In the north-western part of the Brussels region, the area of Laeken is known for its huge park, the Atomium, the Mini-Europe tourist attraction and the Royal Palace and Greenhouses. It is there that the Belgian royal family has its official residence (yes, there is a Belgian royal family!). Once a year, the Greenhouses open their gates for only a few weeks to allow everyone to see how majestic and beautiful they are.
This year, I finally got the chance to visit them and it did not disappoint at all. So, follow my steps and I’ll guide you through them!
A bit of history…
The Royal Greenhouses were built in the late 19th Century by a Belgian architect, in very close consultation with the then-King of Belgium, Leopold II. The idea was to create greenhouses that would complement the style of the royal castle of Laeken, while at the same time showcasing the power of the King.
Built in order to create an “Ideal Glass Palace”, the greenhouses consist of monumental and intricate cupolas, pavilions and galleries made of metal and glass. They are located in the beautiful royal garden to give the idea of a “glass city”. The main greenhouse, the Winter Palace, is still used today for royal receptions.
One of the main purposes of the visits is of course to admire the complex architectural details of the greenhouses, but also to see the stunning plant collection, including exotic and rare plants. Some of the plants that you can see there used to belong to the King’s original collection – so they are very old – and there is also the world’s largest Camellia collection in a greenhouse with a bit over 300 species.
When you arrive, you have two possibilities: take the longer path (2.5 hours), which takes you to the gardens and the greenhouses, or the shorter one (1.5 hours), where you go straight to the greenhouses. We obviously chose the long one, especially since we knew it wasn’t really going to take two and a half hours.
The walk in the gardens was very pleasant: you stroll along nice paths that allow you to admire some floral displays (not as beautiful as the Floralia ones though!), beautiful wisteria porches, nice little lakes and small brooks. In this hilly landscape you also see from time to time the huge domes of the greenhouses, which almost look like stranded spaceships.
The sweet scent of daisies, the soft wind blowing and the curated gardens will make you feel like a princess strolling about in her private park (bonus points if you are wearing a flowy summer dress)! In fact, at each turn of the road that opened to a new landscape, me and my friends would say how gorgeous a place it would be for a picnic, for an afternoon tea, for laying on the grass and reading, for strolling around with your Mr. Darcy, etc. Of course, I’m pretty sure you can’t actually do that there, but daydreaming never hurt anyone!
After walking around in the park, we reached the Queen’s atelier, which is a cute little house that contrasts a bit with the glass and metal behind it. From there, we entered the greenhouses.
Following a path of glass tunnels covered in flowers with flower ceilings, we entered different “rooms” mounted by huge domes, where we could walk around large amounts of palm trees of different varieties, flower bushes of various colours, jungle-like spaces filled with plants, making you feel like you truly are walking in a tropical forest.
At the end, you get to walk around the Winter Garden (the main picture in this article), which is the biggest cupola and definitely my favourite: the centre, which doesn’t contain plants, is filled with light from the glass dome above, the trees and exotic plants that surround the centre add a beautiful touch of greenery and the columns at the entrance just make the whole place feel majestic and… royal.
I absolutely loved visiting the Royal Greenhouses and would recommend it to anyone visiting Brussels around that time of the year because it is really unlike anything that I have ever seen before!
Where was your latest local adventure?
Other spring-related local adventures:Celebrating spring: the Floralia flower show
– Chasing flowers
– Belgium’s Blue Forest