The first time I came in Brussels, I wasn't really enthusiast. My mother had just moved in the city and asked me to visit her and stay for a while. I grew living in a small town on the coast of Liguria Ponente first and then in the Belgian country side... big cities weren't really my thing. However, I'm naturally a curious person who loves exploring new places so, I accepted the challenge and came here. My mother, as suppose many other mums, knew my weaknesses, like buying old clothes, cups, china and many other absolutely not necessary objects at flea markets. So, the fist thing she did, was bringing me here at la place du jeu de Balle. I was so astonished, the flea market was full of treasures and Still today I'm in love with this place and come from time to time to have a walk in this characteristic neighborhood of Brussels.
La Place du jeu de Balle is in the middle of the Marolle Neighborhood in Brussels not far from the Sablon neighborhood, this part of the city is full of history, Brussels culture and traditions. The Marolles offer a beautiful range of traditional houses that show the ancient architecture of Brussels until the 18th century. The Neighbourhood was born in the XII century, at the beginning it was composed by a few streets,and since the beginning its nature was a craft vocation. During the industrial revolution, the district attracted more and more families of workers, giving it the popular appearance it still has today. Nevertheless in this industrial context, the demand for workers' housing is very strong. Taking advantage of this situation to profit financially from their land, many landowners are dividing their plots, leaving close housing estates close to the industries where air, light and water are sorely lacking. So soon the Marolles neighbourhood has a real problem of health linked to the hygiene.
The first solutions in favour of a cleaner face of the city are radical and above all urbans. The piercing of Blaes Street is the strongest mark, adding other streets and creating the famous Place du jeu de Balle. The Marolles grew stronger and the population had always been affectionate to its neighbourhood, its style and its culture, always defending it from the eventual urban changes, especially during the events of the 60s and still today you feel this popular merchant ambience all around reinforced by the real Brussels dialect that you can still hear in the cafés around the place.
Walking up and downs the streets of the neighbourhood, it is possible to see some of the old houses with their typical Brussels architecture that were constructed in the creation of the Marolles. Most of them are in the Rue Haute, the one at number 50 dates of 1767, at the number 132 you have the Breughel house, were the famous flemish painter Pierre Breughel lived and the houses at numbers 182-184 are from the XVII century.
If you continue to Rue St. Ghislain on the corner of the street you have at number 86 some rest of apparently the oldest house of Brussels built in the first half of the XVI century.
It's a real pleasure to spend some time immersed in this Brussels ambiance, find some treasures at the flea market, wander in the neighbourhood looking at ancient architecture and have lunch in one of the local café enjoying a Belgian beer and a traditional recipe.
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