearby guild houses include La Brouette, Le Sac, and Le Pot d’Etain which accommodated tallow makers, cabinet makers, and carpenters, respectively.
Sight description based on wikipedia
La Louve, Le Sac & La Brouette

10) La Louve, Le Sac & La Brouette (must see)

The Louve, the Sac and the Brouette are an ensemble of houses on Grand Place square, which were not rebuilt in 1695, when the rest of the Grand Place buildings were renovated. Due to the preserved facades, the buildings are considered the most beautiful edifices of the Grand Place.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Le Roi d'Espagne

11) Le Roi d'Espagne (must see)

The Roi d’Espange (or King of Spain) building was constructed in 1697 and served as the original house of the baker’s guild. The building was designed by Jan Cosyns and is boxy in style with a domed lantern feature on the top. The building’s name is drawn from the bust of Charles II which is incorporated into the second-floor building facade. The bust of Charles II was included in the facade because he was the sovereign of Southern Netherlands, which included present-day Belgium when the building was complete. Charles II was also the King of Spain. Some of the notable features of the Roi d’Espagne include the statues on the roof and dome. On the top of the dome is a gilded weather vane statue of Fame blowing a horn. The six statues on the roof each represent one of the six items needed to make bread. From left to right, when facing the building, they are strength, wheat, wind, fire, water and foresight. Above the door is a gilded bronze bust representing Saint Aubert, the patron saint of bakers. One of the most popular cafes on the square, Roy d’Espagne, occupies a portion of the building.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Brussels, Belgium

Create Your Own Walk in Brussels

Create Your Own Walk in Brussels

Creating your own self-guided walk in Brussels is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Royal Sightseeing Walking Tour

Royal Sightseeing Walking Tour

The main Royal site in Brussels is the statue of Godfrey of Bouillon, which actually represents the center of the Royal Square. Also known as the Royal Place, the Royal Square is surrounded by the Royal Palace, the Royal Museums and the Royal Library. All these served as the official residence to the King of Belgium. Enjoy this two hour tour to visit the Royal places in Brussels.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 km
City Center Gift Shops

City Center Gift Shops

It would be a pity to leave Brussels without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Brussels, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit. All shops are located within a pleasant walking distance, in Central Brussels.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 km
Central Nightlife Tour Part 1

Central Nightlife Tour Part 1

Brussels' nightlife is represented by the variety of its clubs, among which are not only out and out discotheques but also clubs that host world-famous DJs and live music as well. Brussels has some of the most fashionable night clubs in Belgium. Take this walking tour to visit the most famous venues located in Central Brussels, all within a pleasant walking distance.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 km
Mont Des Arts Walk

Mont Des Arts Walk

Mont des Arts, meaning "hill/mount of the arts", is a historic site in the center of Brussels. The Mont des Arts offers one of Brussels' finest views, the famous tower of the Brussels Town Hall in the Grand Place is clearly visible. On a sunny day, the Koekelberg Basilica and even the Atomium can be seen.
Major tourist attractions are located within walking distance of the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 km
Artists' Studios and Museums Tour

Artists' Studios and Museums Tour

Brussels is the cultural capital of Belgium and also the former home of such well-known artists as Victor Horta, Camille Lemonnier and Paul Cauchie. There are a number of famous artists' houses and museums in Brussels, which exhibit numerous Belgian masterpieces. Don't miss the chance to visit some of the most famous artists' studios and house museums in Brussels.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.3 km
Chocolate Shops Tour

Chocolate Shops Tour

Belgium is considered one of the best producers of chocolate. Its capital, Brussels, offers you the opportunity to taste more than 2000 different types of chocolate. There is a plethora of chocolate shops in Brussels which offer chocolates of all shapes, sizes and colors imaginable. Go ahead and take a look at Brussels most visited chocolate shops in this tour.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Belgian Beer Tour of Brussels

Belgian Beer Tour of Brussels

Belgium is world-renowned for its beers and Brussels is the best city to sample the huge variety of flavors. We'll show you the best places to buy them and to drink them. We'll even show you a family brewery where the liquid gold is produced right in front of your eyes! This tour is meant...
What to Buy in Brussels: 15 Ideas for Travelers

What to Buy in Brussels: 15 Ideas for Travelers

It's no secret that Brussels is not all about JCVD muscles and EU headquarters. Small country as such, Belgium abounds in signature items, such as beer, chocolates and... the peeing boy. All of these have made prime Belgian souvenirs for years. Now you can explore the Brussels gift scene in...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Brussels for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Brussels has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money getting around Brussels and visiting the city's multiple highlights, you may want to resort to the Brussels City Card.

Among other conveniences, this card allows its bearer to explore Brussels's top attractions, tours, restaurants, bars and clubs, and selected shops either completely free of charge (41 museums) or with great (up to 50%) discounts. The card provides 24-, 48-, or 72-hour passes to these locations, plus free ride on the hop-on hop-off bus and public transportation (optional) thus putting Brussels at your fingertips! Reduced rates for children and students also apply at participating venues.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Brussels hotels that are conveniently located, but at the same time, also not so ridiculously expensive: NH Brussels Carrefour de L’Europe, Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo, Hotel Novotel Brussels Off Grand Place.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Brussels, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close, with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, as a guided tour of Brussels typically costs from around US$20 up to US$50+ per person:

- Take a 3-hour guided walk around central Brussels to discover the city's historic locations, learn about its legendary men and women who made history, delve into the origins of Brussels, and acquaint yourself with the Belgian capital's contemporary culture and gastronomy;

- Embark on a must-see tour of real Brussels exploring the city's top attractions through the eyes of a local guide revealing a flip side of the well-known locations, plus discovering a few secret spots only the locals know about, away from the trodden tourist paths. En route, you may give yourself a treat to the authentic Belgian cuisine at a local eatery, not forgetting the world-famous Belgian chocolate, plus indulge yourself in some other local delights along the way.

- Appreciate Belgian gastronomy in its diversity – chocolate, waffles, beers, fries, and more – on the Food and Beer walking tour of Brussels offering a unique chance to savor a variety of local foods, drink local beers and unleash your sweet tooth onto the delicious local chocolate, whilst listening to a great deal of fun stories associated with each of these delights!

- Come and see what's made Belgium an international beer superpower on a 2.5-hour beer tasting tour of Brussels led by a local expert. Here, you will learn to tell a difference between the Belgian and foreign-made brews plus acquaint yourself with some of the 1,000+ craft beers made in this country.

- Pedal your way across Brussels on a 3.5-hour guided biking tour to discover the city's beauty manifested in its top landmarks, breath in the local atmosphere, plus enjoy along the way some of the best fries and beer (optional) the city has to offer.

- Explore the artistic side of Brussels on the tour following in the footsteps of renowned Belgian artists who left their mark in the field of Surrealist painting and Art Nouveau architecture. On this tour you will see some of the city's hidden gems, visit independent galleries and more, led step by step by a knowledgeable local guide.

Day Trips

If you have a half or full day to spare whilst in Brussels, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations, like Ghent and Bruges, Antwerp, Maasmechelen, or Waterloo. For as little as US$10+ to US$100+ you will get a chance to acquaint yourself with the UNESCO World Heritage city of Ghent's medieval architecture, learn about Bruges's Viking and Middle Age history, get to see Antwerp - the hometown of Peter Paul Rubens and one of the largest harbors in the world, shop till you drop at Maasmechelen Village with over 100 international boutiques offering big-name brand clothing at reduced (down to 40%) prices, plus visit the site of one of the most significant battles in the history of Europe that saw the ultimate defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte. All these trips start and end at your hotel and you'll be carried by a comfortable air-conditioned coach or minivan, accompanied by an English-speaking tour guide.