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Colourful grandeur in the Belgian Royal Greenhouses

Royal Greenhouses

Last week I visited the Royal Greenhouses of the Belgian royal family in Brussels. They can only be visited for 3 weeks each year, so if you want to go and see for yourself, they are now open until 10 May. And that visit really pays off: the greenhouses are truly unprecedented. Royal green grandeur with a wonderful touch of old-fashioned kitsch.

My photo that thousands of visitors before and after me also made of the dome with crown and the majestic Wisteria arch.
Typical 19th century architecture: steel and glass.
The Sophora japonica “pendula” is a special twisted tree. Across a large pond in the vast landscape garden is a Japanese pagoda, giant white tulips in gigantic jars and a copper wild boar proudly with some branches in its mouth at the entrance.
Just before a gallery this old Wisteria (blue rain) is blooming profusely.
Geraniums are led along the walls, fuchsias dangling down from the ceiling. There is a statue in the distance. Art or kitsch? I think it’s royal!

Impressive greenhouses and colourful flowers

At the gates for the gardens of the Castle of Laeken, every day there is an insistence of day visitors. The Royal Greenhouses are only open to the general public for just three weeks. And everyone wants to see it: the imposing greenhouses, the beautiful flowers and the beautifully kept gardens. When we arrive, there is indeed a very long waiting line.

Glossy bubble

The first special feature is the view of the greenhouses. The large, award-winning dome that shines like a bubble in the sun, with its pink-green gleaming glass sections encased in copper-green painted steel.

What impressive buildings have been erected here from 1873! The architect of this glass city is court architect Alphonse Balat. And he in turn is the teacher of Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta, the famous Brussels architect, who took the fine art of cast iron and glass architecture at Balat. It seems that architect Balat and his client, King Leopold II, have had many conversations and exchanged countless sketches, letters and preliminary studies. It was a mega project with a long-term vision and construction work stretched on for more than thirty years before it reached its completion.

Selfie or family portrait

People wait patiently and nicely until those in front of them have taken their photo, family portrait or selfie. Then we all walk along the vast landscape garden with a view of a Japanese pagoda. We also pass the thatched cottage in which Queen Elisabeth had her arts studio. Slowly the audience spreads out a bit more over the vast terrain.

royal greenhouses
Bright coloured rhododendrons, azaleas, asters, geraniums and hydrangeas. The colours crackle continuously.

Uninterrupted splendor of colours

Then we end up in long galleries full of colours that look almost unreal and fairytale-like. But also seem like a beautiful green legacy from a bygone era, making it sometimes a bit kitschy. That is what makes the Royal Greenhouses so delicious: variegated geraniums in every possible ice and candy cane shade are tied up against the glass walls, above which fairy-like fuchsias dangling in pink, purple, red and lilac. Sometimes you have a glimpse into a classical statue, or you pass a stunner of a flower arrangement in a beautiful vase, or a staircase full of merry hydrangeas and fur-coloured asters. Colours pop continuously. What delight!

royal greenhouses
A huge variety of fuchsias dangling down from the ceilings.
royal greenhouses
royal greenhouses
Candy cane pink is also a common shade to be found.
royal greenhouses
But … virgin white has also been planted.
royal greenhouses
Yoho! Nothing collides, everything matches!

Valuable plant collection

The plant collection of the Royal Greenhouses is exceptionally valuable. There are still plants from the period of Leopold II and the rest of the plants correspond to the spirit of the time. An extremely rare and valuable, exotic collection has also emerged over time. What also inspires awe is the great care that is devoted to all that green grandeur by the huge team of attendants and gardeners.

The huge dome inside: full of palms already there at the end of the 19th century.
Impressive building, that Winter garden.

The Jewel on the crown

And then there is the absolute icing on the cake: looking at the huge round dome inside. What a wonderfully beautiful building is this, filled with palms and exotic plants and flowers. The “Winter Garden”, as the dome is called, was the first conservatory to be built on the domain in 30 years. The structure is so high that it was possible to place large palm trees in it, most of which date back to the early days.

Conclusion: the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken really are an unprecedented and comparable-to-nothing place, and a special source of inspiration for plant and architecture lovers. Truly an exceptional attraction that I would stand in line for myself tomorrow again.

What a lushness!
Royalty Bouquet.

This is how you visit the Royal Greenhouses

The entrance fee is only € 2.50 and the proceeds go to the restoration and charity fund. The opening times can vary enormously per day, so check this website in advance.

TIP

Choose your smart visit time because of the overwhelming interest and:

  • be there more than one hour before the opening time,
  • or just show up somewhere halfway the opening hours, once the largest crowd is already inside,
  • or show up just one and a half hours before closing time.

Entrance and exit: along the honor gates of the Castle in Laeken, Royal Parklaan in Brussels. Parking: opposite the Kasteel in Laeken, Vorstenhuislaan.

Also worth a visit in the area is the Meise Botanical Garden, that is just 5 km away.

More botanical splendour on this website

Botanical Garden Trauttmansdorff Castle Gardens