Palaces, manors and town halls in Belgium

Brussels Town Hall

The oldest part of the present Town Hall is its east wing together with a shorter belfry. It was built and completed in 1420 under direction of Jacob van Thienen. Initially, future expansion of the building was not foreseen, however, the admission of the craft guilds into the traditionally patrician city government apparently spurred interest in providing more room the building. As a result a second, somewhat longer wing ...
Founded: 1420-1444 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Belfry of Bruges

The belfry of Bruges, or Belfort, is a medieval bell tower and one of the Bruges" most prominent symbols. The belfry formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives, and served as an observation post for spotting fires and other danger. A narrow, steep staircase of 366 steps, accessible by the public for an entry fee, leads to the top of the 83-metre-high building, which leans about a metre to the east. The be ...
Founded: c. 1240 | Location: Bruges, Belgium

Antwerp City Hall

The Antwerp City Hall was erected between 1561 and 1565 after designs made by Cornelis Floris de Vriendt and several other architects and artists, this Renaissance building incorporates both Flemish and Italian influences. The City Hall is inscribed on UNESCO"s World Heritage List along with the belfries of Belgium and France. In the 16th century Antwerp became one of the busiest trading ports and most prosperous ci ...
Founded: 1561-1564 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Belfry of Ghent

The 91-metre-tall belfry is one of three medieval towers that overlook the old city centre of Ghent, the other two belonging to Saint Bavo Cathedral and Saint Nicholas" Church. Its height makes it the tallest belfry in Belgium. The belfry of Ghent, together with its attached buildings, belongs to the set of belfries of Belgium and France inscribed on UNESCO"s World Heritage List. Construction of the tower began in 1313 a ...
Founded: 1313 | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Royal Palace of Brussels

The Royal Palace of Brussels is the official palace of the King and Queen of the Belgians in the centre of Brussels. However it is not used as a royal residence, as the king and his family live in the Royal Palace of Laeken on the outskirts of Brussels. The facade we see today was only built after 1900 on the initiative of King Leopold II. The first part of the present-day building dates from the end of the 18th century. ...
Founded: 1783 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Leuven Town Hall

The Town Hall of Leuven is a landmark building on that city"s Grote Markt (Main Market) square, across from the monumental St. Peter"s Church. Built in a Brabantine Late Gothic style between 1448 and 1469, it is famous for its ornate architecture, crafted in lace-like detail. The building today known as the Town Hall was the Voirste Huys of a larger complex of municipal buildings on which construction started in 1439 at ...
Founded: 1439 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Kortrijk City Hall

The City Hall of Kortrijk is situated on the main square of the Belgian city of Kortrijk. The facade of the late-Gothic, early Renaissance city hall is adorned with the statues of the Counts of Flanders. As early as the 14th century, Kortrijk possessed a town hall, which was, however, completely gutted down by the French army after the victory at Westrozebeke in 1382. In 1420, a larger town hall was built in High Gothic ...
Founded: 1520 | Location: Kortrijk, Belgium

Ypres Cloth Hall

The Cloth Hall in Ypres was one of the largest commercial buildings of the Middle Ages, when it served as the main market and warehouse for the Flemish city"s prosperous cloth industry. The original structure, erected mainly in the 13th century and completed 1304, lay in ruins after artillery fire devastated Ypres in World War I. Between 1933 and 1967, the hall was meticulously reconstructed to its prewar condition, under ...
Founded: 1304/1933 | Location: Ypres, Belgium

Mechelen Town Hall

Mechelen town hall on the Grote Markt consists of two parts: the cloth hall with unfinished belfry and the Palace of the Great Council. The cloth trade went into decline in the 14th century and there wasn"t the money to complete the building. For two hundred years the belfry was no more than a shell, until it was eventually provided with a temporary roof in the 16th century. The belfry is now a UNESCO world heritage ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Mechelen, Belgium

Château d'Hougoumont

Château d'Hougoumont (originally Goumont) is a large farmhouse situated at the bottom of an escarpment near the Nivelles road in Braine-l'Alleud, where British and other allied forces faced Napoleon's Army at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815. In 1474 the Order of Saint John bought the area of estate. A building had apparently been erected on the land as it was sold in 1536 to Pierre du Fief, attorney-general to ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Braine-l'Alleud, Belgium

Schepenhuis

The Schepenhuis (Aldermen"s House) of Aalst is a former city hall, one of the oldest in the Low Countries. Dating originally from 1225, it was partially rebuilt twice as a result of fire damage, first after a 1380 war and again after a fireworks accident in 1879. The belfry tower at one corner of the building was completed in 1460, and in the next year was equipped with a carillon built by master craftsmen from Mech ...
Founded: 1225 | Location: Aalst, Belgium

Binche Town Hall

Binche"s town hall and belfry dates back to the 14th century. Burnt down by the French in 1554, the hall was soon restored in a Renaissance style by architect Du Broeucq. In the 18th century, the architect Dewelz covered the building with a neoclassical façade but, after major restoration works in 1901, the town hall regained its Renaissance appearance. A Baroque onion dome crowns the belfry. The belfry houses ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Binche, Belgium

Oudenaarde Town Hall

Oudenaarde Town Hall was built by architect Hendrik van Pede in 1526–1537 to replace the medieval Schepenhuis (Aldermen's House) that occupied the same site. Another older structure, the 14th-century Cloth Hall, was retained and now forms a sort of extension at the back of the Town Hall proper. The Oudenaarde Town Hall was a late flowering of secular Brabantine Gothic architecture, carrying on the stylistic tradition o ...
Founded: 1526–1537 | Location: Oudenaarde, Belgium

Palace of Margaret of Austria

Margaret of Austria was regent of the Habsburg Netherlands between 1507 and 1530. Her residential palace was the Hof van Savoye (Court of Savoy) in Mechelen, the first renaissance building in the Low Countries. Note the magnificent renaissance frontage and the charming garden. From 1616 to 1796 the palace was home to the Great Council, the highest court of law in the Southern Netherlands. The façade still features ...
Founded: 1507-1530 | Location: Mechelen, Belgium

Veurne Town Hall

Several Renaissance-style buildings, mostly built using the local light-coloured brick, adorn Veurne’s central market square, which make it one of Belgium's finest market squares. Among these are the city hall (Landhuis) and belfry, which is recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites in 1999. The Belfry of Cecilia Tower was built in 1628.
Founded: 1628 | Location: Veurne, Belgium

Lier Town Hall

The present Lier Town Hall is the former clothmakers’ hall. In 1740 architect Jan Pieter de Bauerscheit the Younger substantially renovated the building, converting it into Brabant rococo style. It was designed as a large mansion adjacent to the Gothic Belfry. The council chamber is in Louis XV style. Special features worthy of note are the elegant oak spiral staircase, the painted ceiling in the council chamber, the wr ...
Founded: 1369/1740 | Location: Lier, Belgium

Château de Seneffe

In 1758 the Seneffe estate was bought by Julien Depestre, a Walloon merchant who earned a fortune by selling goods to the Imperial Austrian troops stationed in the Austrian Netherlands. The new castle was erected between 1763 and 1768 in a novel neoclassical style. After the French revolution and the subsequent occupation of the Austrian Netherlands by the French Republic, the extraordinary art collection (1797) and the c ...
Founded: 1763-1768 | Location: Seneffe, Belgium

Dendermonde Town Hall

The former Cloth Hall on the Dendermonde Market Square is a jewel of Flemish medieval architecture. The Town Hall is especially colourful during the summer months, when it is embellished with heraldic flags and flower baskets. The Belfry, Unesco World Heritage since 1999, has housed a carillon since 1548, complete according to the Mechelen Standard with 49 bells, of 6800 kgs total weight. You will appreciate the magnifi ...
Founded: 1337 | Location: Dendermonde, Belgium

Nieuwpoort City Hall and Belfry

The Nieuwpoort belfry tower (as part of the city Hall) is one of the 56 belfries in Belgium and France, whose has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The belfry stands above the rectangular city hall which originates from the 14th century. During the First World War tower and the hall were, along with the entire city, almost completely destroyed. In 1921-1923 the belfry and the hall were reconstructed. The hal ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Nieuwpoort, Belgium

Menen Town Hall

Menen"s town hall consists of several buildings located in the middle of the market square. Through the centuries, it has been repeatedly devastated and altered. The present town hall building was established in 1782, when the Austrian Habsburgers ruled over the Southern Netherlands. The façade is in a simple and austere classical style. The Cloth Hall and the Mansion (landhuis) were also part of the town hall ...
Founded: 1782 | Location: Menen, Belgium

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Lorca Castle

Castle of Lorca (Castillo de Lorca) is a fortress of medieval origin constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries. It consists of a series of defensive structures that, during the Middle Ages, made the town and the fortress an impregnable point in the southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Lorca Castle was a key strategic point of contention between Christians and Muslims during the Reconquista.

Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site of the castle has been inhabited since Neolithic times.

Muslim Era

It has not been determined exactly when a castle or fortress was first built on the hill. The first written documentation referring to a castle at Lorca is of Muslim origin, which in the 9th century, indicates that the city of Lurqa was an important town in the area ruled by Theudimer (Tudmir). During Muslim rule, Lorca Castle was an impregnable fortress and its interior was divided into two sections by the Espaldón Wall. In the western part, there was an area used to protect livestock and grain in times of danger. The eastern part had a neighbourhood called the barrio de Alcalá.

After Reconquista

Lorca was conquered by the Castilian Infante Don Alfonso, the future Alfonso X, in 1244, and the fortress became a key defensive point against the Kingdom of Granada. For 250 years, Lorca Castle was a watchpoint on the border between the Christian kingdom of Murcia and the Muslim state of Granada.

Alfonso X ordered the construction of the towers known as the Alfonsina and Espolón Towers, and strengthened and fixed the walls. Hardly a trace of the Muslim fortress remained due to this reconstruction. Muslim traces remain in the foundation stones and the wall known as the muro del Espaldón.

The Jewish Quarter was found within the alcazaba, the Moorish fortification, separated from the rest of the city by its walls. The physical separation had the purpose of protecting the Jewish people in the town from harm, but also had the result of keeping Christians and Jews separate, with the Christians inhabiting the lower part of town.

The remains of the Jewish Quarter extended over an area of 5,700 square m, and 12 homes and a synagogue have been found; the synagogue dates from the 14th century and is the only one found in the Murcia. The streets of the town had an irregular layout, adapted to the landscape, and is divided into four terraces. The synagogue was in the central location, and around it were the homes. The homes were of rectangular shape, with various compartmentalized rooms. The living quarters were elevated and a common feature was benches attached to the walls, kitchens, stand for earthenware jars, or cupboards.

Modern history

With the disappearance of the frontier after the conquest of Granada in 1492, Lorca Castle no longer became as important as before. With the expulsion of the Jews by order of Ferdinand and Isabella, Lorca Castle was also depopulated as a result. The castle was abandoned completely, and was almost a complete ruin by the 18th century. In the 19th century, the castle was refurbished due to the War of Spanish Independence. The walls and structures were repaired or modified and its medieval look changed. A battery of cannons was installed, for example, during this time. In 1931 Lorca Castle was declared a National Historic Monument.

Currently, a parador (luxury hotel) has been built within the castle. As a result, archaeological discoveries have been found, including the Jewish Quarter.