Royal Greenhouses in Laeken open to the public
From today the Royal Greenhouses in Laeken are open to the public again, for about three weeks (17 April to 10 May). As usual, the first day of opening is reserved for the press only, who are allowed to marvel at the exotic flowers, which are in full bloom now.
The Royal Greenhouses were built under the reign of Leopold II by Alphonse Balat, a famous Belgian architect who was the master of Victor Horta, one of the most important Art Nouveau architects in the world. The Royal Greenhouses, a complex of 2.5 hectares, were built between 1874 and 1895. The concept was to built a glass city on the hills of Brussels. King Leopold, who was an avid collectionner of plants from all over the world, wanted these greenhouses to be built as an extension to his residence, the Royal Palace of Laeken. Architect Alphonse Balat had been given complete freedom for his design, and because of the new techniques involving glass and steel, he was able to design and build these formidable domes.
The Greenhouses consist of several pavilions, connected by closed corridors. The Embarcadre Greenhouse was built in 1886-1887 and served as reception hall when events were hosted in the Winter Garden or the Dinning Room Greenhouse. At the far ends of the Embarcarde there are two statues of Charles Van der Stappen, called Dawn and Dusk (my own free translation). There are also Medinillas, tropical plants from the Philippines which Leopold II had brought from his travels when he was still Duke of Brabant.
The most impressive of all pavilions is the Winter Garden, built between 1874 and 1876. It was the first of several greenhouses built at the Royal Domain. Because of the dimensions of this pavilion, high palm trees could be planted there, and some which were brought to Belgium by Leopold II still grow there. It was the scenery of several royal receptions.
The tradition of opening the Royal Greenhouses for the public is centuries old. The Royal family wants to share this treasure with the people, at the time when the Greenhouses are most worthy of a visit.
This year, you can not only visit the Greenhouses, but also the studio of Queen Elisabeth, the grandmother of the current King, and the Royal Stables.
Other noticeable sights are the Japanese tower and the Chinese pavilion, both inspired by the World Exhibition of 1900 in Paris.
Visitors are required to pay Euro 2,50 entry fee, which goes in its entirety to several charities. If you happen to be around between now and 10 May, don’t hesitate to pay a visit, because it is certainly worth it!
See here for more information and virtual tours of the Greenhouses.
See also this thread for more information.
See here for an article and here for a video caption by the Belgian news services (in Dutch, but the footage is pretty impressive).
Tagged Leopold II of Belgium, Palaces, Royal Greenhouses of Laeken.