The Grote Markt is the large, cobblestone square in the center of Brussels, lined with opulent guildhalls (one housing the Brussels stock market) and surrounded by narrow lanes filled with chocolate shops, specialized bakeries, lace shops, bars, restaurants, and much more.
The chocolate shops were simply amazing and some specialized bakeries had gingerbread cookies almost a meter tall. In the shops, samples were out, cookies and cookie molds were on display and the store front windows, painted with lovely snowflakes, were filled with treats to tempt!
Extraordinary chocolates from the Neuhaus Chocolate Shop awaited me when I arrived at my friends, so I didn’t need to purchase any chocolates in the square. I sure have enjoyed them at their home! Neuhaus, the inventor of pralines, has created exquisite chocolates of superior quality since 1875 and if you have just one, you’ll understand why they such garner such international acclaim. These chocolates may be reason enough to visit Brussels and this magnificent square!
This Grand Place (the French translation of the Dutch Grote Markt) is the most famous landmark in Brussels and is something to behold in December with a majestic Christmas tree in the center and light shows every half hour after dark, accompanied with classical music or songs sung by a local singer. Each song brings new colors, dancing across and arround the buildings in the square, and it is all so enchanting that even a video can’t quite capture how magical it is.
After the half hour show, we were freezing and moved to a famous bar on the square, Le Cirio. This charming, 1886 bar/grand café has turn-of-the-century décor, polished brasswork, wood paneling, aproned waiters and a warm, friendly atmosphere. Packed to the hilt with interesting characters of all ages, it make one feel this is the place to be. After sampling its special house drink last January, I order it again this visit – “half and half” – white wine and champagne. The glass is filled so full, one must sip from the flute while it is still on the table. A lovely hot dinner gave us sustenance to wander the next 2 hours or so though the Brussels Christmas Market, scattered throughout the historic area. One hears both Dutch and French spoken, as well as English, while wandering. Almost everyone seems to understand English – and that seems to be the norm in both Belgium and The Netherlands.