Explore Grand Place

You wouldn't think it today as you take in its stately splendour, but in times past Brussel's Grand Place was the scene of some grisly beheadings and witch-burnings. Its origins as a humble market can be discerned in the culinary-sounding place names of the surrounding side alleys, but it quickly rose in importance to become the town's administrative centre. Crammed with prime examples of Gothic and Baroque architecture, it's almost too much for the eye to absorb. The south side of the square is dominated by the 15th century Town Hall. It's easy to see exactly why it was fifty years in the making as you gaze up at its awesome 96 metre high spire. Directly opposite is the Maison du Roi, a giant, elaborate jewellery box of steeples and Gothic arches. Squeezed between these two architectural heavyweights are close on forty gilt-encrusted guildhalls, each one a gem in its own right. If you don't want to dine at one of the rather pricey restaurants, you can always picnic on a convenient stretch of kerb or on the steps of the Maison du Roi. And to see the square in a different light, come back at night when the ancient buildings are lit up in jazzy fluoro hues.