The Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium, is the heart of the city

The Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium, is truly the heart of the city. Though the square is mentioned in documents dating back to the 12th century, the buildings from that era were destroyed during three days of bombardment by troops of Louis XIV in 1695. Rather than rebuild in a more modern style, city fathers decided to recreate the original buildings down to their smallest detail immediately following the bombardment. Despite scarcity of funds and material, they managed to complete the task in just four short years. Today the crown jewel of the Grand Place is the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), with its soaring bell tower and Brabant Gothic design.

The photo above shows the House of the Dukes of Brabant, which anchors one end of the square. To its left and right are some of the old guild houses that form a perimeter around the plaza. Together they are a remarkable representation of the Baroque architecture of the late 17th century, right down to their gold embellished facades. Each evening, locals and visitors descend upon the square to watch the setting sun light up the gilded buildings. They sit cross-legged, lie back on the warm pavement, or even spread a cloth and enjoy a picnic supper. The Grand Place in Brussels was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.