- Probably the earliest market was that called simply the "lower market" (Nedermerckt) set up in front of the church of Saint-Nicolas, which is cited as early as 1174 (see BEURRE, RUE AU). By the beginning of the 14th century, markets had been established for selling foodstuffs and raw materials both on and in the vicinity of the "great market" (Grootmerckt)—Grand' Place. Goods were bought and sold originally at stalls in the open air, later replaced by covered structures (halles, hallen, and huys). Markets included those for fish, vegetables, bread (Broodhuys), meats, grains (Corenhuys), wool (Wolhuys), and cloth (Lakenhalle, Halle aux Draps).Before the end of the 13th century, the ducal authority conceded to individual merchants the concession to operate stalls in payment of an annual rent. City authorities gradually acquired jurisdictional and financial authority over the markets, except for that in grain, which remained under ducal control until the mid-15th century.City officials determined the days when and places where exchanges were made. Inspectors oversaw the application of city ordinances and they enforced controls on the quality and quantity of goods, which were strictly regulated. Fines for inexact measurements were stipulated as early as the charter (keure) of 1229.In the 19th century, covered markets appeared in Brussels. They included those of Saint-Géry, de la Madeleine, and the Halles Centrales. The latter, a veritable palace of glass and metal, was based on the Parisian model and was designed by architects Léon Suys and E. Le Graive between 1872 and 1874. A wholesale market for fresh produce, it was gradually adapted for use as a skating rink in winter and a music hall in the summer. The building was demolished in the 1950s and a parking garage was built on the site off the boulevard Jules Anspach. A fish market was built in 1883 on the site of interior basins, which were gradually filled in, of the Willebroeck Canal. Communal markets were replaced by those operated by private entrepreneurs, most especially open markets at many sites, including place Sainte-Catherine, place de la Chapelle, and the parvis de Saint-Gilles.An antiques and flea market has been held since as early as the 16th century when sources document an "Oude Merckt" in existence. In 1640, a market for old and used wares was open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Such a market, located at place Anneessens and called Vieux Marché (Den Neuwen â Met), moved officially to the place du Jeu-du-Balle in 1873 and has remained open daily since 1919. The Brussels Flea Market (Marché aux Puces/Vlooienmarkt) continues, reputedly as the world's only antiques and flea market open every day.The Palais du Midi (Zuidpaleis) was built at boulevard Maurice Lemmonier 132-172 under commission of the Compagnie Générale des Marchés in order to enhance commercial activity in this section of the city. Built in an eclectic style by architect W. Janssens between 1875 and 1880, the richly decorated large square structure with an open inner space was intended as a covered market and shopping center but failed to secure the hoped-for success. Sections of the building have served a variety of uses, including as exhibition space, administrative offices, and library. Its latest uses have been as a sports complex and for retail outlets.Small retail markets and supermarkets now predominate. However, some open-air markets remain, notably at the place Sainte-Catherine and at the Gare du Midi on Sundays. The large market at the latter site began about 1900. Special markets include those for flowers and birds on the Grand' Place, the antiques and flea market on the place du Jeu-de-Balle, and the antiques market on the place du Grand Sablon. Many neighboring communes feature markets on the central squares.Shopkeepers, purveyors to restaurants, and others secure produce at the Marché-Bruxelles/Markt Brussel (Mabru) along the quai des Usines at the Port of Brussels. A market for secondhand goods and used cars is held here on Sundays.See also Halles Saint-Géry; Marché au Fromage, Rue du; Marché aux Herbes, Rue du; Marché aux Poissons; Marché aux Porcs, Rue du; Marché aux Poulets, Rue du; Pôle Nord-Palais d'Été.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.