Dave finished his work in Amsterdam a bit sooner than we had anticipated, so we decided to spend a few days in Belgium. It was a three-hour train trip from Amsterdam Centraal to Brussel Centraal. Our hotel was just off the main square of the historical heart of the city of Brussels. The square is called the Grand-Place, and it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 by meeting the following criteria:
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.
The Grand-Place was originally the setting for the Gothic-style Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), La Maison du Roi, and for the guildhalls of the wealthy who made their fortunes in the trade industry. Except for the Hôtel de Ville, the original buildings were completely destroyed in 1695 by two days of bombing by the French king, Louis XIV, in the War of the Grand Alliance. The trade guilds were encouraged to rebuild their guildhalls in designs accepted by the town council, resulting in the Baroque architecture seen today.
The 15th-century Gothic Hôtel de Ville with its 315-foot high tower was the only building to survive the barrage of cannon fire in 1695.
The Maison du Roi was completely redesigned in Gothic style in the late 19th century, and is currently the home of the Musée de la Ville.