The Brussels Town Hall was originally built in 1402-20 with only a small belfry. A second wing was added in 1444-49 and the tower was completed by 1455. The architect behind the first project was Jacob van Thienen or Jean Bornoy, followed by Willem de Voghel (probably) and Jan van Ruysbroek. The various building stages is the likely reason why the facade is asymmetrical. The interior was completely rebuilt after the French bombardment in 1695 and two new wings at the back were added by architect Corneille van Nerven, completed in 1712.
The construction of the church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon spans the entire 15th century, replacing a guild chapel from around 1304. The choir was completed in 1435 while the transepts were nearing completion in the 1450s. The construction of the nave was interrupted by the political unrest following the death of the duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, in 1477. Works resumed at the end of the century but the planned tower was never completed. Two baroque chapels were added in the 17th century.
Construction of what was to become the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula started already in 1226 but was only completed in the 16th century. The oldest part is the choir, which was built in 1226-76, while the design of the towers on the western front is attributed to the architect Jan van Ruysbroeck. The gothic church replaced a previous church from the 11th century and a chapel has probably existed on the site since the 9th century. The church became co-cathedral of the archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels in 1962. The other cathedral of the archdiocese is St Rumbold's in Mechelen.
Rue du Marché aux Fromages is one of the oldest streets in Brussels and supposedly has its smallest house. Apart from being named after its cheese market, the street has had other colourful names such as whole-milk street, dirty street or shit street. It was also previously known as Smaelbeek, after a stream that used to run along it, forming a small island on the south side of the street. It is also often referred to as rue de Pittas. The sale of cheese here ended in the 18th century.
The renaissance facade of the late-gothic church of Sainte Marie-Madeleine originally belonged to a separate chapel from 1615, dedicated to Sainte Anne, previously situated at Rue de la Montagne. It was reconstructed and stuck onto the 15th century church in 1957-58 after it had been removed due to the construction of the north-south railway link. The gothic part of the church was partly destroyed in the French bombardment of 1695 and some of the interior was then rebuilt in baroque.
Until the end of the 19th century, Rue de Rollebeek was the only street connecting the Sablons quarter to the lower town. The Zavelbeek, also called Rollebeek, was a brook running from Sablons down to town where it emptied into the Senne river. The brook had been channeled by the beginning of the 14th century to feed the fountains close to Grande Place. At 7 Rue de Rollebeek, we find a renaissance portal from the 1630s.
The facade of the current Church of the Holy Trinity in the Ixelles district, originally belonged to the Temple of the Augustinians on Place de Broukere. The church was built in 1621-42 by the architect Jacob Franquart. It was spared destruction when the Senne river was covered up in 1865-71 and was originally intended to be one of the focal points of the new boulevards. However, the church was demolished in 1893 and the facade was transferred to Ixelles. The main body of the new church was built in 1895-1907 by architects Van Ysendijck and Simons. The buildings in the street leading up the church, Rue du Bailli, were mostly built in 1889-1901.
Most of Grande Place was destroyed during a French bombardment of the city in 1695, only the town hall and Maison du Roi were in a sufficient condition to be repaired. All the other houses on the square are a result of a rebuilding campaign in 1695-1710. The design of the new houses were subject to approval by local authorities, helping to ensure a relative uniformity in style. After a long period of disrepair and alterations, the facades were restored around the end of the nineteenth century. The building on the farthest right in this row was demolished in 1852 in order to widen the road, but was rebuilt in 1897 with an arch at ground floor, as an annex to the adjacent house.
The east side of the square is dominated by the Maison des Ducs de Brabant, which despite the unified facade is made up of seven separate residences. Several of the houses that stood on the site before the bombardment were owned by the city of Brussels and the cleared site was sold into private hands to finance the reconstruction of the town hall. The involvement of local authorities may be an explanation for why the individual houses were subordinate to a single design, by the architect Guillaume de Bruyn. The central pediment was replaced with a new design by Laurent-Benoit Dewez in 1770. The house to the left of Maison des des Ducs de Brabant is known as Maison de la Balance, and was built in 1704, but its address is to Rue de la Colline and not the square.
On the north-east, the third facade from the left is also by de Bruyn and was intended as the central section of a unified design for the row, but this was refused by the other owners. The second facade from the right is made up of two separate residences. On the far left is the Maison du Roi.
There are more houses on the northwest and west sides of the square. In between is the Maison du Roi, the second of the two gothic structures to survive the bombardment of 1695. It was built for the Duke of Brabant in 1504-36, supposedly as a reminder of ducal authority to the municipal authorities in the town hall.
The church of Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg was built in 1776-86 as the centrepiece of the new Place Royale designed by the French architect Barnabé Guimard. The square was laid out after the fire of 1731, which had destroyed the former palace of Coudenberg. The church was completed to the designs of Jean Benoît Vincent Barré.
Palais de la Nation was built in 1779-84 to serve as the seat for the Sovereign Council of Brabant, and was completed to an exterior design by the French architect Barnabé Guimard. The building was restored after fires in 1820 and 1883, was enlarged in the 1870s and is now at the centre of a whole city block owned by the Belgian authorities. It has been the seat of the federal parliament of Belgium since 1831. The iron railing in front of the palace was put up in 1921.
The Brussels Stock Exchange was designed by Léon-Pierre Suys and built in 1868-73, as the centrepiece of a redevelopment plan resulting from the decision to cover and divert the Senne River. The plan, also developed by Suys, was adopted in 1865 and led to the creation of Central Boulevard (now Boulevard Anspach) and a new 19th century district in the heart of the medieval city. Suys also designed the Great Central Halls, built to replace the old open-air markets, but this structure was demolished in 1958.
Just on the right can be seen a glimpse of St. Nicholas Church. Originally built around 1125, it's one of the oldest churches in Brussels, though most of the structure has been renewed throughout the centuries and the facade is a reconstruction from 1956.
The vast Palace of Justice was built in 1866-1883 to a design by Joseph Poelaert. A neo-classical building for the law courts had been built in 1818-23 on the site of the old Jesuit church and was designed by Francois Verly, but this building soon became too small and dilapidated and was demolished in 1892 to make way for a new street called Rue Lebeau. The square, still called Place de la Justice, is now dominated by the Royal Library of Belgium from 1956-58. As for Poelaert's new building, the grounds of a convent, the park of nearby Hotel de Merode and a large chunk of the Marolles district were expropriated to make way for it.
Rue de la Regence was created in two stages as a continuation of the late 18th century plans to modernise the royal quarter, as exemplified by the creation of Place Royale. The first stretch from Place Royale to Sablon was created in 1827 and led to the demolition of a monument known as passage des Colonnes. The new street spanned Rue de Ruysbroeck via a small iron bridge. The street was lengthened to Place de Poelaert in 1872, making the new Palace of Justice the terminal focal point. The hotel Tour et Taxis was demolished in the process, as were the iron bridge and some of the houses surrounding the church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon. The stretch from 1827 and Square du Petit Sablon were also modernised as part of these works.
The church of Saint-Josse at the end of Rue des deux églises seen from Rue de la Loi. The facade was designed in 1891 completing a project for a new church which had begun in 1864. Among the neo-styles of the time, the architect Jules-Jacques van Ysendijck made a somewhat unusual choice in opting for Jesuit baroque.
Hotel Tassel by architect Victor Horta was built in 1893-94 and is considered the first in the Art Nouveau style, although it was preceded by Maison Autrique in 1893. The latter was also very innovative in its decorative style but its spatial composition was conventional compared to Tassel, sources say. The town house features a steel structure at its core containing staircases and landings and has a glass roof bringing light into the middle of the structure.
Rue Joseph Stevens, which opens up the vista from Place du Grand Sablon to the church Notre Dame de la Chapelle, was created in 1894. The building in red brick was completed in 1895 by the architect Charles Albert. The white brick building on the other corner is presumably from the same period, while this is likely also true for the building on the far right, which belongs to Rue Joseph Lebeau, which was created in 1893. Both streets were cut through the old urban fabric to improve the connection between Sablon and the lower town. Previously, the only street down to lower town from here was Rue de Rollebeek situated between the two newer streets. An example of the older architecture in the area is the gabled front of 49 Place du Grand Sablon with an anchor plate on the facade indicating it was built in 1567. The high-rise Tour Sablon was built in 1968 and replaced, among other buildings, Victor Horta's Maison du Peuple from 1899.
Rue Joseph Stevens ends at Place de la Chapelle, named after Notre Dame de la Chapelle, primarily built in the 13th century though the nave was completed in the 14th. Burned, sacked and bombarded throughout the centuries, the church was restored in 1699-1708 and the baroque steeple was designed by Antoine Pastorana. It was restored again in 1866 and in 1989. On the right is the high-rise Tour Sablon.
Rue de Tabellion in Ixelles was created in 1897 by royal decree and the first buildings started to emerge around 1900 in various neo-classical and neo-renaissance styles. Ixelles municipality is located to the south of Brussels city centre and was urbanised in the second half of the 19th century after the creation of Avenue Louise, which despite resistance from the the then town of Ixelles became a main artery connecting the emerging southern suburbs to the city. A transept of the Church of the Holy Trinity serves as the focal point for the end of the street.
The Maison & Atelier Horta was built in 1898-1901 as the residence of the art nouveau architect Victor Horta. The building was sold in 1919 and separated into two separate households in 1926. It was acquired by the municipality of St Gilles in 1961 and is now a museum.
The northern end of Rue Ducale is dominated by a series of government buildings. The building on the left has been the Prime Minister's offices since 1938 but was originally built in 1782-84 for the monastery of St Gertrude of Louvain. The original design was by Louis Montoyer but the facade was entirely redone in 1860-62 when the structure was rebuilt to house ministries. The red brick building was built for the ministry of railways, the main post- and telegraph office and the navy; by architect Hendrik Beyaert in 1890-94. Beyaert was also tasked with designing the building at the end of the street to house new offices for the post office and the navy but this was completed to an altered design by his successor Joseph Benoit in 1905. It has been the seat of the Flemish parliament since 1987.
The Old England Department store was built to a design by Paul Saintenoy in 1899, along a new artery through the demolished quarter of St Roch, named Le Coudenberg. The new street has also been called rue Courbe and joins with what is now Rue Ravenstein to connect Place Royale to the old town. Coudenberg means cold hill and is the name of the hill-top, chosen as the site for the palace of the dukes of Brabant in the second half of the 11th century. Old England has housed the Music Instrument Museum since 2000.
The new facade of the Royal Palace of Brussels was completed in 1904 to a design by the architect Henri Maquet. However, the palace originates from two mansions built at the end of the 18th century on the ruins of the old Coudenberg palace. The mansions were joined into one palatial front under William I of the Netherlands in 1815-29, but the facade was judged as too modest by the later Belgian king Leopold II and was replaced with the current.
A triumphal arch in what was to become the Parc du Quinquantenaire had been planned but wasn't fully completed for the 1880 National Exhibition, commemorating 50 years of Belgian independence. Instead, a makeshift version made out of wooden panels was put up and it wasn't before the 75th anniversary of Belgian independence in 1905 that a permanent arch was completed, to a new design by Charles Girault. The arch links exhibition spaces in glass and iron originally built for the 1880 exhibition, which have subsequently been enlarged and modified.
The park Mont des Arts, which opens up the vista from Place Royale towards Grande Place, was created in the 1950s, but the plan originated already in the 19th century. The old quarter of St Roch was demolished in 1897-98, but the plan to redevelop the area was rejected in 1908. Instead, a temporary solution was found in 1910 with the creation of a park with a staircase and cascading fountain. The park proved popular and remained until 1954. More buildings in the area were demolished to make way for new structures, including the Royal Library of Belgium and Congress Palace in 1956-58.