The Les Marolles neighbourhood

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The Les Marolles neighbourhood

The working-class neighbourhood of Les Marolles is without doubt one of the best known in Brussels, particularly due to its famous flea market. The origins of Les Marolles date back to the Middle Ages, when craftsmen settled in the area around the Church of Our Lady of the Chapel. From the 12th century, there were already references to a leper house _ the historical precursor to Saint Peter’s Hospital, which occupies that site today. It has long been believed that the term “Marolles” referred to the presence of a religious congregation, the Maricoles sisters, who provided aid to the countless women of ill-repute who plied their trade in the neighbourhood. However, according to a recent study, it is most likely a reference to these very women; the name “Maroles” could well be connected to the northern French village of Maroilles, where prostitution was widespread. Apparently, this did not scare the nobility and middle classes of the time, who built several handsome residences on the Rue Haute/Hoogstraat. 
However, it was mainly factories and workers’ houses that would leave their mark on the neighbourhood in the 19th century. The construction of the Law Courts or Palais de Justice also marked an important milestone in its development, resulting in the removal of numerous families from their homes. These families migrated to the Cité du Chat estate in Uccle/Ukkel or settled around the Coin du Balai quarter in Watermael-Boitsfort/Watermaal-Bosvoorde. Social housing blocks, including the Cité Hellemans estate and other more recent developments dating from the 1950s and 1960s, all contribute to the area’s current appearance. The neighbourhood, where real brusseleer (a Brussels dialect) is still spoken, has preserved its traditions up to the present day. Les Marolles also boasts a number of interesting buildings, such as the Mont de Piété (a charity pawnbroker), the last of its kind in Belgium, and the preschool designed by Victor Horta, both located on the Rue de Saint-Ghislain/Sint-Gisleinsstraat.

Practical information

  • 1000 Brussels
    • M
      Porte de Hal/Hallepoort
    • T
      Porte de Hal/Hallepoort
    • B
      Jeu de Balle/Vossenplein