Though not really known outside of France, La Vieille Bourse is an architectural treasure. The grand building was constructed during the 17th century, when the city was under Spanish rule. Now, centuries later, it’s still a vibrant hub for commerce.
Head to its inner courtyard, and you’ll uncover a fabulous market. Here, various vendors line their tables with secondhand books sure to delight any bibliophile. Many of the books are in French, but you’ll find items written in other languages, too.
At the market, you can flip through books from various genres, as well as anything from old dictionaries to antique newspapers. Keep an eye out for the Franco-Belgian comic books, some of which are even written in the local Ch’ti language.
After you’ve snagged a few books, stop to chat with the locals who spend their days playing chess. You may even be invited to join for a game.
The building itself is also worth admiring. The architecture follows a typical Flemish Renaissance style, with color and fantasy shapes meant to depict pagan representations of the city’s commercial life. The mercantile guilds who built the stock exchange put their crests on the walls of the monument, which can still be seen today.
The building is composed of 24 merchant houses, forming the Inner Court, which serves as a calm refuge that contrasts with the bustling streets around it.