The Grand Place (French, pronounced: [ɡʁɑ̃ plas]; also used in English) or Grote Markt listen (help·info) (Dutch) is the central square of Brussels. It is surrounded by guildhalls, the city's Town Hall, and the Breadhouse (French: Maison du Roi, Dutch: Broodhuis). The square is the most important tourist destination and most memorable landmark in Brussels, along with the Atomium and Manneken Pis. It measures 68 by 110 metres (223 by 360 ft), and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the 10th century, Charles, Duke of Lower Lorraine constructed a fort on Saint-Géry Island, the point at which the Senne river became navigable. This was the seed of what would become Brussels. By the end of the 11th century, an open-air marketplace was set up on a dried-out marsh near the fort that was surrounded by sandbanks. The market was called the Nedermerckt, or Lower Market.
The market likely developed around the same time as the commercial development of Brussels. A document from 1174 mentions a lower market (Latin: forum inferius) not far from the port on the Senne river. The market was well situated along the Steenweg (Dutch: Causeway), an important commercial road which connected the prosperous regions of the Rhineland and the County of Flanders.
At the beginning of the 13th century, three indoor markets were built on the northern edge of the Grand Place; a meat market, a bread market and a cloth market. These buildings, which belonged to the Duke of Brabant, allowed the wares to be showcased even in bad weather, but also allowed the Dukes to keep track of the storage and sale of goods, in order to collect taxes. Other buildings, made of wood or stone, enclosed the Grand Place.
Improvements to the Grand Place from the 14th century onwards would mark the rise in importance of local merchants and tradesmen relative to the nobility. Short on money, the Duke transferred control of mills and commerce to the local authorities. The city of Brussels, as with the neighbouring cities of Mechelen and Leuven constructed a large indoor cloth market to the south of the square. At this point, the square was still haphazardly laid out, and the buildings along the edges had a motley tangle of gardens and irregular additions. The city expropriated a and demolished number of buildings that clogged the Grand Place, and formally defined the edges of the square.
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