Tuesday, 19 September 2023
Theatre Greenhouse - Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Ultimate Guide to The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken 2022

15 April 2022 @ 8:00 pm – 8 May 2022 @ 9:30 pm
Royal Parc de Laeken
1020 Brussels
€4.00 (Free for children under 12 years old)
The Belgian Monarchy

21 Enchanting Spots at Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

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 of 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 several hundred metres of visitors.

The entrance ticket costs €4.00 and is free for children under 12 years old. You have to book your ticket online 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.

People with Reduced Mobility

People with reduced mobility will have a privilege to visit on *28 April 2022, which is a special day set aside for them with ramps and bridges on the stairs to facilitate their movement. Some parts of the route will also be adjusted slightly to make it easier for their tour around the greenhouse complex. Wheelchair users will have individual help from the volunteers. Hence, on this day, expect a longer queue than usual in some locations.

Why Pay €4.00?

€4.00 is a low cost so that everyone can visit the royalty’s 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 the 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 to arrive.

» 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 from any stops along the way. You can also take 245 or 820 but you have to change to 230, 231 or 232 halfway.

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 who 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 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 to 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 with 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 if 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 what, 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 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 and read to find out more about the greenhouse.

Alternatively, you can save this customised Google Maps onto your handphone before going there. The method only works on mobile:-

  1. Open this article on your mobile.
  2. Click  on the customised map.
  3. Select “Insluiten in mijn map / Embed on my site”.
  4. Then, “Open with Maps”.
  5. The customised map will be saved on your Google Maps automatically.
  6. You can remove the map easily in when you click “CLOSE” on the left menu of Google Maps. (Scroll down your mobile screen if you cannot see this map)

Note that the version saved on your mobile is non-satellite. If you want the satellite mode as shown, you have to refresh your map by keying in “Royal Greenhouses of Laeken”. Then, you can select the satellite background. The satellite background has been blurred like below for security reason, therefore, stick to the Default version.

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. Constructed during 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.

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

Beautiful Garden in front of Orangery main building @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Orange Tree outside Orangery Building @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
One Miserable Orange @ the Orange Tree outside Orangery

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.

Theatre Greenhouse Exterior @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Theatre Greenhouse @ Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Theatre Greenhouse @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Theatre Greenhouse @ Serres Royales de Laeken Bruxelles

Theatre Greenhouse Interior @ Royal Greenhouses Laeken

Theatre Greenhouse Ceiling @ Royal Greenhouses of Brussels

③ Queen Elisabeth 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 Studio. Queen Elisabeth 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 to 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 @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Queen Elisabeth Studio Front View @ Serres Royales de Laeken Bruxelles

Queen Elisabeth Studio Side View @ Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Left: Queen Elisabeth Studio, Centre: Azalea Greenhouse, Right: Palm Greenhouse
Left: Queen Elisabeth Studio, Centre: Azalea Greenhouse, Right: Palm Greenhouse

④ Royal Park of Laeken

Directly opposite Queen Elisabeth 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.

Royal Park of Laeken Cherry Blossom Tree opposite Queen Elisabeth Studio @ Royal Greenhouses Brussels

Laeken Park Cherry Blossom Tree opposite Queen Elisabeth Studio @ Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Royal Park of Laeken Cherry Blossom @ Serres Royales de Laeken

Laeken Park Cherry Blossom @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

View from Royal Park: Japanese Tower @ Royal Castle of Laeken
View from Royal Park: Japanese Tower @ Royal Castle of Laeken

⑤ Iron Church

Iron Church has a green dome which is next to Queen Elisabeth Studio. 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.

 Iron Church @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

⑥ Sacristy

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

Sacristy @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

⑦ Small Geranium Gallery

Before entering into the Palm Greenhouse, you will first pass through a Small Geranium Gallery surrounded by lovely geranium flowering plants around you.

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

Small Geranium Gallery Hanging Flowers before Entering Palm Greenhouse @ Serres Royales de Laeken

⑧ Débarcadère

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

Débarcadère Entrance @ Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Débarcadère Entrance Flowery Tree @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

⑨ Loggia

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

Loggia Side Door @ Laeken Greenhouses of Brussels

Loggia Garden @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Loggia Ceiling @ 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.

Palm Greenhouse @ Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Palm Greenhouse Ceiling @ Royal Greenhouses Laeken

Palm Greenhouse @ Serres Royales de Laeken

Palm Greenhouse @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Palm Greenhouse Interior @ Royales Serres de Laeken

Palm Greenhouse @ Royal Greenhouses Brussels

Palm Greenhouse @ Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Palm Greenhouse @ Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Palm Greenhouse @ Brussels Laeken Greenhouses

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 no 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.

Palm Pavilion High Security @ 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 Bust @ Azalea Greenhouse, Serres Royales de LaekenAzalea Greenhouse: Bust of Louis Paras sculpted by Queen Elisabeth in 1939 @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Azalea Greenhouse Flowers @ Serres Royales de Laeken

Azalea Greenhouse Garden @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Azalea Mollis Asia @ Azalea Greenhouse, Koninklijke Serres van Laken
Azalea Mollis from Asia

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 Greenhouse Gallery @ Serres Royales de Laeken

Geranium Greenhouse Flowers @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken Brussels

Geranium Greenhouse Fuschia @ Koninklijke Serres van Laken
Fuschia Flowers

Geranium Greenhouse Hanging Plants @ Royal Greenhouses Laeken

Hanging Abutilon beautify the statue @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
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 @ 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 in 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.

Mirror Greenhouse Staircase @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Staircase to Mirror Greenhouse
 Mirror Greenhouse Prehistoric Eggs @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Prehistoric Eggs
Mirror Greenhouse Elkhorn Ferns @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Elkhorn Ferns

Elkhorn Fern Flowers @ Serres Royales de Laeken

Mirror Greenhouse Pink Flowers @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Mirror Greenhouse Purple-Blue Flowers @ 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 necessarily fit into the context.

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

Smurfs found in Underground @ Serres Royales de Laeken

⑰ Embarcadère Greenhouse

Also known as the Platform Greenhouse, the Embarcadère Greenhouse was one of the pioneer construction of the complex in 1886 which took nearly two years to complete. 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 which are almost similar, they are Dawn and Dusk by Charles van der Stappen. Each sculpture stands at the outermost corner of the two rectangular sections of Platform Greenhouse. On the third photo below were 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.

Embarcadère Greenhouse Garden @ Serres Royales de Laeken

Embarcadère Greenhouse Garden @ Koninklijke Serres van Laken
Top and Bottom: Dawn and Dusk. Can you spot them?

Embarcadère Greenhouse Dawn and Dusk @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Donatello's David Replicate @ Embarcadère Greenhouse, Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Donatello’s David Replicate

Embarcadère Greenhouse Complex @ Serres Royales de Laeken

Embarcadère Greenhouse Exterior @ Koninklijke Serres van Laken

⑱ Congo Greenhouse

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

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.

Congo Greenhouse @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

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

Winter Garden Dome @ Serres Royales de Laeken

Winter Garden Interior @ Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Winter Garden Ceiling @ Royal Greenhouses Laeken

Winter Garden Ceiling Motif Decoration @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Can you spot the motif decoration on the ceiling structures?
Winter Garden @ Royal Greenhouse of Laeken
Magnificent! I’m so in love with it!

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 @ 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 walking in the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken for a while, people can sit inside the Banquet Greenhouse to enjoy some sunlight.

Orangery Building @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Orangery Souvenir Stall @ Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Orangery Interio @ Serres Royales de Laeken

Orangery Food Stall @ Royal Greenhouses Brussels

Banquet Greenhouse Interior @ Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Banquet Greenhouse @ 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.

Laeken Greenhouses Dirty Glass Panel @ Greenhouse Brussels
More maintenance, please!

Weird Looking Tree @ Laeken Greenhouses

Laeken Greenhouses Colourful Leaves @ Royal Greenhouses Brussels

Royal Castle of Laeken Flowers @ Serres Royales de Laeken

Royal Castle of Laeken Garden @ Koninklijke Serres van Laken

Royal Castle of Laeken @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Laeken Greenhouses Lion @ Koninklijke Serres van Laeken

Main Entrance Gate @ Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

More Places of Interest in Belgium

If you want more things to do or places to visit in Belgium every month, check out the article too.

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 fascinating Belgium from the eyes of an expat.

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