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Grote Markt with city hall

A leap into the Golden Age

A large square with a town hall surrounded by historic houses can be found in many Belgian cities. But the Grote Markt in Antwerp is considered one of the most beautiful of its kind. It is the city's landmark and since 1998 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Most important trading place in the Netherlands

In 1210, the area of the square came into the possession of the city of Antwerp through a donation by Henry I of Brabant. At the beginning of the 14th century, the first markets, the so-called Forums of Brabant, took place. Merchants from home and abroad met here: English, Italians, Spaniards, Flemish and North and South German merchants sold their goods and concluded business deals. By the end of the 15th century, the Grote Markt was considered the most important trading centre in the Netherlands.

Modernity has long since found its way into the square in the form of shops, boutiques, cafés and restaurants. Numerous terraces invite you to linger and enjoy an uninterrupted view of the surrounding historic buildings and the events on the square.

Magnificent guild houses

The Grote Markt is lined with magnificently decorated guild houses, a reminder of the city's prosperity during the Golden Age. At that time, Antwerp was one of the most important trading cities in Europe and the various guilds set up shop around the square.

In 1576 a fire destroyed the original buildings. The buildings were then rebuilt in the Flemish Renaissance style. No. 38 and No. 40 - where first the weavers then the carpenters had their headquarters - were spared by the fire and are still preserved as originals today.

The patron saint of each trade can be seen on the roofs of the houses. On number 7, the highest guild house, it is Saint George who defeated the dragon. He is considered the patron saint of crusaders and archers.

House number four today has a memorial plaque: Anthonis van Dyck, who later made a name for himself as a Baroque painter, was born here in 1599.

[caption id="attachment_26004" align="alignnone" width="800"] The façades of the guild houses in Antwerp[/caption]

The City Hall

The main feature of the square is the City Hall with its approximately 80-metre-wide façade. From 1561 to 1565, a first building was completed according to the designs of the architect and sculptor Cornelis Floris de Vriendt. But this building also fell victim to the fire - caused by Spanish troops - in 1576. Between 1578 and 1580, a new building was erected in the Renaissance style, which was also provided with some Gothic elements.

In the 19th century the stadhuis had to be completely renovated, so a new façade in Mannerist style was built between 1853 and 1869. The interior of the town hall was renovated from 1860 to 1898. Renovation work will take place again until autumn 2020.

Three coats of arms can still be seen in the façade. One belongs to Philip II, who as King of Spain ruled over the Netherlands, which then included what is now Belgium. High above the building, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of Antwerp, towers over the city.

Also striking are the many colorful flags that adorn the city hall. Every country that is a member of the European Union is represented here. In addition, there are all the countries that have a consulate in Antwerp.

Brabo Fountain

In the middle of the Grote Markt stands the Brabo Fountain. It was designed by Jef Lambeaux in 1887 and shows the Roman warrior Silvio Brabo on a rock, throwing the hand of a giant into the Scheldt.

According to legend, Brabo, a nephew of Julius Caesar, freed Antwerp from a giant who had blocked the Scheldt and demanded a tribute from anyone who wanted to pass. To do this, the giant chopped off one of their hands. By chopping off the giant's hand himself, Brabo was able to defeat the giant and free the city from his terror.

The Dutch expression "hand werpen" (to throw a hand) is said to have given rise to the name of the city of Antwerp. However, there is no scientific evidence for the naming. What is provable, however, is that the name comes from the term "aan de werp". This means "on the terp" and refers to an elevation on the riverbank.

[caption id="attachment_26005" align="alignnone" width="800"] The Brabo Fountain in Antwerp[/caption]


  • Streetcar: Line 3, 5, 9, 15 and 4 to Groenplaats stop. From there 5 minutes walk.
  • Line 11 to Melkmarkt stop. From there also 5 minutes walk.
  • Bus: Line 22, 180, 181, 182, 183 to Groenplaats stop. From there 5 minutes walk.
  • Waterbus: To Steenplein pier. From there 5 minutes walk.