Sloping down from Brussels’ upper town to its lower half, the Place du Grand Sablon is more affectionately called The Sablon and boasts a pretty square, which is really more like a triangle, dotted with boutiques, cafés, and chocolate shops. It’s a great place to pass an idle Saturday or Sunday shopping, drinking, eating and sitting around.
This area is also known for its antique shops and on Saturday and Sunday, an antique market takes place on the main square. Make sure to wander up and down the surrounding streets and peek into the many antique shops. The market traders, well, they know their market, so beware of the somewhat eye-watering price tags and remember what they say about ‘If you have to ask the price…’
Once a year, usually the last weekend of November, the shops stay open late and the streets are lit up by twinkling lights and candles. For four nights, the Nocturnes du Sablon really set the stage for the holiday season with the lighting of a tree and carriage rides around the scenic neighborhood.
The Sablon is crowned by a Gothic church, Notre-Dame du Sablon, and takes its name from the old French word for a fine silt/sand that used to comprise the area before urbanization.
The Place du Petit Sablon, or simply the Petit Sablon, is just across the main street from the Grand Sablon and is a pretty little park and enclosed gardens, surrounded by 48 bronze sculptures by Belgian Art Nouveau artist Paul Hankar. Each statuette represents a different medieval guild of Brussels.