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Thursday, 23 November 2017

Royal Greenhouses of Laeken: Standby Top Place to Visit in 2018 If You Missed King Leopold II Glass Palace in 2017

Visit the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken Every Spring in Belgium for Three Weeks

The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken (FR: Serres Royales de Laeken, NL: Koninklijke Serres van Laken) is opened for three weeks every year from mid-April to the first week of May. During spring, the colourful flowers are in full bloom anticipating the visitors to admire their spectacular glory.

It has always been a century-old tradition to allow the public to visit this historical monument. Since the Greenhouses are part to the Royal Park, the private garden is closed to the public most time of the year. Many tourists left with regret when they came to the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken at the wrong time.

Due to the restricted time frame of three weeks, locals, tour buses and tourists are queueing up at the entrance of the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken in the morning. The queue was even longer in the afternoon. Overall, expect the line to be of several hundred metres of visitors.

The entrance ticket costs €2.50 and free for those under 18 years old. No ticket reservation in advance. So as to say, everyone including the tour group would pay their share at the counter. A pamphlet would cost an additional €1.00 at the ticket counter.


Royal Greenhouses of Laeken Opening Times

In general, there are two segments of operating hours so you can pick the time slot which interests you more. The evening timing is only available over the weekend (Fridays to Sundays) and during public holiday.

  • Morning: 09:30 to 15:30
  • Evening: 20:00 to 21:30


» People with Reduced Mobility

On one of these days, the accessibility is specifically for people with reduced mobility. A series of ramps and footbridges on several stairs facilitate the wheelchair movement. There will also be some adjustment on a small part of the route. It is recommended that people in wheelchairs have someone accompanying them during the journey.


Why Pay €2.50?

€2.50 is a low cost so that everyone can visit the royalty residence. Most importantly, part of the collected money funds the Queen’s Works and the restorative work.  The Queen’s Works help people with financial, housing and social problems. A tour around the Royal Greenhouses confirmed that indeed, most of the steel structure and the glass panels are in dire need of some maintenance to restore their honour.


How to go Royal Greenhouses of Laeken by Public Transport?

Every day, there are a lot of people visiting Royal Greenhouses of Laeken due to the three-week limited timeline. Drivers might have a problem finding a parking lot if they do not go there early morning based on experience. The best is to ditch the vehicle and take public transport.

There are four buses to go there. All buses stop at “FR: Serres Royales / NL: Koninklijke Serres” bus stop and take approximately 30 minutes bus journey.

» Bus No. 230, 231, 232 – De Lijn
» Bus No. 53 – STIB-MIV

Refer to the Google Maps Bus 53 route from the starting point, UZ Brussel to Serres Royales if you can take the bus from any stop.


Royal Greenhouses of Laeken History

Despite the maintenance flaw, one has to take a good look at the astonishing greenhouses built for 31 years between 1874 to 1905 in several phases. The brilliant innovator of this enormous project in 1868 was King Leopold II.

He became the second king of Belgium after his father, King Leopold I who was a German prince reigned over Belgium from 1831 to 1865. That was one year after Belgium gained its independence in 1830.

It was the ambition of King Leopold II to use Laeken for hosting important conferences and ceremonies. He first expanded the size of the castle and its surrounding. As part of the plan, he conceived the idea of constructing his supreme greenhouse complex using steel and glass.

Alphonse Balat was the architect whom King Leopold II entrusted to realise his vision in 1873. Twenty-two years later after Balat’s last breath in 1895, Henri Maquet and Charles Girault continued the development until 1905. King Leopold II passed away four years later in 1909 after witnessing the complete construction of his ideal glass city.


King Leopold II Passion for the Royal Greenhouses and His Beloved Botanical Collection

A walk inside the greenhouse complex might relate King Leopold II ardent interest in the plantation. The Royal Greenhouses contain thousands of exotic plants and trees. Among all, King Leopold II favourite collection was the camellias. Whenever he travelled, he would bring back new plants frequently to his growing collection.

He was passionate about the construction and followed through the architecture of the greenhouses for three decades. King Leopold II spent most of his final years in the Palm Pavilion. Thereafter, he also donated a large part of his treasured possession to the State which is managed by the ‘Royal Trust’ today.

There are two versions whether some plantation during the era of King Leopold still exists to date. Both versions are ‘official’. In the first version, the information panels displayed outside the Royal Greenhouses mentioned one of the facts that some plants are 200 years old.

In the second version, the pamphlet purchased from The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken stated that there was no more plantation left from the past. The remaining plants in the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken today came from the seedlings of the first specimen from the era of King Leopold II.

In conclusion, no matter which is the truth may not seem that important for visitors who visit Royal Greenhouses of Laeken to see the gorgeous botanical collection.


Tour of Royal Greenhouses

Every greenhouse has a different theme and collection of trees or plants. All the routes inside the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken are mainly directed by ropes. Due to the restriction, the visitors can only catch a glimpse of a few smaller sections of the gardens from outside.

Therefore, visitors are not able to roam ‘freely’ within the greenhouse complex. Visitors have to follow accordingly to the fixed route. On the other hand, they would not miss any of the greenhouses within the compound from this arrangement. When there are a lot of people, you are following within the queue in an orderly manner.

I have customised and marked the location of all the greenhouse point in the Google Map below. One suggestion for you. You can open the map of this page at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken if you want to find out more about the greenhouse.

Alternatively, you can save this marked Google Map onto your mobile phone before going there. Easy to do. Below is the method:-

  • Click on the star icon on the grey top panel of the map
  • Open your Google Map on the phone
  • On the left menu panel, select “Your places
  • Choose “MAPS” from the top menu
  • You should be able to see this “Map of Royal Greenhouses of Laeken” on your Google Map.
    • Important: Please note that the markers can only be displayed under a «normal map» mode. If you change to «Satellite» mode like below, the markers on the map will disappear unless you revert to the «normal» mode.


Map of Royal Greenhouses of Laeken



① Orangery

The Orangery is the oldest monument of Royal Greenhouses of Laeken which greets you upon entering the compound. Built in the earliest 19th century, the chimneys on top of the building is the heating system. During winter, the trees are placed inside the Orangery. Otherwise, they remain outside for beautifying the surrounding. The orange tree is one of them.

Beautiful Garden in front of The Orangery of Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

The Orangery is the oldest monument and greenhouse of Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Orange Tree in front of The Orangery Building of Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Orange Tree in front of The Orangery. One miserable orange. Have the rest of the oranges been stolen?


② Theatre Greenhouse

The Theater Greenhouse is the first greenhouse made of steel and glass after entering the Orangery building. Constructed in 1905, it was a more recent design by the architect, Charles Girault and not from the former architectural designers. It is a place to house the camellias plants during winter.

Exterior of the Theatre Greenhouse of Royal Green Houses of Laeken

The Theatre Greenhouse of Serres Royales de Laeken Bruxelles

Exterior of the Theatre Greenhouse of Royal Green Houses of Laeken

The Theatre Greenhouse of Serres Royales de Laeken Bruxelles

Interior of The Theatre Greenhouse of Royal Greenhouses of Laeken overlooking at the Winter Garden Exterior

Beautiful ceiling dome in The Theatre Greenhouse Interior of Royal Greenhouses of Laeken


③ Queen Elisabeth’s Studio

One of the prominent sights is a lovely, cosy little cottage during a walk in the park. It is none other than Queen Elisabeth’s Studio. Queen Elisabeth’s Studio built in 1938 had its original condition preserved until now. During my visit, the studio was not opened for visiting.

Though known for her humanitarian work during the First World War, Queen Elisabeth (1876 – 1965) and Eugène Ysaÿe who was a Belgian Violinist and Composer initialised another prominent project within the music industry internationally.

The Queen Elisabeth Competition started in 1937. The competition continues till date which Queen Matilde takes over the rein currently. The aim of the music contest uncovers new talented musicians by giving them ample media exposure.

Queen Elisabeth Studio Side View at Serres Royales de Laeken

Front View Queen Elisabeth Studio at Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Queen Elisabeth Studio Front View at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Left: Queen Elisabeth's Studio, Centre: Azalea Greenhouse, Right: Palm Greenhouse
Left: Queen Elisabeth’s Studio, Centre: Azalea Greenhouse, Right: Palm Greenhouse


④ Royal Park of Laeken

Directly opposite Queen Elisabeth’s Studio manifested a breathtaking scenery which halted the tracks of many visitors. It is the Royal Park of Laeken with a vast of lush greenery. The bizarre thing was that they had more interest in the scenery especially the full bloom cherry blossom trees rather than Queen Elisabeth’s Studio.

Many people were busy snapping photos of the trees, the lake and the Japanese Tower at the Royal Castle of Laeken which was a distance away. When the wind blew, the petals of the cherry blossom would fly with the wind. Indeed, it was a very romantic sight. I had to admit that we lingered for quite some time too before proceeding with the route.

Cherry Blossom Tree opposite Queen Elisabeth Studio in Royal Greenhouses Brussels

Park opposite Queen Elisabeth's Studio Park at Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Blooming Cherry Blossom at Serres Royales de Laeken

Cherry Blossom Blooming at Serres Royales de Laeken

Japanese Tower at Royal Castle of Laeken


⑤ Iron Church

Next to the Queen Elisabeth’s Studio is a dome greenhouse that is the Iron Church. Constructed in 1895 and supposed to be a royal chapel, online circulation mentioned that currently, the Iron Church houses a swimming pool instead.

However, I could not find any photo or material to support the statement yet. Most importantly, the official pamphlet from Royal Greenhouses of Laeken still printed it as “Iron Church” instead of some other names.

The Iron Church Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
The Iron Church


⑥ Sacristy

Near to the Iron Church is the Sacristy. As the Iron Church and the Sacristy are not part of the visit route, one can only see them from outside. In conclusion, the mystery of the royal swimming pool remains unverified.

The Sacristy at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Sacristy


⑦ Small Geranium Gallery

Before entering into the Palm Greenhouse, you will first pass through a small gallery surrounded by lovely geranium flowering plants all around you.

Small Geranium Gallery before Entering Palm Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Hanging Geranium Flowers before Entering Palm Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken


⑧ Débarcadère

After exiting from the small geranium gallery, you will walk through the Débarcadère first.

Débarcadère Entrance at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Flowery Tree outside Débarcadère Entrance at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken


⑨ Loggia

Next, comes the Loggia which connects to the Palm Greenhouse.

Loggia Side Door at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Fern Trees in Loggia at Royal Greenhouses Laeken

Loggia Ceiling at Serres Royales de Laeken


⑩ Palm Greenhouse

There are a lot of big tropical plants and trees in the Palm Greenhouse like the palm trees and the fern trees. Splendidly decorated and possesses an extraordinary allure. If you look at the side of the iron support pillars carefully from a few photos below, you can see that they have Art Nouveau floral motifs on it. Somewhat, this particular area is mesmerising for the visitors probably due to the large trees against the attractive glass wall design.

The Palm Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

The Palm Greenhouse at koninklijke serres van laken

The Palm Greenhouse at Serres Royales de Laeken

The Palm Greenhouse at Serres Royales de Laeken

The Palm Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken Brussels

The Palm Greenhouse at Serres Royales de Laeken

The Palm Greenhouse at koninklijke serres van laken

The Palm Greenhouse at koninklijke serres van laken

The Palm Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

The Palm Greenhouse at koninklijke serres van laken


⑪ Palm Pavilion

At the side exit of the Palm Greenhouse, a beautifully decorated staircase with flowers leads upward to a room. There is also a security officer guarding at the staircase to be doubly sure that no visitors would go up to the room discreetly. As the area is for the people to bypass and move to the right, one cannot stand there for more than a few seconds to take a photograph to avoid congestion.

It is not a surprise to know that this high-security place is none other than Palm Pavilion where King Leopold II spent most of his last remaining years here. Therefore, the room has a rich historical value. Palm Pavillon is the only place that one can see a security guard during my visit.

High Security at Palm Pavilion in Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Beautiful Bright Flowers at Palm Pavilion in Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Palm Pavilion is where King Leopold II spent most of his final years in this room at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken


⑫ Azalea Greenhouse

Built in 1885, the Azalea Greenhouse was a rather narrow trail for admiring the cultivation of vibrant azalea plants. In this section, you would see a head sculpture of Louis Paras among the heap of plants. He was the Head of Gardener for the Royal Estate from 1921 to 1939. Queen Elisabeth sculpted the bust of Louis Paras in her studio during 1939.

Louis Paras Head Sculpture

Bust of Louis Paras sculpted by Queen Elisabeth in 1939

Azalea Mollis Asia at Azalea Greenhouse in Koninklijke Serres van Laken
Azalea Mollis from Asia

Azalea Greenhouse Flowers at Royal Greenhouses in Laeken

Azalea Greenhouse Flowers at Serres Royales de Laeken


⑬ Geranium Gallery

Be stunned by the first part of the 200-metres route displaying geranium, fuchsia and hanging abutilon plants from the Geranium Gallery. Engulf in the bewitching flowers throughout the walk. Visitors are busy snapping photos. For once, feel pampered like a princess in the romantic atmosphere.

Geranium Gallery Greenhouse at Serres Royales de Laeken

Geranium Gallery at Royal Greenhouses of Brussels Laeken

Hanging Fuchsia Flowers at Geranium Gallery Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Fuchsia Flowers

Fuchsia Flowers at Geranium Gallery of Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Hanging Abutilon Plants at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken Brussels
Hanging Abutilon Plants at Both Sides


⑭ Diana Greenhouse

Somewhere in between the walk of Geranium Gallery, visitors enter into Diana Greenhouse where the green envelopes them such as the palm trees and soothing grass carpet.

Diana Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken


⑮ Mirror Greenhouse

Forming the second half of the 200-metres route is an underground trail consisting of the Mirror Greenhouse and the Underground Gallery. Visitors will walk down the stairs. There is a slight change of the floral setting. The gallery walls are covered entirely with pruned climbing figs and oak ferns. There are also elkhorn ferns on the gallery walls too.

Walking Down to Mirror Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Prehistoric Eggs at Mirror Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Prehistoric Eggs

Elkhorn Ferns at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Elkhorn Ferns with Flowers at Serres Royale de Laeken

Pink Flowers at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Purple-Blue Flowers at Koninklijke Serres van Laken


⑯ Underground Gallery

It was quite surprising to see two Smurfs in this Underground Gallery of this historical monument. I could not figure out why there were two cartoon characters there and its purpose. Perhaps, it has to do with the fact that Smurfs was a Belgian creation in 1958. Well, rather entertaining even if they may not necessary fit into the context.

Smurfs found in Underground Gallery of Royal Greenhouses Laeken
Two Smurfs found in Underground Gallery

Smurfs found in Underground Gallery of Royal Greenhouses Laeken


⑰ Embarcadère Greenhouse

Also known as the Platform Greenhouse, the construction was one of the earliest in the greenhouse complex in 1886 for nearly two years. During the olden days, guests invited to a royal reception would arrive at the Embarcadère Greenhouse first. If you pay attention to the two statues there which look the same, they are Dawn and Dusk by Charles van der Stappen.

Each of the statue stands at the outermost corner of the two rectangular sections of Platform Greenhouse. On the third photo of Dawn and Dusk below are three big lovely vases of Medinilla plants. King Leopold II had brought them back from the Far East. So, are those Medinilla plants or the porcelain vases from his century?

At the exit of Embarcadère Greenhouse is a replicate of Donatello’s David. The original statue is at Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, Italy.

Embarcadere Greenhouse Garden at Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Embarcadere Greenhouse Garden at Serres Royale de Laeken

Dawn and Dusk at Embarcadere Greenhouse in Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Dawn and Dusk
Donatello's David Replicate at Embarcadère Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Donatello’s David Replicate

Outside Embarcadère Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Embarcadère Greenhouse Exterior at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken


⑱ Congo Greenhouse

The visitors can only admire the Congo Greenhouse from outside because it is undergoing renovation since 2014 due to alarming corrosion state. Therefore, the route is inaccessible to the public until further notice.

The Congo Greenhouse is characterised with a square surface area, four square domes at each corner top and a protruded octagonal ceiling in the middle. The little star that sticks out at in the centre top of the octagonal dome represents the symbol of the Congo Free State. The Congo Greenhouse has subtropical vegetation like the palm trees, rubber trees and fern.

Congo Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Left: The Congo Greenhouse, Right: The Winter Garden of Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Left: The Congo Greenhouse, Right: The Winter Garden


⑲ Winter Garden

The Winter Garden receives the most publicity online thanks to its legendary icon of the majestic glass dome ceiling formed by 36 rafters and represented by a royal crown in the middle. Through close-up views of photos, you can see that there is Art Nouveau motif decoration on the support pillar bars.

Otherwise, it is quite difficult to spot the design from a distance for many people. One can feel the immense effort put in by the architectural designer even though the ceiling of the Winter Garden is so high up and not easy to appreciate.

Due to this stupendous glass dome ceiling images of Royal Greenhouses of Laeken seen online, I made my way to Royal Greenhouses of Laeken to witness the magnificent monument. In my opinion, the glass dome ceiling has the best maintenance among all. You can see a shiny coat of new green paint and unstained glass panels.

The Winter Garden was the first greenhouse built for King Leopold II. Due to its enormous space, the Winter Garden is the home to many species of palm trees. The Winter Garden first inauguration was in 1880 for the engagement of a royal family member, Princess Stéphanie.

Winter Garden Exterior in Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Winter Garden Dome at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Winter Garden at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Winter Garden at Serres Royales of Laeken

Winter Garden in Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Close-up View of Winter Garden Dome Ceiling at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Winter Garden at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken


⑳ Maquet Greenhouse

Constructed in 1902, Maquet Greenhouse took after the name of Henri Maquet who is one of the two architects responsible for completing the greenhouse complex after the death of Alphonse Balat in 1895. Maquet Greenhouse is 90° of Winter Greenhouse and not accessible to the public.

Maquet Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken


㉑ Banquet Greenhouse

Following the arranged path of the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, the Winter Greenhouse is the last conservatory to see the botanical collection of King Leopold II before arriving at the exit point of Orangery building again. Over here, there are some souvenir stalls and large photos of the Royal Greenhouses for purchase.

There is one snack stall around the corner. At the corner of the building is the Banquet Greenhouse. After some walking in Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, people can sit inside the Banquet Greenhouse to enjoy some sunlight.

Towards the Orangery Building of Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Souvenir Stall at Orangery Building at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Orangery Building Interior at Serres Royales de Laeken

Food Stall at Orangery Building at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Seating in Banquet Greenhouse at Koninklijke serres van Laken

Banquet Greenhouse at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken


Royal Greenhouses of Laeken Exterior

We have almost come to the end of the virtual tour. If you have missed the yearly event, hopefully, some of my photos will inspire you to visit the magnificent Royal Greenhouses of Laeken. To end this article, below are a few more photographs on the exterior of the Royal Greenhouses. I hope you enjoy reading it and like or share the article so that more people can see it, especially if they have not visited the places of interest yet.

Dirty Glass Panels of the Greenhouse of Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
More Maintenance, Please

Weird Looking Tree at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Flowers outside Royal Castle of Laeken

Glimpse of Royal Castle of Laeken

Garden of Royal Castle of Laeken

Lion outside Royal Greenhouses of Laeken Entrance

Main Gate of Royal Greenhouses of Laeken


Have you been to the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken? Tell us about your thought.


About Live in Belgium

Hello, my name is MissSJ. I am a Singaporean. I am living with my Belgian partner since July 2016 in a cosmopolitan city, Antwerp. However, I had been travelling to and fro Belgium since 2011 as a tourist. The creation of this blog is to document my new journey in Belgium which I would like to call ‘home’. Join me in discovering the fascinating Belgium from the eyes of an expat.

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