World-famous for its ornamental richness, it is bordered by the guilds' houses, the Town Hall, and the King's House (Broodhuis in Dutch). Victor Hugo considered it to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage location in 1998.

In August 1695, during the War of the League of Augsburg, most of the houses, some of which were still made of wood, were destroyed during the city's bombardment by French troops commanded by Marshal de Villeroy. Only the facade and the Town Hall tower, which served as a precious landmark for the artillerymen, and a few stone walls were preserved from incendiary balls. The houses surrounding the square were richly reconstructed in stone by the various corporations. Among these, the home of the Brewers corporation now houses the Brewers Museum.

The French Revolution again ruined the place. The first photos of the Grand-Place show a square without statues and gilding. Everything disappeared in the 18th century. The current facades are the result of a major restoration campaign at the end of the 19th century. No other city in this country has destroyed so much of its past (like the Senne's vault), but neither has any city ever invested so much in rehabilitating its central plaza. 

The 19th-century facades of the current square are not always the exact reflection of constructions after 1695. Sometimes, the restorers lack information as to the king of Spain'. Sometimes the original no longer meets the ideas and needs of the nineteenth century. This is the case, for example, with the 'Etoile' house to the left of the Town Hall. The building is first razed to allow a widening of the street. Then, it is rebuilt with a colonnaded ground floor with a pedestrian gallery. 

The “Maison du Roi” is a pastiche from the 19th century. The old building had had a turbulent history and was in bad condition. In the 17th century, Archduchess Isabelle had it decorated with a dedication to Notre-Dame de la Paix, which did not please the liberal restorers of the 19th century. Therefore, the old building is replaced by a new one where political elements replace all religious decorative elements.